What goes up, must come down. What goes down, though, has the opportunity to fall even further.
That's an important distinction in the Big Apple, where the New York Knicks are now 18 games under .500, working off a six-game losing streak and residing in the accursed abyss located beneath rock bottom.
No one issue is responsible for New York's ugly demise, but Carmelo Anthony ventured a guess as to what's plaguing the team most after falling to the Chicago Bulls, 109-90, on Sunday, via the New York Post's Marc Berman:
Carmelo Anthony, in devastated locker room, said #Knicks not showing 'sense of pride.''— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) March 2, 2014
J.R. Smith basically concurred, per The Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring:
JR, on the difference between the shorthanded Bulls and the shorthanded Knicks: "Heart."— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) March 2, 2014
There is no excuse for a lack of pride or heart. NBA players are compensated handsomely for their physical and mental abilities. Honor and effort should never be an issue, even when the sky is falling.
Melo seems totally drained of any energy from the Knicks' continuing nightmare, per Berman:
Anthony, who scored 21 points but had a season-low two rebounds, admits he can’t even think straight with the Knicks now 18 games under .500 (21-29) and 6 ½ games out of the last playoff spot entering Sunday night’s games. The only suspense is whether the Knicks will ever win another game and if owner James Dolan will let Woodson finish out the season or put him out of his misery.
The fact that the Knicks are battling lethargy and hanging their heads in the midst of one of their most disappointing seasons ever only complicates the current state of disaster. Frankly, it's also disgusting.
Incidentally, Anthony also said as much, according to ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell:
Melo, on the Knicks continuing to lose the way that they are: "It's embarrassing."— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) March 2, 2014
Embarrassing doesn't even begin to describe it.
The Knicks are 1-7 since the All-Star break, and their last three losses have come by an average of 22.7 points. Their defense is broken, the offense is inconsistent and, worse, there is no end is sight.
Mathematically, the Knicks are still able to clinch a playoff berth. Realistically, though, nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing about the Knicks' recent efforts suggest they'll be able to usurp three of the Charlotte Bobcats, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons. Absolutely nothing.
Leadership is clearly an issue on this team. You don't need pessimistic postgame comments to understand that. Look at the standings. Look at the box score.
Look at the on-court product.
Head coach Mike Woodson has lost the ability to inspire, Tyson Chandler is leading an individual mutiny on the defensive end, Raymond Felton can no longer mask glaring offensive and defensive inadequacies and Amar'e Stoudemire, per Herring, is providing answers to questions he knows nothing about (defense).
Where will the Knicks finish in the Eastern Conference?
Then there's Anthony, the once-optimisic superstar-turned-acquiescent skeptic.
"It's hard to keep coming up with excuses why it continues to happen," Anthony said, via Herring.
At this point, there are no excuses. There are only reasons—effort, defense, heart, pride, dysfunction, effort, effort, effort, etc.—all of which bring us to an inevitable and irrevocable conclusion: The Knicks are an awful, pride-lacking basketball team, giving chase to a playoff berth they don't deserve and, ultimately, that they won't even come close to catching.