GREENBURGH, N.Y. — After Friday night’s 131-123 loss to the Nuggets, a fuming coach Jeff Hornacek said the Knicks “should be embarrassed the way we couldn’t guard anybody.”
Carmelo Anthony agreed with Hornacek. “We all should be embarrassed the way we are playing,” Anthony said.
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Hornacek’s comments didn’t get as much notice as the situation involving Charles Oakley and team owner James Dolan’s decision to do a rare radio interview on Friday. But for those who remain concerned with how the Knicks are doing on the court, it was a pretty revealing moment.
So what’s a coach to do the morning after he calls his players “terrible at defense?”
Well, Hornacek opened Saturday’s marathon three-hour practice by forcing the Knicks to watch video of their defensive performance against Denver. Yuck. Then he made them talk about it with each other with little input from the coaching staff.
Will it help? The first chance to find out will come Sunday when the Knicks — who are 22-33 and have lost 20 of 26 — host the Spurs at an angry Garden.
“We wanted to go over a lot of things,” Hornacek said. “Let the guys talk about the film themselves. The coaches chimed in a little bit but wanted them to talk about it. Then they came out and got good work on the court.”
The work was so good, in fact, that Anthony, among others, already had left by the time the media were allowed in at the end of practice. Hornacek said the dialogue among the players was positive during the video/skull session.
“What I wanted to do was to get them to talk about the tape,” Hornacek said. “They were great. They all chimed in. They all were trying to help each other. They kind of — I wouldn’t say pointed the finger at each other — but they called it what it was, and if a guy didn’t do something on that play, they called it out. I thought it was very good.”
If this feels like déjà vu all over again, Hornacek also was upset after Monday’s loss to the Lakers. He called out the team for a lack of effort after the game and put them through a tough practice on Tuesday. The Knicks responded by playing better on Wednesday, but they still lost to the Clippers on the night Oakley was tossed out of the Garden and arrested after an incident in the stands.
On Saturday, Hornacek said he didn’t feel the need to remind the players how angry he was.
“I think they know,” he said. “I hope they’re as mad about it too. It’s not about us scoring. We got to get these stops and there’s a difference between playing defense and just playing defense and really getting after it like your life depends on it.
“Maybe it’s putting them out of their comfort zone in practice, really pushing them, really telling them to get up. They may foul each other, but they have to get that mentality of how hard they can. Breaking through that ceiling of what they think that is and what their level can be is what us as coaches need to do. They have a comfort level with how hard they work. And it’s up to us as coaches to try to make them go harder.”
Notes & quotes: Lance Thomas (fractured orbital bone, headaches) will be available Sunday, Hornacek said. Thomas last played on Jan. 15 . . . Joakim Noah (hamstring) did not practice and will miss his fourth straight game.