Knicks players unsure how to fix issues

Knicks center Cole Aldrich, point guard Raymond Felton,

Knicks center Cole Aldrich, point guard Raymond Felton, power forward Andrea Bargnan and shooting guard J.R. Smith sit on the bench and watch their loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the fourth quarter. (Nov. 16, 2013) (Credit: Ray Stubblebine)

The Knicks have tried big lineups and small ones. They've held players-only meetings. They've run extra-long practices and they've canceled practices, too.

Yet nothing works. Despite it all, the same losing script continues each game.

So what now? Good question.

The Knicks believe they are too talented to have lost nine in a row, and seven straight at home, and that just makes this streak all the more troubling for them. Quickly, they're creeping deeper into the "dark place" Carmelo Anthony has spoken of probably more often than he would have liked.

After the Knicks' most recent loss, a 103-99 defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday night at the Garden, players were admittedly at a loss as to what they need to do now to fix this mess of a 3-13 season that they've created for themselves.

What they agree on is that they need to turn this around soon, or else.

"It's hard to find answers right now at this time, but we have to figure it out," Anthony said. "We have to get together and do something, just figure it out as a team.

"I don't know. I don't know what we need to do as far as coming together as a group. I don't know if we got to sit in here for hours and talk and get it all out and figure out.

"But we've got to do something."

Next up, the Knicks face the Nets in Brooklyn on Thursday night, a game that was billed before the season started as the first showcase of the two New York City teams beaming with title aspirations.

But obviously, that's not the case right now. Not for either team.

To a man, the Knicks brushed aside questions after their latest loss about the upcoming matchup with their crosstown rivals, saying the opponent doesn't matter when you're in the situation they're in right now: desperate for a victory.

"Everybody just needs to fix their mental state right now," Anthony said.

Added Raymond Felton: "We just need to find a way to get off this losing streak and get a win. I don't care how ugly it is. We just need to find a way."

Ask coach Mike Woodson how they might find a way, and he'll give you a quick answer: better overall defense. He believes the Knicks' losing streak is a product of their defensive lapses, inability to guard the ball and a stunning amount of miscommunication on switches, especially late in games.

"It's been a struggle trying to get guys committed for 48 minutes," he said.

All Woodson can do is keep repeating the message and hope it finally sticks.

"Coach says it all the time," J.R. Smith said. "We've got to take pride in guarding the ball."

What bothered Woodson the most about the loss to New Orleans was the manner in which the Pelicans scored 10 straight points late in the fourth quarter, with their players too often simply beating the Knicks' defenders in straight-up, man-on-man defensive sets.

Unfortunately for the Knicks, it's a familiar theme -- with no obvious answer besides finally manning up on defense at crunch time, something they haven't done consistently.

"Until we are able to take pride in guarding the ball," Woodson said, "there's going to be nights like this."

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