MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Phil Jackson’s teams won 50 games regularly when he coached. As an executive, his Knicks have made losing 50 games the norm.
The Knicks closed out their road schedule with a 101-88 loss to the Grizzlies on Friday night — their 50th of the season. That’s three straight years the Knicks have lost at least 50. Jackson has been president three full seasons, and they are 79-165 under his watch.
But instead of that unfortunate milestone, some of the Knicks were more upset with how the game ended. The game was in hand and Memphis rookie Wade Baldwin IV broke an unwritten rule when he attempted and made a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Courtney Lee came off the bench and charged toward Baldwin, but he was intercepted by his former Grizzlies teammates, Mike Conley Jr., Marc Gasol and Vince Carter, who told Lee they would handle it. Earlier in the week, the Raptors and Pacers nearly fought after Indiana’s Lance Stephenson hit a layup in the last seconds of a 108-90 win.
“You don’t do that,” a still- charged-up Lee said. “By the time I was able to get off the bench and walk towards that area, he was already trying to get the crowd hype and walking out the tunnel. Nobody’s getting hype for you, bro. You just shot the ball at the end because you just wanted to score 100 points. Nobody’s going to remember you or that shot.”
The Grizzlies had a promotion in which everyone in attendance got KFC Chicken Tenders if Memphis broke 100 points, and Baldwin delivered for the fans.
“I guess he was hungry, man,” Lee said. “I guess he was hungry. You got to let him know you don’t do that, bro . . . We’ll see them next year, if he gets in the game. He might be in the D-League when we play them next year.”
When coach Jeff Hornacek was asked if he was bothered by it, he said, “I played in the ’80s and ’90s” before walking away. That seemed to imply he was not happy with it at all.
The Knicks (30-50) haven’t had much to be happy about this season. They have two games remaining before another long offseason begins and Jackson tries to rebuild the roster again.
In the second game of a back-to-back, Carmelo Anthony (sore left knee) sat and Kristaps Porzingis (sore back) missed his third straight game. Hornacek expects Anthony to play again, but Porzingis might not as the Knicks will lean toward protecting their future.
Lee scored 16 points and Maurice Ndour had 15 in his second career start.
Conley scored 31 to pace Memphis (43-37). Gasol added 16 points and 10 rebounds and the 40-year-old Carter (12 points) hit four three-pointers, including three in the fourth.
All of the Knicks’ injuries and their place in the standings have given the younger guys more of an opportunity to play and develop. They started three rookies for the third straight game, and center Willy Hernangomez has benefited the most.
The Knicks expected Hernangomez to gain his experience in the D-League and get spot minutes in the NBA, but Joakim Noah played in only 46 games because of injury and a suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. So Hernangomez started his 20th game and had 11 points and 10 rebounds against one of the players he looks up to — fellow Spaniard Gasol. Hernangomez has shown throughout this season that he could be a big part of the Knicks’ future.
“He has a lot of tools,” Gasol said. “Very talented, [shoots with] both hands, mid-range, tough, good instincts defensively, works hard. Willy is a guy that has a special aura. He’s always smiling. He has that positive mindset. It’s going to be up to him how far and how good he gets. It’s always about how you adapt to new challenges, how you adapt to the league and how hungry you stay.”