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Knicks have plenty of blame to go around for horrendous start

New York Knicks players and coaches watch from

New York Knicks players and coaches watch from the bench as an NBA game against the Atlanta Hawks winds down on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, in Atlanta. Credit: AP / John Amis

Four times in Phil Jackson's career, his teams lost fewer games in an entire season than the Knicks already have dropped. One of those includes the playoffs.

Granted, the Knicks don't have the talent that any of Jackson's teams had, and their 4-17 record doesn't count against his legendary coaching record. Derek Fisher takes that. But they do count on Jackson's resume as a president.

Jackson now can say he was a part of the last Knicks team to win a title and the one with the worst 20-game start in franchise history. He probably needs Zen now more than ever.

This is the team Jackson helped assemble, and one he said should compete for a playoff berth. They have a star player and some other accomplished veterans around him, but it doesn't seem as though the Knicks know how to win.

Jackson was supposed to change that. Fisher and his staff of champion assistant coaches were supposed to help teach the Knicks what it takes. Yet their 2-8 mark in games decided by five or fewer points shows an inability to finish or execute down the stretch on both ends of the court.

Carmelo Anthony shot 1-for-13 in the fourth quarter of the losses to the Nets and Cavaliers this past week, and three times missed a potential tying three-pointer with less than 46 seconds left.

Anthony hit big shots down the stretch Friday to spark the Knicks' comeback against Charlotte. His three-pointer gave them the lead in the final minute. But the Knicks lost at the buzzer on Kemba Walker's driving layup.

Where was the defense? The Knicks had a foul to give and didn't use it.

Fisher has to take some blame for the start. The rookie coach is doing some of the same things that Mike Woodson was criticized for last season, and having similar results.

The ending Friday was reminiscent of a December loss to Washington last season in which the Knicks had a foul to give in the closing seconds and Bradley Beal drove for the winning layup. Woodson blamed Beno Udrih and lost the respect of some of his players. Woodson also failed to call a timeout to set up for a final shot.

Fisher hasn't -- and won't -- publicly criticize his players. He has their respect. But there are other situations that are too similar to last season.

The starting lineup changes almost nightly. A team needs stability and continuity. Fisher spoke about that in the preseason, but as the regular season approached, he started talking about having to be flexible and matching up with teams. Woodson said the same things. However, it's OK to have teams match up to you, too.

The Knicks have used 11 starting lineups. Woodson used 21 last season.

Also like last season, the Knicks play porous defense and give up wide-open threes constantly. Fisher says that's not why they're losing games. It's not the only reason, but it is one of the reasons.

The personnel is a major reason. That goes back to Jackson, who brought in seven new faces.

The Knicks haven't gotten enough consistent production from the starting point guard, center and power forward positions. They're one of the NBA's worst rebounding teams. They don't have a penetrating point guard who creates shots for himself or sets up his teammates for baskets inside. No one takes or makes fewer free throws than the Knicks, and they're repeatedly beaten in points in the paint.

Woodson, Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler and Udrih took the heat for last season. They're all with better teams now, and Jackson and the Knicks need Zen more than ever. Some wins would help, too.

Bullish on Pau

Things probably would be going much differently for the Knicks if Jackson had landed free-agent target Pau Gasol. But the Bulls had more money to offer and a chance to win now.

Gasol has been one of the most impactful pickups and has returned to his All-Star form in Chicago. He's averaging 19.9 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for the Bulls, who entered last night 12-7.

"Pau has great toughness and that's what I love about him," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "The mental toughness is what's huge for our team."

Gasol's overall toughness was questioned before he helped the Lakers to back-to-back titles. They probably wish they still had Gasol, who was a walking trade rumor his last few years in L.A.

"I just needed to be in a different position," he said. "To be refreshed, to be motivated again and put myself in the best position possible, and I think this is it."

Chandler turns into monster

Seeing the Knicks really has brought the best out of Tyson Chandler.

Chandler's recent 17-point, 25-rebound game against his old team was the start of an impressive stretch for the former popular Knick. He's averaged 14.8 points, 16.7 rebounds and 7.2 offensive boards in the last six games, five of which were Dallas wins.

After a disappointing final season with the Knicks, Chandler ranks second in rebounds (12.1) and first in offensive rebounds (4.5). The Knicks are 27th in rebounding.

76ers win, Nets lose

The 76ers' win over Minnesota on Wednesday meant the Nets still own the worst start in NBA history. They were 0-18 in 2009-10. Philadelphia was 0-17 before beating the Timberwolves.

Those Nets weren't expected to be that bad. These 76ers were, and still could be the worst team ever. That distinction belongs to the 1972-73 Sixers, who were 9-73.

Everything went wrong for those 2009-10 Nets. They blew a 24-point lead on opening night before losing at the buzzer to Minnesota. They lost by two to the Heat on Dwyane Wade's three-pointer with one-tenth of a second left. They also were without starters Devin Harris, Courtney Lee and Yi Jianlian for many of those games, and another starter, Chris Douglas-Roberts, missed time with the H1N1 virus.

Fast breaks

Pistons president and coach Stan Van Gundy after his team's ninth straight loss: "We're really messed up right now. I mean we're really messed up as a team. Lot of dilemmas.'' This was inevitable. Another inevitability is Van Gundy trying to shake up the roster. The underachieving Hornets reportedly are in deal mode, too.

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