The Hawks' win over the Heat on Saturday clinches the eighth seed for Atlanta and leaves the Knicks out of the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. Here’s what that means for the franchise:
Melo factor: For the first time in his 11 seasons as a pro, Carmelo Anthony will not play in the postseason. He’s talked all season about how important it was for the team to make the playoffs. Now that it hasn’t happened, Knicks brass has to wonder how the team’s failure to make a playoff run will impact Anthony’s decision this summer in free agency.
Denver’s happy: The Knicks’ failure to make the playoffs also means that their 2014 first-round pick will be in the lottery. Unfortunately for the Knicks, that first-round pick will go to Denver as part of the 2011 trade for Anthony. Denver has a decent chance to get an impact player in June because of the depth of the 2014 draft class; more sand in the face for Knicks fans who hoped that the 2013-14 team could do something special.
Comeback falls short: Back on March 3, the Knicks were 6½ games behind the eighth-place Hawks. But they reeled off wins in 12 of 15 games to climb back into contention. The losses during that stretch will sting when the Knicks look back on the failed pursuit of a playoff berth. They blew a 17-point lead at home in a loss to Cleveland on March 23 and were embarrassed by the lowly Lakers in Los Angleles on March 25. They also let a late lead slip away in a loss to the Wizards on April 4, a game that falls outside of that 15-game stretch. All three games were winnable. And all three severely hindered the team’s chances to make the postseason. But really, you can point to any of the embarrassing losses throughout the season (at home to Philadelphia, the blowout home loss to Boston, the late-game gaffe against the Wizards in early December, etc.) if you want to play the “What If?” game with this team.
What’s next: According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the Knicks have shown interest in signing Lamar Odom to see if he’s a player they can count on next season. This would be Phil Jackson’s first significant move as team president. Jackson also has to decide on the fate of Mike Woodson. Woodson is under contract next season but is expected to be fired. Jackson is believed to be leaning toward hiring Steve Kerr or another coach he trusts, and one who has an intimate knowledge of the triangle offense. Jackson also has to deal with Anthony’s free agency. Anthony has said that his top priority is to return to the Knicks. Jackson has said that he sees Anthony as an important piece for the team’s future. Stay tuned on that one.
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