MILWAUKEE — Tanking, or the suspicion of tanking, is nothing new in the NBA. But it’s hard to recall a time when this many teams were losing this many games with more than a month to go in the season.
Eight teams have done a complete nosedive in the past month. Memphis, which is on a 15-game losing streak and has the worst record in the league, is the leader in this race to the bottom. Other contenders for a high lottery pick include Phoenix, Orlando, Atlanta, Sacramento, Dallas, Chicago and yes, the Knicks, who have lost 13 of their last 14.
Last week, NBA commissioner Adam Silver sent a memo to all 30 teams saying “tanking has no place in our game.” Silver, according to several news reports, also gave the Bulls a warning about resting veterans Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday.
Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek has not seen that memo. “That’s not what we’re doing here, so it’s not a concern,” he told reporters after practice at Marquette University on Thursday.
Since the All-Star break, the Knicks have made a commitment to go young and are giving major minutes to guards Emmanuel Mudiay, Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke. Hornacek, however, said that just because the team has gone young doesn’t mean it isn’t trying to win.
“There’s a difference between tanking and trying to look at the future,” Hornacek said. “We made a trade to bring these guys in. We brought in Trey from the G League and Emmanuel from another team. That’s a totally different thought process. We’re trying to see if these guys can play for us. We still want to try to win games. We want to see if our young guys can have us win games. It’s part of the evaluation process. It’s not like we’re putting them out there going, ‘Oh, heck, if we put them out there, we’re going to lose games.’ ”
The Knicks (24-41) are 1-5 since the All-Star break. They have gone 7-27 since getting off to a 17-14 start. If the draft had been held Thursday, they would have picked ninth.
The league is making changes in the lottery system so teams won’t be rewarded for not trying to win, but it won’t go into effect until 2019.
Hornacek said tanking “has gotten worse in the last four, five, six, seven years. That’s why they made adjustments. I don’t know why they didn’t make adjustments and implement them this year. I don’t know why they waited a year. If they had what they’re going to do, just put it in now. So maybe these teams are trying to get their one last crack at it.”
Another Kanter at MSG. Enes Kanter likely will be looking for Big East Tournament updates while the Knicks are playing the Bucks on Friday night. Kanter’s little brother, Kerem, is a forward for Xavier, which will play Providence in the semifinals. The 6-10 Kerem scored 12 points in a win over St. John’s on Thursday. “If they win tomorrow, I’ll go Saturday,” Enes said. “They better give me a good seat.”