- Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com columnist
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The New York Basketball Knicks. So this is what death by basketball feels like.
One question: Why?
Not as in, why are they playing so bad? Or, why have they become the laugh track of the NBA? Or even, why isn't this supposedly fail-proof Melo/Amare/Chandler/D'Antoni "experiment" working?
The question to which I'm searching for an answer: Why do I still care?
If I knew being a Knicks fan was going to be this painful, I'd have left them with Isiah. But no. Unfortunately, when it comes to the Knicks, I'm a die-hard: Bruce Willis. Been a Knick fan for life: Dick Barnett. I figured one day, it would get better; one day it'll all make sense: Rashid Lynn. But sense, when it comes to this team, ain't always common.
So this is supposed to be a version of better? Their version? Six games under .500 (7-13 ahead of Tuesday night's game against the Pistons.) Eleventh in the Eastern Conference. Already out of playoff contention one month in. Maybe the bags we Knicks fans need to put over our heads should be plastic rather than paper.
This -- the basketball team formerly respected as the Knicks -- is eviscerating me! And it is no longer a slow decimation. It is fast and not so painless. In the past 10 games (going back to Jan. 12), New York is the worst team in the NBA. Charlotte and New Orleans have lost the same number of games (nine) in the past 10, but it's kinda, sorta expected of them.
And this doesn't look like just a bad stretch or a temporary funk like Orlando is going through -- losing four in a row now, almost all in embarrassing fashion. Basically, the Magic have an excuse. This is a team that looks as if it is revolting until the front office trades Dwight Howard or Howard decides to stay through the end of the season. Which makes Orlando's case understandable.
What's the Knicks' excuse? They aren't even like Minnesota, Houston, Golden State or New Jersey, teams still searching for themselves.
No, this is who they are. They've become, in the first third of this NBA season, the most underachieving, disappointing team in the league. And still, I can't divorce myself from them.
A team that doesn't play defense and can't shoot well? I can maybe live with one or the other. Not both. In this recent run: 35.7 percent from the floor versus Miami (a 99-89 loss), 37.0 percent versus Milwaukee (a 100-86 loss), 37.2 percent versus Phoenix (a 91-88 loss) and 38.2 percent versus Houston (a 97-84 loss); 15 percent from 3 versus Cleveland (a 91-81 loss). You let former Knick Danilo Gallinari come back into the Garden on a personal vendetta and drop 37 on you. Where's your pride? Amare Stoudemire has gone from the No. 1 fourth-quarter scorer in the league last year to No. 78 this season.
But of all the things gone wrong, here's the one that sums it all up: Your leading scorer, Carmelo Anthony, is leading the team in assists (a 4.3 average) by more than a full assist per game!
It all boils down to the Murphy's Law of money: What can go wrong when a team decides to go out on the cheap, will go wrong. The front office will call it "freeing up money to clear cap space," but the reality is that the Chauncey Billups Amnesty Plan has backfired. The Knicks chose not to pay Billups -- the most important spoke in the Viscera -- the $14.2 million he was owed and instead are trying to get five other players (Mike Bibby, Jeremy Lin, Toney Douglas, Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis) to do what he did for a little more than $5M.
The justification they tried to sell to fans: We used the leftover money to acquire Tyson Chandler to stabilize the front line and do for us what he did for the Dallas Mavericks. Which was win a championship.
This, coming from an organization that paid Larry Brown more than $18M five years ago not to be the team's coach.
At this point, I'm not sure how much more I can take. Amare playing 45 minutes in a game and getting/taking only nine shots, as he did against Denver on Jan. 21? The team taking 43 3s in one game, as it did against the Heat last week? A .222 winning percentage against teams with at least .500 records? Ball so hard? Knickerbocker, please!
An interesting quote from Chandler after the loss to the Heat this past Friday night: "This was a game for us to win. We were right there. Just down the stretch, they changed their coverages. We had them It was open and our game for the taking, but obviously they were the better team."
Better team? Right now, there are too many others in that category.
So, no pushing. I'm already too close to the edge. I'm trying not to jump (ship); but sometimes, even the best relationships must come to an end.
I don't know how Spike does it.
With the Knicks, it might be G.C. Cameron time. Time to say goodbye to yesterday, today and tomorrow. I'm throwing in the orange and blue towel.
They've left me with this choice: I either remain a Knicks fan or die trying.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.