The Knicks have been lacking everywhere this season. Undoubtedly in wins. Definitely in talent. And now, according to Courtney Lee, undeniably in effort.
“When you watch film, it’s just all effort,” Lee said Monday after practice in Tarrytown, his first non-game work with the team in nearly a week following a death in the family. “Effort is the key to everything. It takes no talent to run from the paint out to contest a 3-point shot, that’s just all effort. We have to get everybody’s effort. Everybody’s got to be locked in.”
Lee called out his teammates, but not by name — neither did coach Jeff Hornacek, who agreed for the most part with the veteran.
The charge came one day after the Knicks were bent, stapled and mutilated 132-106 by the Raptors at the Garden. So the Knicks hope to right their lax defense Tuesday against the Mavericks, also at home where they yielded a season-high point total to Toronto.
Lee’s take has merit. The Knicks surrender 107.7 points per game, which places them 19th in the league. The Knicks have lost 15 of their past 16 games, including seven straight, and were torched for 119.9 points per game in those seven.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Lee, who missed two games, then came off the bench Sunday and “probably,” according to Hornacek, will start against the Mavericks.
“It’s not really what the team is doing. It’s what we’re making mistakes on. We’re making mistakes on our basic rotations that we’ve been doing all year. We’re still making those same mistakes,” Lee said. “That’s the frustrating part.”
Losing doesn’t exactly make anyone warm and fuzzy. At 24-43, the Knicks are streaming toward their fourth straight 50-loss season and eighth in 13 years.
Unfamiliarity plays a role. The Knicks on Sunday suited up just two guys who were on the team last year, used their 14th different starting lineup and played five guys who joined the team in-season. Still, a sports refrain as old as, well, sports, is that players only worry about what they can control. And effort decidedly comes under that heading.
Stats may accuse, but film sessions indict guilty parties. On Sunday, the top eight rotation players were at least a minus-12 in plus/minus. Recent film sessions have brought discussions among the players.
“You should be mad at yourself if you watch film and your teammates are calling you out. You should not want to let them down, and if you’re seeing that it’s you repeatedly then you need to [adjust],” Lee said. “If you don’t make that adjustment, that’s just telling us you don’t care. So I definitely … get frustrated.
“It’s beneficial that you hear it from your peers and not just always from the coach,” said Lee, who claimed offensive stagnation also led to defensive leaks through transition lapses. “When you hear it from the people you hang out with the most and talk to the most and it’s coming from them, it definitely should have more of an effect on you.”
No argument from Hornacek, who said the guilty parties did not include everybody, but there were enough to blame. And it’s really a chain only being as strong as the weakest link philosophy. One defender screws up, everybody pays.
“Some of it is lack of effort. That’s only a couple guys, maybe,” Hornacek said. “If you have one guy that’s on the court and he doesn’t do his job with full effort, it’s tough to get stops. You can’t hide guys in this league. It’s difficult. There’s a couple guys that need to pick it up. But I thought a lot of the guys have really continued to try and put the effort out there. Just got to get it to the other guys.
“Again I wouldn’t say a lot of guys. You won’t hear it from me who the few are, which I know you guys want to ask. We saw it on tape. Those particular guys have to get better.”