GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Take off the orange and blue sackcloth. Put aside the ashes. It’s still way too soon to mourn this Knicks season, according to Carmelo Anthony, who’s mourned enough seasons to know when the time is right.
Granted, the Knicks’ 119-112 loss to the lowly Wizards on Thursday night wasn’t a good look, but after a practice Saturday that lasted about 2½ hours, Anthony and his teammates said all this is very fixable. Yes, even the defense.
“Twelve games into the season?” Anthony said when asked if the team still is optimistic. “Oh, hell, yeah. Nobody better [have their] heads down . . . Guys come here every day and work hard, trying to figure this thing out on the fly. We believe it’s going to get better, but sometimes we’ve got to go out there and make it better and establish what we want to do on the court.”
Twelve games in, they’ve allowed an average of 107.2 points — tied for 22nd in the league — to go along with 9.8 three-pointers per game (third worst).
All of those numbers are softened by the fact that they’ve performed well at home. The Knicks (5-7) have lost five of their six away games by an average of 17.6 points.
The problem is not impossible to solve. It’s just not easy to know where to start.
“We have to be able to stop something,” Anthony said in a statement as truthful as it was obvious. “We’re going to say we’re going to control the paint, then we’ve got to control the paint and then we play out from there. If we want to say we want to keep teams from shooting threes, then we’ve got to do that. But we’ve got to establish something.”
And then there is the uncertainty surrounding Joakim Noah. Signed to be a defensive juggernaut, he’s been inconsistent at best — something that he admits. Now he’ll face a reborn Dwight Howard (14.4 points and 12.8 rebounds per game, 60.6 percent from the field) when the Knicks host the Hawks on Sunday afternoon.
The Knicks did not sign the center to a four-year, $72-million contract so he could spend half the game on the bench, but that’s exactly what’s been happening in recent games.
“I’m trying to figure it out,” Noah said. “There’s no question. It’s been really up and down. I think that’s kind of like my role on this team. Some nights it’s going to be my night, sometimes it’s not, but at the end of the day, I just have to be consistent with my effort and be consistent and try to bring something positive to this team.”
Anthony harped on consistency, too — accurately pointing out that on paper, the Knicks have the personnel to be better than they are.
“We just play in spurts, and in order for us to be a good team, we can’t play in spurts,” he said. “We all knew it was going to take some time as far as jelling and figuring things out.”
And in case that plea for patience isn’t enough to get fans to put away the sackcloth and ash, Courtney Lee added his own vote of confidence.
“Everything is correctable,” he said. “No matter how frustrated and upset guys are, we’re all in here going to continue to work because the only way to go from here is up. We’re going through that adversity right now. Rather go through it earlier than later.”