GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The buzzwords at Knicks practice Tuesday were the following:
Energy. Determination. Heart. Soul. Intensity.
Team president Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni used those words to describe what they have not seen from their players of late, especially in the back-to-back losses at Washington and Minnesota over the weekend. If they don't start to see those attributes soon, the Knicks will not be playing meaningful games again until November.
"I don't like the way we played," Walsh said. "I'm disappointed because I didn't see the intensity that you have to have at this point. That has to pick up."
Said D'Antoni: "We just can't succumb to getting down. We don't have the right energy, the right determination to play. You see it at different times. We start off well and then we get into a little bit of trouble and we kind of cave in a little bit."
At 18-29, the Knicks have reverted to the fringe of the playoff race going into tonight's home game against the Wizards. They have several key players who are banged up, and the schedule is not favorable.
The Knicks have 16 home games and 19 road contests left, including two visits each to Boston and Cleveland and a five-game Western swing. They would have to go 23-12 to reach .500; that plateau seemed attainable when the Knicks hit their high-water mark of 15-20 on Jan. 7.
Since then they have gone 3-9 and have given Walsh and D'Antoni pause to reflect on just what sort of team they have heading into the Feb. 18 trade deadline and how many of these players they want to go forward with in 2010-11.
"I didn't expect this," Walsh said, "like I'm sure other people didn't expect it. If we want to compete for a playoff spot, we've got to play with more purpose, more force, more commitment . . . This team hasn't been in a playoff race, so I don't think they understand all the way what you have to go through as you go through the season. And you can just look out there and see it. It's on them to see that too. I mean, I'm not playing anymore. I can see it."
One thing D'Antoni said he's not going to do is shake up the lineup for tonight's game.
"There will be some little bit of changes here and there, but nothing to write about," D'Antoni said. "I don't love to do that because you better know what you're shaking it up to. Shaking it up to worse doesn't help anybody."