Heading into the 2013-14 NBA season, many observers and prognosticators expected the New York Knicks to take a step back from the 54-28 record they put up en route to winning the Atlantic Division and making it to the Eastern Conference semifinals last year. (I mean, when you add Andrea Bargnani in the offseason, you've got to take some type of hit.) Here at BDL, we pegged the Knicks at 49-33 — a five-game drop-off that would make it tough to maintain their spot atop the Atlantic, but still figured to keep them comfortably in the top eight of the Eastern Conference.
Others were a bit less bullish, picking the Knicks to fall closer to .500. One preview, though, raised an awful lot of eyebrows by projecting Mike Woodson's club to sink like a stone in the standings.
ESPN Insider's prediction for the Knicks' season, as forecast using Kevin Pelton's SCHOENE projection system, included a record of 37-45 — a staggering 17-win decline predicated heavily on an anticipated drop in 3-point shooting accuracy after losing the likes of Steve Novak, Chris Copeland and Jason Kidd, cramped spacing resulting in fewer and lower-quality looks for Carmelo Anthony, and the onset of age taking its toll on the many veterans that made up the Knicks' roster.
As you might expect, the Knicks didn't take too kindly to a prediction that they'd freefall from division champs and No. 2 seed in the East all the way down to well-below-.500 and near the bottom of the playoff bracket.
"Sometimes there's glitches in the computer," said Anthony, who added he doesn't pay attention to predictions. "That's all I got to say." [...]
“Do they play? It’s a computer system. So I don’t think computers run up and down the floor. You still gotta play the game," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "I don’t get caught up into that. Bottom line is we take it one game at a time and put our best foot forward and we try to win. That’s what it’s all about.
"I have no control over the computers, I really don’t," he added. "All I can control is our team and how we play, and that’s all I’m going to try to do.”
As you might've heard, a funny thing happened on the way to proving those hateful computers wrong.
Things started badly — the general manager fired a month before the start of the season, an owner expecting a championship despite mismatched parts that seemed worse than last year's model, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year both suspended for testing positive for weed and rehabilitating from a post-contract-signing knee surgery, etc. They got worse, with buzzer-beating losses, Tyson Chandler's season-scuttling broken leg, embarrassing losses in matinee games at Madison Square Garden, the tyranny of the orange alternate jerseys, and a metric ton of other missteps en route to records of 3-13, 9-21, and 21-40.
The Knicks were bad. Remarkably, consistently bad. Frustratingly, relentlessly, bafflingly bad. Bargnani's-shot-against-Milwaukee bad. Holiday-ruining, catatonia-inducing, nearly-impossible to defend bad. Protest-in-front-of-the-Garden bad. Hire-the-Zen-Master-to-make-it-all-better bad. And, as it turned out, just-as-bad-as-the-computer-said bad.
The Knicks beat the Atlantic Division champion Toronto Raptors, 95-92, on Wednesday night in their final game of the 2013-14 regular season. It was the last game the Knicks will play this season, because they were eliminated from playoff contention last Saturday. The Knicks ended the season on a positive note, having won 16 of their final 21 games, including a pair of wins over the No. 3-seeded Raptors to go with victories over the No. 4 Chicago Bulls and No. 5 Brooklyn Nets in the final week.
They also ended the season with a record of 37-45. Exactly, 100 percent, bang-on the number spit out by SCHOENE and spat upon by the Knicks lo those many moons ago.
'Melo wasn't wrong when he said that sometimes there are glitches in the computer. After all, SCHOENE projected the Detroit Pistons to finish fifth in the East while the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats missed the playoffs; it expected the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets to make the postseason while the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers watched from home; and it anticipated the Phoenix Suns finishing dead last in the Western Conference. (Not that it was alone there.) When it comes to the Knicks, though, one thing's crystal clear as we close the book on the 2013-14 season: the glitches weren't in the computer. They were everywhere else.
On the plus side, while the Knicks won't be among the 16 teams competing for the chance to hoist the O'Brien trophy in late June, Wednesday's win did make New York one kind of champion:
Congratulations to everyone in the Knicks organization for winning the 2013-14 NBA Championship Belt. We eagerly await your first defense in about 6 1/2 months.
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