- Stephen A. Smith, ESPNNewYork.com columnist
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Minutes before LeBron James sauntered onto the court that now supposedly belongs to Carmelo Anthony, looking to put the New York Knicks into an insurmountable hole, noted comedian Ben Stiller walked courtside, looking perplexed yet somewhat inquisitive, desperately in search of a sliver of hope.
"Do we have a chance?" he asked of his Knicks, down 0-2 at the time. "There's got to be something we can do."
Stiller was nowhere to be found once the final buzzer had sounded.
Chances are, if he didn't know what most basketball fans knew beforehand, he certainly knew it by the end of Game 3: In spite of whatever nerve the Knicks manage to muster for Sunday's encounter versus the Miami Heat, they are simply wasting their time. And ours.
This series is over. Probably by 6 p.m. Sunday.
No one should ever encourage quitting, but when futility regresses toward embarrassment, it's time for the white flags.
After watching James get benched because of foul trouble for the final 7:23 of the third quarter, then come out and still finish with a game-high 32 points en route to running the Knicks out of Madison Square Garden, why spend any time beyond the required 48 minutes left in this roller-coaster season teasing ourselves into believing the Knicks will actually win?
The Knicks can't win when their star, Anthony, shoots 7-for-23 from the field, mostly against James' man-to-man defense. We can't expect anything from them with J.R. Smith being just as inconsistent, with Landry Fields and Steve Novak being nonexistent and with no one but Tyson Chandler enthusiastic about facing the challenge the Heat present to them.
Then there's the supposed other star, Amare Stoudemire, who injured himself smacking a glass-encased fire extinguisher. It's bad enough that he displays what contrition means to him by resorting to Twitter first. Then he tells reporters, "Everybody's going to have their own opinion. That's freedom of speech, so I can't get upset with the amendment. My job is to stay focused on the task at hand. My teammates understand the situation."
So one minute Stoudemire's doing something foolish, the next minute he's saying something foolish, talking about the "task at hand" as if he has something to do other than massage the stitches he has on his lacerated left palm.
"We're not in a good position right now," Jared Jeffries said. "We know this."
What everyone else knows is that the Knicks are entirely outclassed.
That much was obvious when James went down and Dwyane Wade stepped up, nearly erasing an 11-point deficit in the last two minutes of the first half all by himself. Or the way he single-handedly held off the Knicks once James went to the bench in the third quarter.
"We just weren't making shots [in Game 3]," Melo said, revealing the obvious. "We've got a lot of work to do."
For the moment, it's time to take a moment to applaud interim coach Mike Woodson, not just for the job he did in getting these Knicks to the playoffs, but also because of his willingness to state the obvious to reporters on Friday.
On Melo, Woodson said: "I've got to push him to get in better shape when you start the season."
On team expectations: "They're not going to change here in New York, and they shouldn't."
On thoughts about his big three: "[Melo's] got to do some things this summer to better his game, as well as Tyson and Amare and all the supporting cast that might return."
Thank goodness Woodson said it, because the rest of us are surely thinking it.
There's no reason to think differently when your star is shooting near 30 percent in the series and is about to get bounced out of the first round of the playoffs for the eighth time in nine seasons in this league. Or when your team has zero post game to speak of. Or when the secondary star, being paid $100 million, keeps injuring himself when the postseason starts. And when there's absolutely no one else on the roster to provide a ray of hope by spelling any of them.
"We've got to keep our heads up," Melo said. "The season isn't over yet."
Technically, he's right. But who cares with the inevitable knocking?
We've seen enough. The Knicks are just not good enough.
And guess what? It isn't funny.
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