LOS ANGELES - Derek Fisher is back in the city where he was beloved for helping the Lakers win five championships. That's the same number of games he's won as Knicks coach.
Thirty-three games into the season, it's not how Fisher wanted to return to Los Angeles for the first time as coach, or team president Phil Jackson, for that matter. Their team is in a fragile state and off to a historically bad start. It's also not the position the Knicks wanted to be in when they face their former coach, current Clippers assistant Mike Woodson, for the first time since his dismissal in April.
The Knicks are 5-28 and have won one game in 19 tries in the last five weeks. The 28 losses match their total from two seasons ago, when Woodson guided them to their first Atlantic Division title in 19 years and first playoff series victory since 2000.
"It's a tough situation,'' Carmelo Anthony said. "We come into each game and get the same result night in and night out. It's tough. Mentally, it's tough. Emotionally, it's tough. When you don't have those things clicking on the same page, everything is just crumbling, and that's the feeling right now.''
The Knicks are crumbling physically, too. Many players Woodson coached could be in suits when they close out this three-game trip against the Clippers on Wednesday.
Anthony asked to be taken out late in the first half of Sunday night's loss in Portland because his left knee felt weak and tired, fueling the belief he eventually will need to take an extended break or undergo surgery. The Knicks didn't practice Monday, so it's unclear whether he will play Wednesday.
The same is true for Amar'e Stoudemire. He has a sore right knee that will require Fisher to address his minutes and role when he returns. The Knicks also have been without J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Andrea Bargnani.
Fisher had only nine players for Saturday night's overtime loss in Sacramento -- and only eight in the second half against Portland after Anthony had to come out. But he said he's not letting it affect his optimism that the Knicks can enjoy some success soon.
"Regardless of our record in this first year, I expected it to be challenging and to be difficult, to push me to the limits, to push our team to the limits,'' Fisher said. "How we learn from this and how we grow from this is what's most important.
"I'm still excited to be here. I'm not happy about where we are at the moment. But I'm still excited about where we go if we continue to build the right habits.''
Anthony is struggling with what to do about his sore knee. He could choose to take nights off here and there, sit for a stretch of games and hope it calms down, or have surgery. He said there will be a point where "we need to fix this or figure out what's the next step.''
Fisher, who told Anthony not to return in the second half Sunday, said whatever happens will be his star player's choice.
"We have our opinions,'' Fisher said. "We've expressed them. We've all talked about different things. But ultimately it's a decision he has to also want to make in terms of what's best for him and his career. But he's also concerned about the team and his teammates. We'll continue to try and find the right balance to it all.
"Right now he wants to be in there. He feels that he is capable of being that way even though at times he's day to day. I think he's smart enough to know when he's jeopardizing more than just day to day and week to week.''