As the Knicks go into the All-Star break, there are five days to decide what to do once they come out of it. After last night's 118-114 overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings at the Garden, the Knicks (19-32) are 51/2 games behind the Miami Heat for the final playoff berth in the East. There will be a 31-game sprint to the end of the season following the break, with 18 of them on the road.
A daunting task for a team that is moving in the wrong direction. Perhaps that is why, with the Feb. 18 trade deadline looming, it may be time to turn the season over to the future of the franchise.
"There's a lot of spirit that went out of this dog," D'Antoni said after his team blew a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to a Kings team that came into the game with 20 losses in its previous 23 games.
It was the typical combination of issues that we've seen throughout the season: a heartless defense and a mindless offense, the latter of which is most reflective of the problems that continue to exist at the point-guard position.
Chris Duhon, whom D'Antoni moved back into the starting lineup, had nine assists and one turnover in 36:58, but he made only 2 of 10 shots, including 0-for-6 on three-point attempts. He missed a potential game-winning three-pointer with 2.3 seconds left in regulation with the score tied at 105. The shot was the result of a broken pick-and-roll play with David Lee, who drew the attention of the defense, as the Kings preferred to leave Duhon to take the shot.
Then in overtime with the Knicks trailing 116-114, Nate Robinson, in the game for Duhon, drove into the paint and, when the defense converged, he kicked it out to the worst shooter on the team, Jared Jeffries, who barely caught the front of the rim on a three-point attempt with 32.9 seconds left. Robinson, who is playing with a strained left groin, had 11 points and made only 4-for-15 from the field.
D'Antoni summed it up when he said his team was "struggling to find a way to get the ball in the right place."
Wilson Chandler, part of that aforementioned future, had a career-high 35 points and Lee scored 21 points with 10 rebounds for the Knicks. Another piece of the future, Danilo Gallinari, missed the fourth quarter and overtime with a sore right (shooting) forearm, which is a recurrence of an injury he suffered in early December in Orlando. X-rays were negative and Gallinari said he still planned to go to Dallas this weekend to participate in the Rookie Challenge game and the Three-Point Shootout on All-Star Saturday.
Evans hit two free throws with 4.9 seconds left to clinch the win for Sacramento (17-34), which snatched 18 offensive rebounds in the game. Evans had 10 rebounds and Jason Thompson had 11 boards, five of which were off the offensive glass. Rookie Jon Brockman also had five offensive rebounds in 15:54.
Kevin Martin, whose name has come up as a possible trade candidate, then scored the first nine points of overtime for the Kings. His three-pointer, off a kick-out from Evans with 2:44 left, gave the Kings a 114-110 lead. Martin finished with 17 points off the bench for Sacramento.