Knicks seeking answers amid 2-game skid despite plethora of injuries

A dejected Josh Hart sat at his locker murmuring answers to questions with obvious answers.

Down three starters and three centers while incorporating two new players in Saturday’s matchup against the Indiana Pacers, the Knicks stood no chance.

They got pounded on the glass by a poor rebounding team and gave up 125 points, oftentimes out of sync on the defensive end.

Hart’s body language was a temperature-check for a battered Knicks roster hobbling into the NBA All-Star break.

“Obviously, we’re down bodies, but we’ve got to find a way to piece together wins,” he said. “We’ve got two [more games] before All-Star and then hopefully we’ll get guys back. So we’ve just got to figure it out.”

This feeling is atypical of a Knicks team on a steam-roller entering the New Year.

The Knicks have lost two in a row — a 122-108 to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday followed by Saturday’s 14-point loss to the Pacers — for the first time since Dec. 30.

That was the day before they traded RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley and a second-round pick to the Toronto Raptors for OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa and Malachi Flynn.

The Knicks won 16 of the 19 games following the deal, many in dominant fashion, vaulting themselves into not just the Eastern Conference Finals conversation but, according to some pundits, in the mix for an NBA Finals appearance.

The Knicks were mostly healthy then. That is no longer the case.

Julius Randle has a dislocated shoulder. OG Anunoby needed elbow surgery. Mitchell Robinson had surgery on his ankle, too, and now Isaiah Hartenstein is enduring a recurring bout with left Achilles soreness.

Jericho Sims is under the weather. The Knicks started 38-year-old Taj Gibson at the five on Saturday.

Tom Thibodeau still believes his team has enough to win.

And while the newcomers Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks soften the blows dealt by the injury bug and raise the ceiling for a team now boasting legitimate playoff depth when the stars return to the lineup healthy, it’s hard to see the light at the far end of the tunnel when you’re stuck in the dark searching for a path forward.

“I just deal with reality. This is what we have and I think we can win with what we have,” Thibodeau said after the loss. “So that’s all I think about. Get in there and get it done. There’s no moral victories. Get out there and get it done. If you’re here and you’re on this roster that means you’re a hell of a player and we can win.”


On paper, it makes a ton of sense.

It’s why pundits, fans and journalists alike are praising the Trade Deadline move the Knicks front office made to improve the roster.

The Knicks struck a deal sending Quentin Grimes, Evan Fournier, Ryan Arcidiacono, Malachi Flynn and a pair of second-round picks to the Detroit Pistons for Burks and Bogdanovic. The pair of newcomers combined to score 33 points off the bench in their Knicks season debut.

It’s a welcome sight for a team previously ranking second-to-last in bench scoring since trading Quickley and Barrett, who captained the second unit before the trade.

The work, of course, is just beginning. Bogdanovic and Burks have some catching up to do.

Bogdanovic, for example, shot 3-of-10 from the field for 11 points, an uncharacteristic, inefficient shooting night for a player who shot 47 percent in 28 games in Detroit this season and 49 percent through 59 games last year.

Like Hart, Bogdanovic was disappointed his first game in New York didn’t result in a victory.

“It’s still kind of early for me and A.B., and maybe [we’re] gonna learn set offense, to play a little bit faster in the flow,” he said. “And then defensively, like switches and what we are doing. It’s gonna take a couple of games probably I hope that we gonna pick it quick.”

Bogdanovic is no stranger to assimilating into different teams, the Knicks being the sixth NBA city of his eight-plus year career. He says it will take “probably a game or two” for him to get up to speed with what the Knicks want to do on offense.

“We are running basic stuff today just so me and AB can be in the right space,” he said. “But like I said, it’s gonna be a couple of days. It’s good that we are having the All-Star break. So just to learn how we’re gonna play.”

Burks finished with 22 points and four made threes but did the majority of his scoring late in the fourth quarter after the Pacers’ lead had already ballooned to 22 points.

None of it mattered in a lopsided loss.

“I thought for a first game, there was some obviously good things and obviously there’s a lot for them to adjust to,” Thibodeau said. “As a team I think we have to do a lot better. We’re shorthanded. We’re going to have to play a lot harder and a lot tougher. We’re going to have to count on our defense and our rebounding and one of the few times we’ve been out rebounded all year. So we’re going to have to fix that and fix it fast.


Thibodeau won’t let himself look too far down the line, and for good reason: The players on the injury report are not walking through that door any time soon.

Even Brunson, who recovered from a sprained right ankle, was unsure if he’d be ready to play on Monday against the Houston Rockets.

The injury bug is festering at Madison Square Garden.

Eventually, pest control will have its say. Eventually, injured players will return to the lineup.

That means Brunson, Randle, Anunoby, Robinson and Donte DiVincenzo starting.

That means Hart, Achiuwa and Hartenstein back to the second unit — now with Bogdanovic and Burks to bring some much-needed scoring.

“It’s Game 1. There’s not much pressure Game 1. Just trying to feel everything out,” DiVincenzo said of the new Knicks additions. “New system, new teammates, so take it one game at a time. They’re just true professionals, so they come in ready to go, and their impact is gonna be seen not now but later on, I think.”

The Knicks were dominant before injuries ravaged their roster. When they get healthy, and when Bogdanovic and Burks settle in, New York projects to be home to a tough playoff out for any team — contenders included.

To think about the playoffs, however, would be putting the cart before the horse. After all, the Knicks have to get to the playoffs, and only 4.5 games separate the now fourth-seeded Knicks from the No. 8 Miami Heat.

When everyone gets healthy, Bogdanovic and Burks will be lethal additions.

“Obviously, everyone sees that, but we gotta focus on right now,” said Brunson. “How can we be good right now? We can’t keep looking ahead and say, ‘We’re gonna be good.’ We gotta be good now. We’re not, I’m not, worried about what the future holds. I’m worried about one game at a time and the next game.”

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