After 54 games last season, the Knicks stood at 23-31 and were dysfunctional enough to get coach Derek Fisher fired.
This season, the record is even worse: 22-32. The pain and disappointment is even more.
“Yeah, it is,” said Kristaps Porzingis, the face of the franchise’s future who is having a tough time wading through the misery of the present. “It’s tough. Everybody’s trying to do their best. But it’s not working.”
And that hurts.
“Obviously, the expectations this year were much higher for us,” Porzingis said. “And we’re still at the same point right now.”
Well, that’s not entirely true. As they prep to face the Nuggets at the Garden on Friday, when presumably the Knicks can get through a game without one of their legends being handcuffed and arrested, they are that one game worse. And they will start the night in 12th place in the race for eight Eastern Conference playoff spots.
What gnaws at Porzingis — and Knicks fans — is a quick glance at the roster. The names include Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony, former MVP Derrick Rose, one-time defensive player of the year Joakim Noah and reliable vet Courtney Lee. OK, maybe not the 1985-86 Celtics. But not the 2015-16 Knicks, either.
“It’s different this year, definitely,” Porzingis said. “It was a big shock last year when Fisher got fired. I felt like we were working towards something and even though we were losing, we were moving forward and we had the structure so it was a shock for me.
“This year, [it’s] a similar situation with our record and where we stand right now but we can’t be worrying about what’s going to happen. As a player I have to be focused on what I need to do on the court every game and keep going day by day and game by game and not worry about the outside noise.”
On the court, Porzingis was again a bright spot during the 119-115 loss to the Clippers on a night when the game became secondary, given Charles Oakley’s steel cage match with Garden security and Anthony’s ongoing steel cage match with Phil Jackson.
Porzingis, who has vowed to bring aggression to the start of games, scored 11 of his 27 points in the first quarter. It was his first 20-point game in 13 outings, dating to Jan. 6.
“I got involved right away,” Porzingis said. “I got into some rhythm, was able to knock some shots down. Teammates found me and I felt much more comfortable in being able to attack.”
Now if everyone else follows along, maybe 12th place residency won’t last forever. Or at least until April.
“We have to do a better job as players,” Porzingis said. “We have to find solutions because it’s frustrating knowing what we can achieve and not getting there. This whole thing doesn’t come together and work as it’s supposed to, then us as players, we’ve got to give more and figure it out ourselves a lot of times. It’s tough. Me, I try to stay positive and focus on things I can affect and play the best I can. Then everything will take care of itself.”
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