New York lost to the New Orleans Pelicans 110–96 at home on Monday, but the score hardly captures the kind of night the Knicks had on a organizational level. Things got off to an odd and confusing start when it was announced that Brandon Jennings would be starting in place of Derrick Rose, who, according to the Knicks public relations department’s Twitter account, was “not with the team.”
Rose had been benched for the fourth quarter of the Knicks’ win in Milwaukee on January 5. The victory ended a six-game losing streak. After giving up 123 points in a loss to the Pacers the following game, the gloom returned, with Kristaps Porzingis (who has been battling an injury) intoning, “We got to figure this out and keep growing as a team. It’s not coming together yet. It’s frustrating.”
Now they are coming apart. On Saturday, Rose sat in the fourth quarter against Indy in favor of cult hero Ron Baker, and then on Monday, he didn’t show up at all.
The Pelicans game had a surreal feeling to it, as fans and journalists speculated on Rose’s whereabouts.
There wasn’t much more clarity after the game, with head coach Jeff Hornacek saying, “Right now we don’t have enough information to really give you anything” to begin his postgame press conference. When asked for further details on Rose’s situation, Hornacek offered, “Everything will become clear later on. We want to respect whatever he’s going through.” For their part, several of Rose’s teammates expressed concern.
The Rose situation seemed to preoccupy the players while they were on the court, as well. The Knicks were Anthony Davis’s tackling dummy on Monday, with the New Orleans star putting up an oh-so-2016–17 line of 40 points and 18 boards in just 29 minutes of playing time. Who knows what Davis could have done if he had stayed in the game. In the third quarter, with the Pelicans up 22, Knicks forward Kyle O’Quinn delivered a hard windmill of a foul on Davis, sending him flying into the baseline seating section.
O’Quinn was ejected for a flagrant 2, joining Carmelo Anthony, who had been ejected after receiving a double technical just minute earlier, in the locker room. Davis suffered a bruised hip and would not return to the contest.
To recap: The Knicks started the game apparently not knowing the whereabouts of their starting point guard, lost their franchise star to ejection, almost split the Brow in half, and lost to New Orleans at home. They are 2–8 in their past 10 games, have the second-worst defense in the Eastern Conference, and are falling out of the playoff hunt. Porzingis and Anthony have been struggling to stay healthy, and a promising season (once upon a time, the Knicks were 14–10) is coming apart.
The Rose situation is fluid and ripe for the kind of rampant speculation that comes with New York sports controversies. There were rumors online of an argument between Rose and Hornacek after the Pacers game, and as the night wore on the story was still developing.
As of publication, team president Phil Jackson had yet to comment. With the trade deadline approaching, and the rot settling in, this could be the decisive few weeks of his tenure.