COMMENTARY | Madison Square Garden is the world's most famous arena and the mecca of basketball.
Perhaps the arena's tenant, the New York Knicks, should be reminded of that since these days The Garden is more like a mecca of mediocrity or the world's most enjoyable arena to be a visitor in. The 2013-14 Knicks have been nothing short of atrocious in their own building, touting a ghastly 4-12 home record into the New Year.
It's obvious this Knicks team does not contain the same identity last year's team did. That team was 31-10 at MSG, including a 10-0 start at home. Effort and energy from a team that appeared one of the best in the NBA sparked a home-court advantage every time the Knickerbockers stepped on the floor and it paid off for the most part, as there were a multitude of exciting home wins last year right from the get-go.
The Garden was like a fortress -- a place you didn't want to stroll into because there was a 75-percent chance you're leaving with a loss. It was no surprise the team ended 54-28 en route to an Atlantic division title.
This season, the script has been flipped completely on its ear. Visitors love strolling onto the Knicks' home floor, where there's been a lack of cohesion, energy and winning basketball this entire season. The way the stats, there's a 75-percent chance you walk into Madison Square Garden and leave with a victory this time around. We would like to hope that number shrinks as more home games are played, but this team hasn't yet given us a reason to believe it will.
New York has lost games at home this season in all types of fashion; even finding new and excruciating ways to drop what looked like a surefire win. It could be Paul George getting touched on the elbow for an overtime loss to the Pacers or Bradley Beal blowing through the defense with just one second left on the clock for the Wizards.
Either way, fans have certainly had their hearts broken watching games the Knicks gave away. There were also blowouts in which this team inexplicably didn't even show up like versus San Antonio and Boston, losses came by 30+ points in a matinee. Quite unwatchable for a team whose owner stupidly dubbed a title contender.
There isn't much to say about this drastic turnaround from one season to the next, other than it's mind boggling because we cannot put our finger on it. New York clearly isn't as good of a team as it was a year ago, but I refuse to pin it all on that. There have been games in which players simply admitted there was a "lack of effort"; probably the most inexcusable excuse of all time. Like extra motivation is needed on top of the millions of dollars and floor with your colors at the center of New York City.
Hell, the Larry Brown Knicks couldn't have been more dysfunctional and even they won 15 games at home in 2005-06. Granted, they went 8-33 on the road but despite being the lousiest team in the East, they put forth an effort in their building that could make their fans proud. The world's most famous arena is becoming increasingly famous for losing again and housing a Knicks team that looks like they're coming off a 28-54 season rather than the other way around.
The bottom line is that good teams dominate at home and the Knicks have the second-lowest winning percentage league-wide in that regard. The weak Eastern Conference has potential playoff teams under .500 at home, but that shouldn't make anyone feel better. The best teams in this league win on their home floor many more times than not. A message is sent to the rest of the league that you do not want to play in those arenas.
There are more talented and better teams occupying American Airlines Arena (Miami) and Conseco Fieldhouse (Indiana), but the built-in advantage that is Madison Square Garden should count for something, no? Well, so far, it hasn't and if the Knicks plan on any type of change in their fortunes this year, it must start in their beautiful, newly refurbished home they just can't seem to win in.
Although New York cannot restart its season -- something we can be sure Mike Woodson & Co. wishes it could do -- perhaps the new year can bring new hope to this very expensive losing bunch. However, with the turn of the calendar, maybe the Knicks can turn over a new leaf. The choices are to wallow in self pity for the next 50 games or to turn this laughingstock into a stock on the rise heading into April.
Straight up, the Knicks aren't this bad. They cannot compete with the best teams in this league, but this season have had trouble competing against the worst. This isn't a team that should be on pace for finishing 30 games below .500 and the brand of basketball played on the Knicks' home floor is one of the big reasons they're in this predicament. With all that said, the talent level is such that New York could still climb through the window left open by the Atlantic division -- a division without a complete team.
We don't know what awaits the Knicks in 2014, but we know not to look further than 33rd and 7th for a big reason why this team has been so porous. Whenever it is the Orange and Blue get back on track, turning around things in Madison Square Garden is going to have much to do with why.
Brian Sausa is a freelance journalist and Queens, New York native. He contributes pieces on both the Knicks and Jets to Yahoo! Sports and previously covered a variety of NY area teams for New York Sports World. Former UAlbany Sports Information Dept. intern. Twitter @BrianSausa
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