NEW ORLEANS — Players said goodbye to each other late Wednesday, hugged training staff members and went off on their break, unsure if they still will be Knicks when the schedule resumes next Thursday.
The way the first 57 games of the season went, and with the trade deadline less than a week away, anything is possible during the All-Star break.
A quick recap: The Knicks started 14-10 and have gone 9-24 since then. Derrick Rose left the team without permission on a game day to return to Chicago for “a family issue.” Carmelo Anthony has been on the trading block and had arrows shot at him by Phil Jackson in the media, on Twitter and through writers close to the Knicks’ president.
Joakim Noah, who signed a four-year, $72-million deal, has been an oft-injured disappointment. Kristaps Porzingis, who’s been slowed by an Achilles injury and a stomach bug, seems to be regressing. Jeff Hornacek has made questionable decisions with the starting lineup, rotations and play-calling.
The defense has been poor except for Sunday against the Spurs. It disappeared in Wednesday night’s 116-105 loss to the Thunder. At the break, the Knicks (23-34) are in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, four games out of the eighth and final playoff seed.
“It has been a tough season so far for us,” Porzingis said. “But we’re trying to stay together, keep fighting and just trying to do the right thing, give the fans watchable games and enjoy the game ourselves.”
The ugly incident involving Charles Oakley and the firestorm Jackson created by calling LeBron James’ business partners his “posse” just added to the craziness of this season.
All of that has forced Jackson and general manager Steve Mills to see if they can shake up the roster again. Besides Anthony, who has a no-trade clause and said Wednesday, “I never thought I’d be anywhere else,” Rose, Brandon Jennings and Kyle O’Quinn are among the candidates to be moved.
“Whatever happens happens,” said Jennings, who didn’t play Wednesday because of an Achilles injury. “If I’m not here, I’m not here. That’s my attitude.”
Porzingis is safe, but his performance lately has been a cause for concern. He made only one shot in the last three quarters Wednesday. He believes the stomach bug that kept him out of a game more than two weeks ago hasn’t left him and said he vomited a couple of times during Wednesday’s game.
Porzingis’ play has dropped off dramatically in the last two months. It might give management some pause to move Anthony because it appears the second-year big man isn’t quite ready to be the franchise player. Porzingis averaged 20.1 points and shot 46 percent in his first 32 games. In the last 17, he averaged 14.9 points and shot 41.9 percent.
“The break will be good for him,” Hornacek said.
Porzingis didn’t entirely disagree. “There are moments you feel like you need a break during the season, but with the way the season moves on, you get a day off and you’re good to go again,” he said. “So it’s not really that I need a break, more mentally than physically, maybe.”
If anything, Porzingis can learn from Anthony about playing through distractions and drama. Anthony has flourished amid the controversy surrounding him and the Knicks. Since Jackson confidant Charley Rosen wrote “Anthony has outlived his usefulness in New York,” he has played like an All-Star. He averaged 26.2 points in those 17 games, scoring at least 30 seven times. But it has resulted in only five wins.
So anything is possible with the Knicks in the next week.
“Everyone needs the break from everything,” Hornacek said, “and then they’ll come back ready to go.”
Well, maybe not everyone.