<
>

Brandon Jennings: Knicks need to hold each other accountable

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Anyone who has seen a New York Knicks game in the past two weeks knows the team has struggled on both ends of the ball.

But Brandon Jennings says he believes there's something else, something off the court, that has been hurting the team lately -- a lack of confrontation.

"Guys are still together. I just wish we would hold guys, we would hold each other a little more accountable for what we do on the court," Jennings said in an interview with ESPN on Thursday. "I definitely like confrontation. I definitely like being coached and being told when I'm doing something wrong. So those are things that I really think we need to start doing within each other and the team because that's what good teams do.

"I'm not looking at it as a negative. Just sometimes, like last night, the second unit should have gotten ripped for what we did in the fourth. That's just how I feel."

Jennings was on the floor when the Knicks gave up a 14-point lead in the first 3:30 of the fourth quarter in a loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday night. It was the Knicks' sixth straight loss -- and ninth in 11 games.

After the game, which ended on a buzzer-beating jump shot from Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jennings said he ripped into the Knicks' second unit for their shortcomings in the loss.

"Including myself because I let the team down," he said.

What was the message?

"We've got to be ready, we've got to be able to hold the lead when our starters are resting and we've got to give them a lift every night," Jennings said.

The veteran point guard says he hopes that his teammates grow comfortable with confronting one another when issues arise on the court.

(An aside: Jennings' take is one that Phil Jackson probably will appreciate. Jackson once said the 2015-16 Knicks probably got along too well, which presumably hurt their competitive nature. He said "maybe a little tension" would have helped them win games.)

Jennings said Thursday that a little confrontation can be helpful; he believes players and coaches shouldn't be shy about voicing criticism when something goes wrong.

"Players among themselves, coaches to players, all of that. Everybody should be able to take criticism whenever," said Jennings, who made it clear in the interview that all of the recent losses have eaten at him. "I think we need it more often. I mean, we're on a six-game losing streak. To lose a 15-point lead in the fourth is embarrassing."

Confrontation issues aside, Jennings and other members of the Knicks are optimistic that New York (16-19) can turn things around. He correctly points out that a two- or three-game winning streak could put them back in playoff position in the bunched-up Eastern Conference. It will be interesting to see how this club handles a road back-to-back this weekend that starts in Milwaukee on Friday and concludes Saturday in Indiana.

Porzingis hopes to return: The Knicks might have Kristaps Porzingis back at some point this weekend. He participated in a light practice Thursday and hoped to play against Milwaukee on Friday. Porzingis has yet to be cleared by team doctors, though. He said his sore Achilles was feeling "much better" and "looser" on Thursday. He has missed three straight games because of the ailment.

"I hope that I'm good to go. But at the same time, I don't want to force it too much. If I feel like it's not there yet, then I've got to listen to the doctors," he said.

To me, it doesn't make sense to play Porzingis on the front end of a back-to-back if he's coming off an injury. The prudent move would be to hold him out Friday and play him Saturday.

Hornacek says he wasn't ticked at Melo on MSG Network clip: Most assumed Jeff Hornacek was upset with Carmelo Anthony when the coach turned his back on a play late in the Knicks' loss to the Orlando Magic on Monday. MSG Network highlighted the play on its postgame show with host Al Trautwig introducing it this way:

"Carmelo Anthony called his own number. Watch to the left of your screen -- Jeff Hornacek just turns and walks away."

Hornacek saw the video Thursday morning and said he didn't turn his back because he was upset with Anthony.

"No, I think [Anthony] was just waving the pick away," Hornacek said. "So the pick-and-roll is coming so he waved it away, and I knew what was going to happen. He was going to get that shot at the end of the quarter. I'd done that before.

"I don't have to watch the play. Melo's going to get the shot."

Anthony, by the way, is used to being at the center of fan and media criticism when the Knicks are losing.

"It is what it is and I accept that," Anthony said. "Regardless of what happens when we win, it's us. When we lose, it's me. So I accept that."

Was he surprised by the amount of criticism he has received recently?

"Of course not. Of course not," he said.