The New York Knicks continued their disastrous start to the season today in an embarrassing 120-89 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. The Knicks came out flat once again, and there was a noticeable lack of effort that coach Mike Woodson categorized as “unacceptable”. The Knicks are 2-4 to start the season, and the only game in which they’ve put in a 48 minute effort was their loss to the Chicago Bulls in the second game of the season.
The Knicks held a meeting this week to discuss their focus and effort, and it seemed like it was working in their win over the Charlotte Bobcats Thursday. However, it proved to be one step forward, two steps back, as today’s blowout loss undid any good that the team had accomplished. The Knicks shot a pathetic 37.8% from the field, and J.R. Smith was completely ineffective in his season debut.
At this point, the Knicks have to have major concerns about the leadership and focus in their locker room. With Tyson Chandler out, the Knicks lack a vocal, emotional leader. Carmelo Anthony is the team’s best player, but his laid back personality does not lend itself to rallying the troops. Smith, Raymond Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire are the other veteran stars, but none of them fit the traditional leadership mold.
This is a problem that Knicks have to address, because veteran leadership is what prevents performances like the one they turned in against the Spurs today. The Knicks need someone to step up and get their teammates focused, either by getting in their faces and yelling or by leading by example on the court. Part of what makes stars like Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant so great is their ability to get their teammates motivated and focused on the game when the team comes out flat.
Even laid back stars like LeBron James and Tim Duncan get their teammates going with their play on the court, and Anthony needs to fill a similar role. When the Knicks are not mentally in a game, the burden falls on Anthony to get their heads right. He is the team’s best and highest paid player, and the team will follow his lead. He doesn’t need to stand in the huddle and give a speech, but he does have to give 100% effort 100% of the time, setting an example for his teammates to follow.
The best teams in the NBA are the ones that have cohesive locker rooms with strong leadership. Throughout the course of a long season, it is easy for highly paid athletes to lose focus at times. Veteran players have to make sure that the team stays on track and always plays to the best of their abilities. The Knicks lack that leadership right now, and it is hurting their play on the court.