One year ago, the Knicks had the best record in the East and the second-best in the NBA.
Today, they’re fighting to stay above the absolute bottom-feeders.
So where do they go from here? Up is the only answer, right?
Well, probably not too far up. Of the 16 teams that were in playoff position on December 14th last year, 14 made the playoffs. The only teams to crash the party were the Lakers and Rockets, who got the bottom two seeds in the West. In fact, if not for Denver’s meteoric rise in the late season, the top five in the West would have stayed in exactly the same position.
Of course, this year’s East is way more up for grabs than last year’s. There’s two great teams and then everybody else. Last year at least had a thick rung of good teams before the Bucks and the other middling-to-bad teams. So if there was a year the Knicks (and Nets) could come back from such a dreadful start, this might be it.
There’s some Knicks news in today’s roundup of the NBA’s latest, but first let’s touch on the West coast’s biggest market:
- Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN.com report that the Lakers are seriously considering moving Pau Gasol: “The Los Angeles Lakers prefer to keep struggling center Pau Gasol and believe he eventually will have success in coach Mike D’Antoni’s system, but his recent comments and subpar play have caused them to begin weighing whether to make him available before the NBA’s annual trade deadline in February, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. The Lakers have yet to engage in any Gasol-related trade discussions with other teams, sources told ESPN.com. But Gasol’s recent comments about his frustrations with his role in the Lakers’ offense, his impending free agency, and his struggles offensively and particularly defensively have essentially forced the team to consider its options. Gasol had something of a bounce-back game in Friday’s 122-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and made a point of saying that “you always have to make yourself responsible” for your own play and that “when you start pointing fingers at other sides or other directions, you’re making a mistake.” … The Lakers’ main objective with every personnel move this year has been to maintain their financial flexibility over the next three summers, when several premiere free agents will become available. Sources maintain the Lakers would be reluctant to surrender that hard-fought flexibility in a potential deal for Gasol or any other player. Yet it is believed the Lakers would consider taking back salary commitments for the 2014-15 season if they received a strong offer featuring a player who could significantly help them this season and beyond or other assets to help them reload around Bryant. Several teams have assets that fit that description, including the New York Knicks, who could offer Tyson Chandler (owed $28.7 million over the next two seasons), and the Chicago Bulls, who could offer Carlos Boozer (owed $32.1 million over the next two seasons). The Lakers undoubtedly would want other assets in return for Gasol. But the Lakers are unlikely to consider any deal that cuts into their spending power in the summers of 2015 and 2016.”
Kobe on Pau: “If we’re going to play our best we need to go to him a lot because he can make plays for himself and make plays for others”
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 14, 2013
- The New York drama never ends. Right now, Kyle Lowry is a major player alongside James Dolan, but next week, who knows? Here’s Frank Isola of the New York Daily News on Lowry: “The next 48 hours could determine whether James Dolan will trade a piece of the Knicks’ future — in the form of either a young player or a first-round pick — to acquire Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. With starting point guard Raymond Felton expected to be sidelined two to three weeks with a strained hamstring, Dolan could be forced into reconsidering a deal for Lowry if the Knicks continue to struggle against the Hawks on Saturday. The Daily News reported on Friday that Dolan is having second thoughts about including either Tim Hardaway Jr. or a 2018 first-round pick as part of a package featuring Felton and Metta World Peace. Dolan prefers to keep Hardaway, the Knicks’ 2013 first-round pick, and is reluctant to part with a future first-round pick due to the perception that Toronto GM Masai Ujiri has “fleeced” him in previous deals. The News also reported that Dolan, who has been at war with the media for years, was livid that details of the trade were leaked to several news organizations. There are theories that a Knicks official leaked the trade proposal, believing that potential negative reaction by fans would encourage Dolan to pull the deal off the table.”
- Marc Berman of the New York Post has this on J.R. Smith: “J.R. Smith on why he took 1 shot in 26:17. “I was going into the game trying to make opportunities for my teammates to excel. We need playmakers more than just scorers. My job is to get my teammates the easiest buckets we can and we’re not getting those. So I took it upon myself to sacrifice my shot to get other guys going. And it might not be the right way. I don’t know. Just trying to figure this out.’’”
- Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News writes that Derrick Rose has some concerns about the future of the Bulls: “Rose has told several confidantes that he is worried that the Bulls will start to let the team hit the skids by allowing key players to leave via free agency, forcing him to go through a rebuilding program that he wants no part of. “Derrick is worried that the Bulls are going to lose what they have,” said a league source. “He doesn’t want to go through rebuilding.” But that could be exactly how the Bulls treat this latest setback involving their franchise player, who had season-ending knee surgery on Nov. 25. Chicago is not expected to meet Luol Deng’s salary demands next summer when he becomes a free agent. Carlos Boozer has one more season to go on his contract and the Bulls aren’t expected to bring him back. How they would proceed if those major losses really do happen is anyone’s guess.”
- The Akron Beacon-Journal’s Jason Lloyd shoots down some Omer Asik rumors: “Varejao’s name surfaced this week in trade rumors involving the Houston Rockets’ Omer Asik, but a league source told me Friday the Cavs are not interested in acquiring Asik. With Andrew Bynum beginning to flourish, Asik and his $14.9 million salary for next season are not a fit on this team. Varejao’s ability to play both power forward and center makes him a far better fit. Asik will be moved next week and if the Rockets need a third team to get involved, the Cavs would listen. But Asik won’t be coming to Cleveland.”
- Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal-Times has some more on Asik: “The Houston Rockets are shopping Omer Asik and several teams are quite interested in acquiring one of the league’s elite defensive centers. With Sanders’ future in Milwaukee uncertain, some NBA officials believe Asik would be a good fit for the Bucks. What’s more, the Rockets have had more than a passing interest in Ilyasova, an outstanding perimeter shooter who would nicely complement Rockets center Dwight Howard. The talk is Philadelphia is the front-runner in the Asik sweepstakes, with two of the Western Conference’s top teams — Oklahoma City and Portland — in the mix as well. While Asik would certainly help a lot of teams, acquiring him wouldn’t come without a cost. He is due to be paid $15 million next season.”
- Khloe Kardashian filed for divorce from Lamar Odom. Here’s Dana Feldman of Reuters with the story: “Reality television personality Khloe Kardashian has filed for divorce from her husband of four years, NBA basketball player Lamar Odom, capping months of reports that the couple’s relationship had turned rocky. Kardashian, 29, cited irreconcilable differences in seeking to end her marriage in court documents filed on Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Kardashian, a younger sister of the better-known TV celebrity Kim Kardashian, married Odom, 34, a former player for the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, in September 2009 after a whirlwind romance. The wedding was featured on the E! channel reality show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” The couple have no children together.”
Dan Malone is in his fourth year as a journalism student at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and spent this summer as a features intern at the Cape Cod Times. He blogs, edits and learns things on the fly for Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on Twitter.