Confusion, dysfunction reign at MSG as Knicks get rocked with Rose missing

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/3706/" data-ylk="slk:Carmelo Anthony">Carmelo Anthony</a> questions referee Dan Crawford, moments before picking up two technical fouls and getting ejected. (AP)
Carmelo Anthony questions referee Dan Crawford, moments before picking up two technical fouls and getting ejected. (AP)

An hour and a half before tipoff of the New York Knicks’ Monday meeting with Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek told reporters that everyone on his roster was available save for reserve forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who’d been sidelined by an illness. Just under 10 minutes before tipoff, though, news came down that another Knick wouldn’t be suiting up on Monday:

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According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Knicks were in the dark about why Derrick Rose wasn’t at Madison Square Garden:

Rose started 33 of the Knicks’ first 37 games this season, averaging 17.3 points, 4.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 31.9 minutes per game. After going 4-for-14 from the floor through the first three quarters of the Knicks’ Friday game against the Milwaukee Bucks, head coach Jeff Hornacek sat Rose down in the fourth quarter, going with third-string point guard Ron Baker and riding the scoring of Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis to a 118-116 comeback win. Rose returned the next night, scoring 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting in the Knicks’ 14-point road loss to the Indiana Pacers.

The Knicks offered no more public comment on Rose’s absence, saying simply that their starting point guard was not with the team. A Knicks representative told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News that “that this did not mean [he was excused for] ‘personal reasons.'” Ian Begley of reported that “at least one team official who tried to reach Rose before the game on Monday was unable to do so,” citing league sources; making matters all the more curious, Rose reportedly attended the Knicks’ Monday morning shootaround, according to Frank Isola of the Daily News.

With Rose’s whereabouts unclear and becoming the evening’s dominant hoops story off the court, the Knicks scarcely looked interested in being on the court. Once again, they gave up open shot after open shot to a bottom-tier offense, allowing a Pelicans club that entered Monday ranked 26th among 30 NBA teams in offensive efficiency to score 60 first-half points while drilling 10 of 15 3-point attempts.

Anthony decided to dispense with the pretense late in the third quarter. The All-Star forward picked up a pair of technical fouls, getting himself ejected from the contest with the Knicks trailing by 19 and boos raining down from the disappointed crowd at MSG.

During a stoppage in play with 2:35 left in the second quarter and the Pelicans holding a commanding 82-63 lead, Anthony took it upon himself to exchange words with referee Dan Crawford over a pair of missed jumpers on which he felt he’d been fouled, but hadn’t received the benefit of the whistle. It didn’t go too well for him …

… and it didn’t look too good on him.

Anthony finished with 18 points on 7-for-15 shooting to go with six rebounds and one assist in 26 minutes before his departure, and the Pelicans’ Davis continued his onslaught, knocking down the technical free throw and a jumper to push the lead to 22.

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One minute later, as Davis pushed the ball in search of another basket after grabbing his 18th rebound, Knicks forward Kyle O’Quinn raced up from behind and fouled him, pushing him headlong into the first row of seats along the baseline in the process:

After reviewing the play, the officials deemed O’Quinn’s contact with Davis unnecessary, excessive and worthy of a flagrant foul-2, carrying with it an automatic ejection. The reserve big man had scored two points, grabbed two rebounds and blocked two shots in 13 minutes of work before his exit.

Davis was slow to get up after taking the hit from O’Quinn. While he did manage to make his way to the free throw line to shoot the two freebies that came with O’Quinn’s flagrant, he checked out immediately afterward and headed to the locker room. Shortly thereafter, the Pelicans announced that their franchise player had suffered a left hip injury and was questionable to return.

The good news for New Orleans: the Pelicans wouldn’t need him to finish off the dismal Knicks, extending the lead as high as 29 early in the fourth quarter before cruising to a 110-96 win. Even better: postgame X-rays on Davis’ hip came back negative, and the team’s hopeful he’ll be back in the mix come Thursday, when the Pelicans finish their swing through New York with a visit to Barclays Center to take on the Brooklyn Nets.

Davis finished with a game-high 40 points on 14-for-22 shooting, making his only 3-point try and 11 of his 12 free throws, before leaving for good. He also pulled down 18 boards, blocked three shots and dished two assists in just under 29 minutes of work, utterly dominating a disjointed and disinterested Knicks squad:

The Pelicans snapped a three-game losing streak to improve to 15-24, sitting one game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. The Knicks have now dropped eight of nine to fall to 17-21, two games behind the Chicago Bulls for the East’s eighth seed, with dysfunction once again rearing its ugly head.

Despite how ugly the action got on the court, the primary topic of conversation afterward remained the location and condition of Rose:

Brandon Jennings, who started in place of Rose and scored a Knicks-high 20 points with five rebounds, four assists and two steals in his stead, said after the game that he’d never encountered a situation like this before.

“We haven’t heard anything. I don’t know anything,” he told reporters. “I found out 40 minutes before the game that I was going to start, so I just don’t know anything […] Definitely concerned. Definitely a situation I’ve never been in. I just hope everything’s all right. You know, he’s a big part of this team, the starting point guard, so I just hope everything’s all right. You know, I never — that’s kind of … just a little different.”

While he stopped short of using it as an excuse for New York’s woeful performance on Monday, Jennings did allow that the uncertainty surrounding Rose left the rest of the Knicks unsettled.

“I think [it impacted the team] a lot,” he said. “I think just the fact that we didn’t hear anything. And we still don’t know anything.”

Before the end of the night, we learned something, at least, thanks to Rose’s longtime friend and teammate Joakim Noah.

“I mean, I don’t really want to talk too much about it, because I don’t know what the situation is,” the Knicks center told reporters after the game. “You know, um, you know, obviously, Derrick’s one of our better players. And when he’s not here, it’s tough. But I’m just happy that everything’s OK with him.”

Noah confirmed that he spoke with Rose after the game, and that he’s “OK.” ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne followed up later Monday to indicate that Rose had been in contact with the Knicks:

If Rose is, in fact, safe and sound somewhere, the next step in this story will be determining what exactly that “family situation” was, and why he was able to turn up for shootaround in Westchester on Monday but unable to appear in Manhattan for the game on Monday night. We’ll just have to wait to find for the next twist or turn, keeping in mind, as always, that the most compelling drama the Knicks generate will seemingly continue to come off the court.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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