Latest posts by Don McCormack (see all)
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Standing 17-16 through the first 33 games this season, the New York Knicks are one of the surprise teams in the NBA.
However, the path to success is about the become much more daunting for coach Jeff Hornacek’s crew.
The Knicks — who would be the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference if the playoffs were to tip off today — will play 16 of their next 20 games away from Madison Square Garden, and 19 of their next 25.
“We just need to fire ourselves up and just stay together,” center Enes Kanter told reporters after practice Tuesday. “If you look at this team, we have enough talent to beat every team on every court. It doesn’t matter on the road, not on the road. We just need to stay together and just bring energy.”
That certainly wasn’t case Christmas Day in a disappointing 105-98 loss to Philadelphia — and that game was played at the Garden.
On the season, the Knicks are a solid 15-6 in the friendly confines. However, on the road, it’s a completely different story. New York is just 2-10 away from home. The team will begin a three-in-four stretch Wednesday at Chicago, then playing the next night in San Antonio and Saturday at New Orleans.
Interestingly, New York was in almost the exact same spot a year ago. It stood 16-14 after a Christmas Day loss to visiting Boston. The Knicks then embarked on a three-game road trip and dropped all three of those games, part of a six-game streak, and were never able to get off the canvas.
New York went on to lose 20 of 26 games and staggered to the finish line lugging a 31-51 record.
Even so, the Knicks are not likely to endure any distractions similar to what they did a season ago.
From the seemingly continuous back and forth between then-team president Phil Jackson and former star Carmelo Anthony, the mysterious one-game absence of current injured Cavalier Derrick Rose when he flew home to Chicago without notifying the team to the ugly incident that involved former Knick Charles Oakley, in which he was forcibly evicted from the Garden by security at the behest of owner Charles Dolan.
Hornacek, like Kanter, believes the Knicks are much more prepared for what lies ahead than they were a season ago.
“I think so,” Hornacek told reporters Tuesday. “Usually, when you have an older team — veteran guys — and the losses start piling up guys have a tendency to go, ‘OK, (enough).’ These guys are going to fight until the end of the season, no matter what our record is.
“A lot of young guys, they know we’re working not just for this year but the next couple of years of getting better at certain things. So there won’t be any quit in these guys.”
Unlike last season, New York has already been able to fight through some adversity. The Knicks have been without guard Tim Hardaway, the team’s second-leading scorer (17.8), has missed the Knicks’ last dozen games. Sidelined by a stress injury to his lower left leg, Hardaway is slated to be re-evaluated this week. He was shooting around after practice, not wearing the hard brace on his leg which he has been since being hurt.
“You’re going to hit those stretches,” Hornacek said. “There’s a lot of teams in that midrange where some part in the season you might lose five or six in a row, and how will you handle that? You going to keep fighting or are you going to feel sorry for yourselves?
“This is a great group of guys. And they may not win every game, but they’re trying the best they can.”