By John Schmeelk
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It has begun.
Back in November when the Knicks started losing consistently, the team said on a regular basis that the difference between last year and this year was that this group was staying together and not sniping at one another.
So much for that.
There's been some question about what Phil Jackson meant the other day when he said this team has a loser's mentality.
This is what he meant: Players on teams with losing mentalities fight with one another and point fingers. They disagree and rebel against the coach. They don't like making hard cuts and moving without the ball. They don't like putting in that extra effort on defense, something they think they can get away with. That is what a loser's mentality is.
There is some pure comedy in the story. The bickering between Carmelo Anthony and Tim Hardaway Jr. is like something you would hear out of a junior-high school gym class.
Hardaway Jr: "You shoot too much!"
Anthony: "No, you!"
Hardaway Jr.: "You don't play defense!"
Anthony: "You don't, either! Do you know who I am?"
Hardaway Jr.: "You're coach's favorite!"
For either of these players to complain about not playing defense and not moving the ball enough is utterly laughable, especially on Hardaway Jr.'s part. Hardaway hasn't guarded anyone since he got into the NBA and is a black hole. The ball goes to him and doesn't come back out. Anthony, meanwhile, doesn't do a lot of the little things a superstar needs to do if he really wants to be the leader of a team.
You wonder who leaked this information. Is it a coincidence that this got out shortly after Jackson's quote about the team's loser mentality? Jackson was never shy about using the media to call people out, and this may be his way of putting this team on notice.
Everyone knew the players on the roster this year were not part of the solution. They were always part of the problem. Almost all of them will be gone come 2015, spare Anthony and a couple of others. Seeing how they played last year, there should be no surprise that they have started sniping at each other. There should be no surprise that they are resisting some of the things the coach wants them to do and don't like doing a lot of the small hustle things good teams do (like cutting hard off the ball, getting back on defense, boxing out, pushing in transition more, etc.).
This is a bad basketball team led by a first-year head coach who has been thrown into the deep end of the pool with a bunch of sharks. Fisher will survive because he has the support of Jackson, but right now he is being eaten alive by a bad basketball team that he doesn't know how to fix. The players are already looking to bail on the triangle, not even two months into the season. Whether the triangle is the long-term solution or not, the players already bailing on it reflects more on them than it does the system.
Now there's word that Anthony is considering resting his balky knee, which is probably the smart thing to do. If I were him I wouldn't want to put my career at risk to play with this group of players, whether he is part of the problem or not. Jackson is going to have to be very careful about the kinds of players he puts around Anthony if he wants this team to succeed in the next few years. It will require particular people, who will have to cover up his flaws on the court and help in the locker room.
December 15 is coming, and Jackson was wise to say he wouldn't make a move for the sake of making a move. But make no mistake about it: Change is coming, whether it's now or after the season. New York will see the last of this group of misfits. At the very least they will be leaving a nice parting gift, a likely top-three pick in next year's draft.
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