Double Dribbles: Playoffs? These guys can’t even win a game
People can talk about it taking time or being “a process” all they want. But all the people who think New York didn’t trade for Carmelo Anthony with this season in mind are kidding themselves.
That is why the Knicks’ post-trade performance is so utterly disappointing. They already had Amar’e Stoudemire up front. They already had coach Mike D’Antoni’s system in place. They finally got Carmelo.
And they can’t beat Cleveland.
Actually, the Knicks haven’t defeated much of anyone lately, having lost six straight and nine of 10 heading into Monday’s game against Orlando.
Not exactly what you’re aiming for when you land a player with Anthony’s savior-like reputation. Not exactly the type of wave you hope to ride heading into the postseason.
That, of course, is assuming the Knicks get there. At this rate, they’ll be sitting at home in late April and wondering what they can do to be more like Indiana and Charlotte.
Not really, but you get the idea. The playoffs are around the corner and the Knicks appear dazed, confused and anything but ready for their first trip in seven years.
In their defense, they are hardly alone. This is supposed to be a time for redefining your mission, refining your strategy, or in a perfect world, resting your starters. But like the Knicks, a number of teams and individuals seem to be having a hard time with these dog days of the NBA calendar.
Atlanta is another team that comes to mind.
You remember the Hawks, don’t you? The same group that almost always sprinted to impressive starts under former coach Mike Woodson, only to later get swept in the second-round of the playoffs?
So the Hawks fired Woodson, signed guard Joe Johnson to a maximum contract, hired Larry Drew as coach, then traded for Kirk Hinrich. They also sprinted to an impressive start and now look like a team on its way to being swept in the first round of the playoffs.
It’s true that the Hawks won back-to-back games this past weekend. But they only beat New Jersey and Cleveland — and aside from being able to say they’re better than the Knicks, well, there’s not much pride in any of that.
At least the Knicks can brush the whole thing off to chemistry issues. We may not like it, but at this point, what choice do we really have but to believe them? They landed another high-volume shooter in Anthony and an aging point guard in Chauncey Billups, while sending accomplished and underrated role players in Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Danilo Gallinari to Denver.
But the Hawks? These guys have been together for a while now, man. Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford and Marvin Williams were key members of a team that took world-champion Boston to seven games three years ago.
That core remains and has some nice pieces around it, including Hinrich and Jamal Crawford. They should be ready for takeoff. So why are the Hawks wearing the confused expression of a team that has been sitting on a runway for hours, only to be told they’re at the wrong airport?
Before we go too far, we should remember that the Celtics lost home games to New Jersey and Washington last season, yet still reached the Finals.
That said, the play of Rajon Rondo of late has to be concerning.
The point guard was perhaps the Celtics’ best player in last year’s playoffs, turning the Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen into the Big Four. Oftentimes, Rondo was simply the Big One. He really was that good.
But things have been much different in March. In fact, Rondo has just been bad, period. How else do you describe the fact he’s averaged a measly 7.6 points on a miserable 36-percent shooting during the month? Or the fact his assists (8.6) and rebounds (3.8) are considerably below his season averages?
Yes, he sat out Sunday’s win over Minnesota with a strained right pinkie. And yes, the fact he’s a little beat up may have something to do with his substandard play.
But whatever the reason, the bottom line is the Celtics need Rondo. If not now, then very soon. That can be evidenced by the fact they have won just five of their previous 10, losing back-to-back home games against the likes of Memphis and Charlotte.
That’s Knicks-like territory, folks.
At least New York, Atlanta and Boston have pretty much guaranteed themselves a spot in the postseason — even if it means getting there by crawling backwards.
A few others possess a future that is significantly less secure, and we are beginning to understand why.
Portland has been mostly good, but can’t seem to get any real separation from New Orleans or Memphis for the No. 6 seed in the West.
The Hornets have been flighty since December, and to make things worse, lost standout forward David West (knee) for the year.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies keeping trying to make a go of it minus their own star forward, Rudy Gay, who had season-ending knee surgery last week. But like the Hornets, the Grizzlies still have both the time and potential to collapse.
And finally, just when you think the Pacers have wrapped up the No. 8 seed in the East, they go and lose two in a row.
“We feel like we can make the playoffs, but we don’t know how to win,” said Pacers forward Danny Granger following a loss to lowly Detroit. “Some nights we play good, other games, we have nights like this and (in a home loss to Sacramento). It’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You don’t know what you’re going to get.”
True? No question.
But not the type of honesty you’re looking for when the playoffs are just three weeks away.
Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO