The Knicks viewed the weekend as a test that would allow them to see just how far they had come since the shake-up two weeks ago, when they changed coaches and gathered for a players-only meeting.
The answer isn’t a pretty one.
The Knicks spent the weekend with a back-to-back test against two of the best teams in the NBA and suffered one-sided losses in each. On Friday, they fell behind by 34 in a 15-point loss to the Heat in Miami. They followed that up by facing a 29-point deficit in the third quarter before falling to the Bucks, 123-102, at the Garden on Saturday.
“It’s two tough teams back-to- back, top teams in the East,” Kevin Knox said. “We’ve just got to keep the right mentality, not get too down. We’re playing against some of the top teams in the league. We’ll watch film, see what we’ve got to get better at, see what we have to work on and really just put this game behind us and get ready for Washington.”
The Knicks (7-23) will host the Wizards on Monday night. They were 4-18 under David Fizdale when they made the coaching change and thought a lift came with interim coach Mike Miller taking over, but they are 3-5 since the change, and in three of those losses, they faced deficits of at least 28 points.
Two of those have come in the last two games, along with the loss in Portland. So what to make of just where the Knicks are right now?
“They’re really good teams,” Julius Randle said. “They have their players — Jimmy [Butler], Giannis [Antetokounmpo]. But as a team they’re really good. They do a good job of playing off of each other. We’re going to take a lot from their approach. The way they start games, how they stick to their stuff throughout games, it’s really good.”
This question is not without consequences. The Knicks signed seven free agents during the summer and had four of them in the starting lineup Saturday, along with this year’s lottery pick, RJ Barrett. The goal was to drastically improve on last season’s 17-65 record to put the franchise in a better light, but with the struggles of this season, the Knicks already are open to dealing away the veterans — and maybe most of the young players, too — to continue building for the future.
“[We want] to try to keep things as consistent as possible with what we want to do every day,” Miller said. “We bring the same energy and effort every day. Maybe we have to go deeper into our bench. Maybe we have to shorten the rotation times that they play. Whatever it is, you have to adjust.
“Everybody has these games. Those were two really good teams that we played. We were very anxious, excited to go into this two-game stretch, just to see where we were at, what we need to do, to have a chance to compete and take that challenge. We saw two very good teams the last two nights with Miami and Milwaukee. There’s a reason they’re where they’re at in the standings.”