The eight Eastern Conference playoff teams are set, and the New York Knicks are not included.
That's a statement that most have been predicting with confidence for much of the season, but it took until April 12—the fifth-to-last day of the season—for it become official.
The Atlanta Hawks did the honors, knocking off the Miami Heat, 98-85, to lock up the eighth and final playoff spot in the East on Saturday night. Of course, it wasn't exactly a lose-on-purpose spiteful kind of move by the Heat, as they moved back into a tie with the Indiana Pacers atop the conference (Pacers own the tie-breaker) a day after claiming the No. 1 spot.
Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press summed it all up:
New York simply dug itself into far too big of a hole. After a woeful month of February (2-11), the Knicks dropped to 21-40 on March 3, a record that would put them into tanking territory during most other campaigns.
In the weak East, though, Mike Woodson's squad was still alive and continued to fight, reeling off eight consecutive victories to climb back into contention. A 5-5 stretch over the last 10 was enough to keep them out, though, as the Hawks have won five of the last six.
As MSG Network's Alan Hahn and ESPN's Ian Begley noted, this marks the end of two different streaks:
Moreover, there is a massive implication when it comes to what many see as a very stacked upcoming draft, per Bleacher Report's Howard Beck:
That, of course, is just the icing on the cake for what has been a nightmare season for the Knicks, and there's nothing left to do now but look forward.
Much has been made of Woodson's role in New York's failures, and the coach spoke about that with New York Post reporter Mark Berman:
I could’ve been better as a coach. You can point the finger there as well. As a coach I take pride in what I do. I’ll never pass the buck on anybody. This season’s been tough for a lot of people. I take full responsibility.
New York has some bright young talent in Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr., but with Carmelo Anthony's player option upcoming, the offseason will prove critical for the Knicks' future.
No matter what happens, though, with no draft picks and not much cap room, the rebuilding process may last well beyond summer of 2014.
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