Even in a 14-57 season there come times when enough is enough. So just one minute and five seconds into the second half Monday night in Toronto, Knicks coach David Fizdale yanked all five of his starters off the floor.
In a season with losses of all types, this one signaled not just a lack of talent — a problem that has been evident since October — but a lack of effort. So Fizdale pulled all five starters out after 65 seconds.
“Not getting it done, not playing at the level I wanted to see the game played at,” Fizdale said after the game ended in a 36-point loss to the Raptors. “It was before that — three minutes left to go [in the second quarter], timeout, we’re right there knocking on the door, down 10, we just came out of that timeout with no focus and they ended up hitting like five threes in three minutes...they understood. I think every guy that was out there owned it. We caved in. We’ll bounce back.”
That chance to bounce back and at least show more pride than they did in Toronto begins Wednesday night when the Knicks start a six-game homestand at Madison Square Garden. They haven’t exactly been dominant at home — 7-26 there and 7-31 on the road.
But after spending the last two weeks on a pair of three-game road trips with seven of the last nine games on the road, the team is happy to be home. At least they are happy to be back in the place where they won a game Sunday against the Lakers — their only win in the seven-game stretch — and a home court that felt welcoming for a day. There were no chants and no controversy — which they will be lucky to have happen in the next two weeks.
“We’ve been on the road a lot, back-to-back [games Sunday and Monday] coming from San Antonio,” Damyean Dotson said. “It’ll feel good to be at home. Our last home game was a win, so we’ll try to capitalize on that. Looking forward to being at the Garden for six games.”
“It’ll be good for us to settle into home and play some games without having to jump on a flight, go here and go there,” Fizdale said. “We have a lot of practice time in between those games. It gives us an opportunity to get better.”
That’s all that’s left for the final weeks of the season. The Knicks may have one eye on the summer when free agency and the NBA Draft can turn their fortunes, but they are still hoping to achieve something down the stretch. While much of the roster will be gone to open up salary-cap space when the season ends, there are hopes of getting something from the young pieces left in place.
One of those, Frank Ntilikina, might finally get back on the court soon. Sidelined since Jan. 27 when he suffered a strained groin, Ntilikina was cleared to practice Tuesday and worked out with the team’s G League affiliate. As long as he doesn’t suffer a setback he’s expected to be with the team Wednesday.
“Every situation right now I cannot waste a minute where I let them pout and wallow, anything,” Fizdale said. “I’ve got to teach. I’ve got to keep them playing. I’ve got to keep putting them out there, just keep throwing them through it. They’ve got to keep making those mistakes.”