Sources: Strife builds within Knicks

ByChris Broussard ESPN logo
Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The New York Knicks were en route to their fifth straight loss last week against Brooklyn when a frustrated Tim Hardaway Jr. screamed angrily, "Get the rebound!"

Certain his second-year teammate was speaking to him, Carmelo Anthony approached Hardaway on the way down the court and used an expletive to ask Hardaway who in the world he thought he was talking to.

Anthony, according to sources, used another expletive in telling Hardaway he was going to beat him up when they got into the locker room after the game.

While the two players never wound up fighting, the episode was emblematic of the volatile state of the Knicks. Off to their worst start in franchise history at 4-19, the Knicks are a team full of discord, defiance and doubt, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

"Nobody's taken a swing at anybody, but there's a lot of arguing and cursing each other out after games," one source said.

In addition to the Knicks' lack of chemistry, sources say the players believe coach Derek Fisher's insistence on running the triangle offense is another key reason for New York's struggles.

Anthony could not be reached for comment Wednesday. The Knicks play at San Antonio on Wednesday night, and Anthony said after Tuesday's 104-93 loss at New Orleans -- New York's ninth straight defeat -- that he is considering giving his ailing left knee a rest.

Sources sayAnthony and Hardaway exchanged words after the loss to the Pelicans, as well.

Several Knicks, in addition to Hardaway, are at odds with Anthony and believe he is not playing team basketball. Sources said players voiced their displeasure with Anthony over the weekend, telling him he shoots too much, doesn't move or pass the ball, and plays defense only when he feels like it.

Sources said the most tension exists between Anthony and Hardaway, as they haven't cared for each other almost since Hardaway joined the team last season, with each player believing the other shoots too much and doesn't care about defense. Sources said Hardaway was also bothered by the favorable treatment Anthony received under last season's coach, Mike Woodson.

One thing Anthony and his teammates do agree on is their disdain for the triangle offense, sources said. For weeks, if not longer, the players have been ready to ditch the triangle and move on to another system. They feel like other teams know what they are going to run and where they are going to go on the court, which makes it easier to stop them.

When team president Phil Jackson gave his state of the team address Monday, he said the Knicks players have shown defiance to the changes he and Fisher have made in the name of "changing the culture."

"There's some resistance to discipline and order and culture change and things like that," Jackson said.

The players' dislike for the triangle is a part of that. But there is more.

Last season, under Woodson, the Knicks switched on defense. This season, under Fisher, they don't switch, which has some players grumbling.

Also, the day after losses, Woodson would typically hold voluntarily workouts that were light and nondemanding. Fisher, however, holds full-fledged practices and works the players hard.

"Guys are definitely frustrated," one source said. "But some of it's just basketball stuff that the players don't like doing. When somebody's demanding that you make a hard cut, you don't like it because you have to work harder. When someone says it's not OK to throw a bulls--- pass, guys don't like it."

But the players don't feel like Fisher is being too hard on them, sources said. In fact, some feel his sideline demeanor is too stoic and that they would like to see more emotion out of him.

"They almost want to see Fisher get upset during a game," one source said. "They want to know that their coach will go to battle with them, that he'll fight for them. They're not seeing any emotion out of him."

With free agents who signed before Sept. 16 becoming available for trade Dec. 15, the Knicks could look to make roster changes soon -- with sources saying J.R. Smith is the player they'd most like to trade.

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