CLEVELAND - Here is where the 2010 Plan starts to take its toll. The end is near, but there are still games left to be played, defeats to be taken and second-guessing to be done.
After last night's 124-93 loss to LeBron James and the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena, Mike D'Antoni was asked if the slash-and-burn strategy to clear salary-cap space to make a major run in free agency - and at LeBron, himself - is worth the pain this franchise is enduring for a second straight season.
"I'll tell you next year," D'Antoni said. "I can't tell you right now. Right now, it's pretty frustrating for everybody. This is what we're doing. We'll see how it works out."
D'Antoni might have wanted to pull James aside during this game, in which the Knicks trailed by as many as 49 points, and ask him to forget what he was seeing in blue-and-orange and remember that the roster will be almost completely empty come July 1.
Of course, free agency is a subject James, who had 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in 31 minutes, 14 seconds, no longer addresses. He is focused on a championship with his current team, which now boasts a league-leading 47-14 record. "I stopped answering free-agent questions a long time ago," James said.
He didn't hesitate, however, when asked about playing for a team that doesn't care about defense, which is what D'Antoni's Knicks looked like from the opening tip last night.
James seemed unaffected by what he saw from the Knicks, and suggested that this kind of attitude wouldn't exist if he were around.
"I've yet to play for a team that doesn't like defense in my career," he said. "But it's not about individuals first. Individuals have to take the responsibility to guard the guy in front of him and that makes it a lot easier as a team."
But right now, the Knicks (20-39) aren't a team. If there ever was a night when they looked like a collection of space-filling expiring contracts playing pickup ball, it was this one. The game essentially was over by halftime, as the Cavaliers tied a season high with 74 points in the first half and held a 26-point lead. The other time the Cavs hit 74 points in a half? When they last played the Knicks on Feb. 6 here at the Q.
Tracy McGrady played, as promised, though it was with the intensity of a walk-through. He hit his target of 25 minutes midway through the third quarter and sat down. He had six points and five assists and hit 3-for-7 from the field.
One lone positive for the Knicks was Bill Walker, who had a career-high 21 points and was one of a very short number of Knicks players who actually competed on defense.
David Lee had 10 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes and was exploited regularly on defense.
The Knicks lack any kind of real NBA frontline size, but the Cavaliers were without any 7-footers, as well, as they started 6-9 J.J. Hickson at center. Shaquille O'Neal had surgery on his sprained right thumb Monday and the team announced he will miss the remainder of the regular season. In fact, he is likely to miss the first round of the playoffs, as well.