Knicks need to give Melo hope for the future

NEW YORK -- James Dolan got up slowly out of his courtside seat, almost like he couldn’t believe he just saw the Knicks go through the motions in yet another inexcusable Madison Square Garden home loss.

The reeling Knicks knew this was basically a must-win game. Carmelo Anthony said as much before the lowly Sacramento Kings walked out of the Garden with a 106-101 overtime victory, sending the Knicks spiraling into the All-Star break.

“I didn’t expect to be in this situation that we’re in right now,” said Anthony, who is completely out of answers after the Knicks lost for the fifth time in six games. “If somebody would have told us that before the season, I’d have put any amount of money that they were lying.”

Here’s the painful truth -- this is who the Knicks are. They are a bad team. The Knicks are a 20-32 team with an incredible scorer surrounded by a supporting cast that is diminishing with each awful loss.

Sorry, Mr. Dolan, but this is not a championship roster. And it has become increasingly clear that things will only get worse. Of their remaining 30 games, the Knicks will play 19 of them on the road. The only thing stopping the bleeding right now is the mandatory All-Star break.

“This was a must-win for our mental standpoint,” Raymond Felton said.

The Knicks somehow remain just 2.5 games back of Charlotte for the eighth spot in the East but it might as well be 25 games out of eighth place the way they are playing.

Something has to change, and we’re not talking about the Knicks just getting healthier. Yes, they were missing J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Andrea Bargnani before Iman Shumpert went down with a hip injury during the game.

But Woodson’s team still had more than enough to handle a Kings team that had lost 12 of its previous 15 games. Sacramento had dropped seven straight road games before finding a way to overcome an 11-point third-quarter deficit, and do so without DeMarcus Cousins (injured hip) for the final 8:31 of regulation and overtime combined.

The defenseless Knicks single-handedly increased Jimmer Fredette's trade value by allowing the shooter to score a career-high 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting. This is the same Jimmer who had scored a total of 20 points in his previous six games.

Afterward, Tyson Chandler looked and sounded disgusted with the latest debacle, which ranks up there with the Sunday home drubbings at the hands of Boston (114-73) and San Antonio (120-89), the road loss at Milwaukee, and the home loss to the Sixers.

“It is a tough loss to swallow,” said Anthony, who was quick to shoulder some of the blame after playing 48 minutes and missing his last six shots.

So what do you do if you’re Dolan? While clearly the Knicks aren’t getting the job done under Woodson, I don’t necessarily advocate a coaching change, only because who are you going to replace Woodson with?

Fans are screaming for Woodson’s head but do they really think Herb Williams will pull a turnaround like the one Lawrence Frank did when Frank replaced Byron Scott with the New Jersey Nets?

Melo failed to come through in the clutch when he missed a potential game-winning 16-footer at the end of regulation, but it’s not as if he isn’t playing hard. Anthony had 36 points and 11 rebounds. Those aren't numbers that indicate a star quitting on his coach.

It’s highly unlikely that any really good unemployed coach out there is going to come in and take over this mess for the final 30 games with no guarantee that Carmelo will re-sign once he opts out of his contract.

Still, something has to change, if for nothing else just to let Anthony know that this organization wants to win and is the place for him. While the playoffs remain a possibility, this team isn’t going to make any postseason noise. So the goal really should be all about keeping Carmelo happy.

That’s why it’s on Steve Mills to find a way to make a trade before the Feb. 20 deadline. Yes, the general manager is very limited with what he can do. After all, who wants what the Knicks have to offer?

We’re not saying to give up even more future picks for somebody who will only make the Knicks marginally better. But realistically, Mills is probably the only person who can provide the Knicks with any new hope, even if it is false hope. And a trade would at least show Anthony that the Knicks are trying and keep him engaged.

Perhaps Dolan ultimately will decide that a coaching change is needed. That, though, likely won’t suddenly make the Knicks play like world beaters.

The Knicks are who they are, and that’s a bad team with a great scorer in desperate need of more help.

The trade deadline clock is ticking, and Mills likely is the only guy who can remotely do something to salvage this sinking season.