The Knicks Not Fit For Viewing
2:26 PM EST on February 17, 2022
Possibly no team in the NBA is having a worse time right now than the New York Knicks. Wednesday night they lost to the Nets, 111–106, at Madison Square Garden, their third consecutive loss and 13th in their last 16 games. It's worse than it sounds: The Nets were without Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, and Kyrie Irving; due to trades, injuries, ineffectiveness, and stubbornness, exactly zero of the players who started for Steve Nash's outfit on opening night were in the starting lineup for the Nets on Wednesday. We have not even gotten to the worst part: The Knicks led in this game by 28 points in the first half, and by 21 points in the second half, and by 18 points in the fourth quarter, and managed to lose in regulation. It would be bad enough to lose one game like this, but this was the third time in under two weeks that the Knicks have lost after leading by more than 20 points. It is officially freak-out time.
The Nets got much of their late punch from rookie Cam Thomas, who may finally have proven himself indispensable with his fourth-quarter performance against the Knicks. Thomas was 2-for-11 with five points after three quarters, but things changed quickly after he saw a couple shots fall early in the fourth. Thomas has the pure lunacy of all great microwave scorers, the freakish ability to forget every miss and believe wholeheartedly that the next shot, however wildly irresponsible, is destined to splash home. With the Nets down 13 inside the eight-minute mark, Thomas bricked a floater, hauled in the offensive rebound in traffic, and rather than kick the ball out for a reset, decided to go up among the trees and banked home a difficult reverse layup. Meanwhile, the home team's mojo was in serious trouble: The Knicks followed Thomas's bucket with four missed shots on one agonizing possession, and then Seth Curry brought the margin to single digits with a three-pointer in semi-transition.
Tom Thibodeau did not call a timeout here, but he should've. His team was on the brink of a collective meltdown. In less than three minutes the Nets closed the eight-point gap, holding the Knicks scoreless and tying things up on a difficult Thomas mid-ranger:
Thomas pushed the Nets out in front on their next possession, with another pull-up jumper. Three minutes later, with the Nets up a bucket and the Knicks absolutely reeling, it was Thomas who drained an absolutely bonkers three-pointer to put the game away:
Losing to the Nets after leading by 28 points, under normal circumstances, would still be excruciatingly painful. Losing this game to the Nets with all three of their best players out of action is almost unendurable. Losing this game to the Nets because a hotshot rookie spent the fourth quarter doing Fortnite dances through your defense is enough to throw an entire franchise into chaos. ""Everything's on the table now," said a shell-shocked Thibodeau after the game. "It has to be." There's reason to believe that not all of what is on the table will be under Thibodeau's control: Ian Begley of SNY reported overnight that "confidence in Thibodeau had diminished among some people of influence at Madison Square Garden" even before this loss. The Knicks missed their shot at overhauling their program via the Deal Zone; firing Thibs would be rash and would probably not improve their immediate fortunes too much, but at this point the returns could hardly be any worse.
A frustrating thing about watching a Thibodeau-coached team is he is extremely reluctant to make changes, both in the big picture—his rotations are set more firmly in stone than the 10 commandments—and in the short term, where he often declines to pull the plug on a given lineup even while it is having its collective ass karate-kicked off in front of an apoplectic home crowd. Knicks fans are prepared to chase Evan Fournier out of town with pitchforks, and are desperate to understand Thibodeau's unshakable preference for Alec Burks over Immanuel Quickley. When the coach starts talking about everything being on the table, it's hard not to think that will mean laying all of this at the feet of, somehow, Jericho Sims.
I am looking for a clean way of segueing into this video of Stephen A. Smith losing his mind about Wednesday night's game, but I think the thing to do is to just stand aside and let you take it in, for it is wonderful:
"TRACY MORGAN, DON'T GO" is a collection of words that is going to stay in my brain for a long, long time. Never in history has a person expressed such catharsis with the phrase "street clothes." Smith makes his living shouting about things, and so it is rare and special when one of his rants seems both emotionally honest and wholly appropriate. The Knicks right now truly are harrible, and are worth screaming about.
The all-star break is arriving right in time for these reeling bozos, but the schedule picks up mercilessly on the other side: The Knicks' next two games are at home against the Heat and 76ers, and then they go on the road for seven straight, with just one of those games coming against a team with a worse record than their own. There's really no telling how bad this could get. The Knicks are 3.5 games back of the 10th seed, and thus the final play-in berth, and are dropping like a stone. If he can't right the ship, Thibs may find himself in street clothes—STREET CLOTHES—before it's all over.