Events That Drastically Changed the Course of the NY Knicks' Season
The New York Knicks have had an up-and-down 2013-14 season, resulting in a huge drop-off from their impressive 54-win campaign just a year ago.
As of late, the Knicks have been able to make a push at the playoffs, but their early struggles have been difficult to overcome down the stretch.
It's been a season of streaks for the Knicks, who have been unable to build any kind of consistency, despite occasionally stepping up for weeks at a time.
Looking back, there have been plenty of key events and moments that have influenced New York's direction, with six in particular that help to paint a picture of how the season went so wrong.
The Knicks got off to a cold start in November, facing early injuries (and suspensions) to J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler.
After seeing how important they were to the team in 2012-13, losing Smith and Chandler was particularly tough to deal with. The team doesn't have many secondary scorers outside of Smith and has no one on the defensive end capable of playing at Chandler's level.
In Chandler's absence, the Knicks were forced to play Andrea Bargnani at center—a particularly bad fit on defense and also tough to manage offensively due to his conflict in styles with Carmelo Anthony.
Smith only missed five games, but was clearly out of sync when he returned, playing the worst basketball of his career as he shot just 33 percent from the floor during his first 20 appearances of the season.
Outside of Smith and Chandler, the Knicks also faced injuries to Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin at the time, putting Mike Woodson in a tough position as he tried to build a respectable frontcourt rotation.
The Texas Road Trip
After two months of horrible basketball, the Knicks started to turn things around in early January, impressing in a three-game Texas road trip against the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks.
The Knicks went 2-1 in the trip with victories over San Antonio and Dallas, playing some of their best basketball of the season. Iman Shumpert was particularly impressive, averaging 20.7 points over the stretch after struggling tremendously earlier in the campaign.
While Shumpert wasn't able to carry his form forward, New York went on to win their next four games following the trip, putting together what was, at the time, a season-best five game win streak.
In 2014, the Knicks have a respectable 24-24 record, but without this Texas trip they wouldn't have been able to build the momentum that saw them back in the playoff race by April.
Raymond Felton's Arrest and Controversial Buyouts
Things started to look bleak for the Knicks again in February, as the team put together a woeful 2-11 record over the course of the month.
Off the court, things were equally dysfunctional, as the front office made the decision to buy out both Beno Udrih and Metta World Peace, two key offseason signings who'd failed to make an impact.
Exactly why they were cut isn't certain, but it does seem as though they both had an issue with their roles on the team, with Mike Woodson refusing to give them minutes despite the poor play of those above them.
Just days later, starting point guard Raymond Felton was arrested for gun possession, and though he didn't miss any games, he would go on to average just 7.8 points on 38 percent shooting over his next 10 appearances. Needless to say, the Knicks could have used a backup like Udrih at the time.
Both events took place in the midst of what ended up being a seven-game losing streak the Knicks carried into March, with the unrest in the locker room cancelling out any momentum the team was able to build from Carmelo Anthony's 62-point game just weeks earlier.
Like much of the season, the losses in this stretch came down to the supporting cast providing little to no help for Melo, who himself put up MVP numbers of 31.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game in the month of February.
Tyson Chandler Returning to Form
In March, the Knicks were able to turn things around to an extent, in large part due to the improved play of Tyson Chandler, who had previously struggled to match his All-Defensive level play from prior seasons.
Chandler nearly averaged a double-double over the course of the month, but more importantly was making a significant impact on the defensive end, looking much more mobile at the rim,
The Knicks won 11 of their 16 games in March with the help of Chandler's improved play, which put the team back in contention for a playoff spot after appearing completely out of reach beforehand.
Chandler wasn't the only player who stepped his game up in March, though. J.R. Smith also played some of his best basketball, while Amar'e Stoudemire put up an impressive 16.9 points per game on 57 percent shooting for the month.
Phil Jackson's Arrival
Outside of Carmelo Anthony's record-setting 62-point night, the one bright spot for the Knicks this season was the hiring of Phil Jackson, who brings hope for the future in his new role as president of basketball operations.
Though the hire was made with long-term implications in mind, having the Zen Master involved has appeared to light a fire under the Knicks, who've managed to make a run at the No. 8 seed in the East since his arrival.
While it remains to be seen if Jackson's arrival will be enough to actually get New York into the postseason, the team does have a winning record since his hire, including very impressive wins over the Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets.
That's not to say the Knicks have been perfect over the past few weeks—there have still been some disappointing losses—but knowing that change may be coming has at least got the team playing like they care.
Most notable since Jackson's arrival has been the improved play of J.R. Smith, who's averaging 19 points on 45 percent shooting since that win over the Pacers, numbers comparable to those he posted in his Sixth Man of the Year campaign in 2012-13.
Losing Late in Washington
Thanks to a helping hand from the Atlanta Hawks, the Knicks have found themselves within range of the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, but after two straight losses, they may just have played themselves out of the postseason.
Mathematically, the Knicks are still in it, but find themselves two games behind Atlanta with only four games remaining on their schedule, all against playoff teams in the East.
If the Knicks don't make it, they can point to two clear moments over the last few weeks of the season where they failed to grab the opportunity in front of them.
After three straight wins, New York appeared to have the momentum to make it to the playoffs, but came out of the game against Washington with a disappointing loss and an injury to Carmelo Anthony.
New York followed the loss with a predictable defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat and now find themselves in need of a minor miracle to make it back to the postseason.