Knicks Will Set New Low; Only Question Is How Low
MARCH 31, 2015
Some milestones await the Knicks in coming days, and none of them are good. As their awful season staggers to a merciful conclusion over the next two weeks, they are certain to set franchise records for the fewest victories in a season and for the worst winning percentage.
One of those two records could be established as early as Wednesday night, when the Knicks will host the Nets at Madison Square Garden. Based on their win records, the Nets are more than twice as good as the Knicks — 33-40 vs. 14-60 — and while that doesn’t say much, it does give the Nets enough traction to compete for the eighth, and final, spot in the thin Eastern Conference.
And if the Nets do win, it will mean the best the Knicks can finish this season is 21-61. They won’t do that well, of course, but even if they did, it would translate to a .256 winning percentage, the worst ever for the team, which began playing in 1946.
Until now, the worst percentage was held by the 1962-63 Knicks team, which went 21-59 for a .263 mark. A lot of bad basketball has been played by the Knicks since then, but no one team — not the dysfunctional, Larry Brown-coached Knicks of 2005-6 (23-59, .280) or the equally ludicrous Knicks of 2007-8, which finished with the same 23-59 record under Isiah Thomas — was able to edge out that early-1960s club for the worst-ever percentage.
But this Knicks team won’t be deterred. And once it claims the worst winning percentage with one more defeat, it can also become the first Knicks team to win fewer than 21 games. That would come with a second loss in the final leg of the schedule. And a third loss would guarantee that the 2014-15 Knicks would add their name to the list of N.B.A. clubs that finished an 82-game season with fewer than 20 victories. That has happened 53 times, and while a number of clubs are on the list more than once, the Knicks have always avoided it.
So, in effect, this is what Knicks fans have to look forward to until the final buzzer on April 15. As it is, the remaining Knicks schedule doesn’t even have any particularly noteworthy opponents — except for the Hawks, whom the Knicks will face in Atlanta on April 13.
Just a year ago, the Hawks barely beat out the Knicks for the eighth playoff spot in the East, finishing 38-44 to the Knicks’ 37-45, a one-game margin. Now the gap is a mere 41 ½ games. Atlanta has the second-best record in the N.B.A. at 56-19, and the Knicks have the worst. Hmmm.
Back to the 1962-63 Knicks team, which was coached by Eddie Donovan. He had the courage to man the sidelines for two more seasons after that but never managed to win more than 31 games. But as coach, and then as the team’s general manager, he was responsible for the draft picks — Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Cazzie Russell, Dave Stallworth and, yes, Phil Jackson — who formed much of the club that Red Holzman then coached to the franchise’s only two championships, in 1970 and 1973.
Jackson is presiding over the current mess as the team’s president. Whether he can draft astutely this June and sign a couple of effective free agents is anyone’s guess. He came to New York for a lot of money and a chance to complete the circle, to give the team with which he started its first championship banner in more than four decades. But for now, he will have to deal with the embarrassment of creating the worst Knicks team ever.