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The Knicks West Coast Road Trip: A Debacle in the Making

The New York Knicks are now three games into a pivotal five game West Coast road trip, and they have lost all three games. The bigger issue is that they have been blown out in these games: starting in Golden State, continuing in Denver, and most recently last night in Portland. I will examine this road trip from the perspective of a concerned fan, and offer my opinion on their prognosis moving forward. Now, one can argue that the Knicks are a really banged up team at this point with Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Tyson Chandler all out of the lineup last night. But injuries are a part of the game, and if you watched the press conference on the post game show last night, none of these guys are conceding that injuries are an excuse for the lackluster play we have seen in recent days. Injuries – are they to blame? While I think it plays a role in what is going on with this team right now, I still feel like they should have been able to get a win against Portland, which is a team that has really struggled most of this season. The Knicks showed little to no effort in the game against Golden State, and after a decent start to the Denver game, it was all Denver from the second quarter through the closing seconds. This road trip has gone just about the absolute worst way it could possibly go between having Carmelo walk off the court in Denver, to the Chandler injury later that same night. The Knicks front line is decimated by injuries, and it is time for some other guys to step up. I have been pleasantly surprised with the play of Kenyon Martin, who has certainly demonstrated that he can still play, and has given the Knicks some solid minutes. He can still jump, he can score the ball, and he plays pretty good defense as well. The other reserve guys have to give the Knicks something on the front line: Copeland, Camby, and Kurt Thomas. One or more of this group of guys has to give you something productive while the team is dealing with all of these injuries to key players. Of course, the hope is that Chandler can play on Sunday against the Clippers, which is going to be a tough spot for the Knicks on national television. Go Small – the 3 guard set The other option that Woodson has is to go with a small lineup in the next two games. He could play three guards with J.R. Smith, Kidd, and Felton. He can use Novak and Prigioni off the bench in that scenario, or any combination of those five players in a three guard rotation. The Knicks have to adapt and use the personnel they have healthy and in uniform to win these games. They have to replace the scoring lost with the absence of Carmelo Anthony from the lineup. This is obvious, but is also easier said than done. They need to get more scoring out of Felton on the rest of this road trip, he had a rough night in Portland, and hopefully he can bounce back against the Clippers and the Utah Jazz. The Knicks also should implement the sets for J.R. Smith more often in these next two games, if they can get him the basketball in the position to get a clean look at the hoop that will remedy some of the scoring issues. A 0-5 Trip…Time for Panic? Prior to the start of this important road trip, I had the Knicks going 2-3 in the five games. I thought they would win in Golden State and in Portland. I knew that the Denver game was going to be tough, and I knew that the Utah Jazz will be looking to get revenge on the Knicks for the bruising the Jazz took at MSG. Now with the Knicks losing these first three games, it is likely they could go winless on this road trip. A week ago, I would have felt that this was a disaster. At this point, I understand that the losses were compiled by injuries and bad circumstances. I actually think it is not a time for me or my fellow Knicks fans to panic. At this point, the panic button should be hit in one of both of the following scenarios: 1. If Carmelo Anthony misses an extended period of time with the knee injury and 2. If the Knicks come home and lose the Orlando game and the games with Toronto then the team and the fan base will have legitimate cause for panic. The Outlook In the end, I am not ready to write off the Knicks and their chances at winning the division compared to other reporters, analysts, and some fans. I think this team, granted it has Carmelo on the floor for the majority of their remaining games, can still win the division and finish with a strong push towards the playoffs. In the interim, these games will be interesting, and I will be watching on Sunday on ABC with the rest of the Knick fans hoping they can turn this road trip, and their season around.
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