Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
The Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony sat on the scorer’s table at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. His coach, Jeff Hornacek, walked by and offered a half-hug. One by one, a few teammates consoled him as well. A young fan in an orange Anthony jersey patted him on the back.
But Anthony seemed unaware. With a little more than six seconds left against the Phoenix Suns, and with the Knicks down by 2 points, Anthony had come around a pick by guard Ron Baker, pulled up in front of the Knicks’ bench and hoisted a 25-foot 3-point attempt.
The ball rolled around the rim, tantalizing the Knicks with every revolution, and then fell out. As the final second ticked away, Anthony’s momentum took him to his seat on the scorer’s table. The Knicks had lost again, 107-105.
“It did everything it was supposed to do but stay down,” Knicks guard Courtney Lee said of Anthony’s shot.
Anthony, who said his final shot felt as if it would go in, finished with 31 points, and Derrick Rose had 26. But that was not enough.
The Knicks led the Suns for more than eight minutes in the final quarter, only to watch Devin Booker hit a 3-pointer with 31 seconds remaining, which gave the Suns the victory.
The Knicks (19-26) have lost 13 of their last 16 games, and in close contests, the team appears snakebit this season: In games decided by fewer than 4 points, the Knicks have lost seven in a row.
“It’s frustrating because we’re not winning many of them,” Hornacek said of the close games. “I think the guys are hanging in there. We won some games earlier in the season that were that way. We’ve lost a bunch in a row now that are that way.”
Hornacek said that, over a full season, he expected his team would win about half of such games.
“I say to our guys, you know, ‘Our times will come,’” Hornacek said.
It has already been a trying year for the Knicks, with the mounting losses compounded by off-the-court drama. Rose missed several weeks of training camp while engaged in a lawsuit, and he also missed a game this month, taking an unauthorized leave to deal with what he described as a family matter.
Anthony has had a disjointed and contentious relationship with Phil Jackson, the team’s president, that has played out publicly. Last week, Anthony met with Jackson to clear the air after a longtime Jackson confidant, Charley Rosen, wrote an article saying that Anthony’s best days were behind him.
Anthony has a no-trade clause in his contract and has insisted he wants to remain with the Knicks. But in an interview with Newsday published Friday, Anthony opened the door to waiving that clause and leaving.
“I think it will be more on the front office,” Anthony told Newsday. “I have the power, but still I would talk to them. We would be in communication if they feel like they want to go in a different direction, they want to start rebuilding for the future. If they tell me they want to scrap this whole thing, yeah, I have to consider it.”
The circumstances have required Hornacek, in his first season as the team’s coach, to hone his tightrope walking.
“It’s been an interesting year,” Hornacek said.