NEW YORK -- As the final minutes of yet another Madison Square Garden debacle melted away, Carmelo Anthony watched from the end of the bench in complete disbelief.
Perhaps Anthony, like many of the angry home fans, was coming to grips with the hard truth: The New York Knicks are an absolute mess.
And this has nothing to do with all the extraneous stuff floating around the team, from J.R. Smith's Twitter beef with Brandon Jennings to the shutdown of the Knicks City Dancers to James Dolan's guarantee.
The Knicks dropped their fifth straight home game Saturday night, knocked around by the same Hawks team Dolan guaranteed the Knicks would beat in Atlanta just three days before. The World's Most Famous Arena is suddenly The World's Easiest Arena for opponents. The most disturbing thing is, most of the players don't seem to care. Their play shows as much. It's one thing to get smoked by 31 points by the San Antonio Spurs. It's another to let the Hawks stomp all over you.
Anthony was livid afterward, and rightfully so. He looked totally disgusted with his teammates' lack of desire.
"We ain't playing worth a s--- right now," Anthony said. "We got to play harder."
"We are not getting it done from an effort standpoint," he added. "It's like we are not even trying right now."
Dolan thought this team had the necessary pieces to win a championship entering the season. But so far this season, singer Debbie Gibson has had a better showing at the Garden than the Knicks.
They gave up 40 points in the first quarter to Minnesota and lost to lowly Charlotte at MSG. How about this past week's Garden results? The Knicks were humiliated by the Spurs, lost to Linsanity & Co., then capped things off by letting eight Hawks score in double figures. Can you even name eight Hawks players?
How bad was it? Shelvin Mack had a career-high 12 assists in 24 minutes off the bench.
Smith shot 3-for-18 against the Hawks and looks like he needs more time to rediscover his stroke. Amar'e Stoudemire wants to play more, but unfortunately he's a galaxy away from playing at the level he used to.
After posting 45 points and 10 rebounds against the Houston Rockets on Thursday, Anthony finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds against the Hawks on Saturday. That wasn't nearly enough, through no fault of his own.
"Just got to do more, I guess," Anthony said. "Just try to go out there and get it done as a team. I am not going to do it by myself. I don't want to do it by myself. We got to do it as a team."
Tyson Chandler's return would not save this team. The big man makes a difference, but the Knicks had many of the same problems when Chandler was healthy. Even if the Knicks could deal Shumpert for a big who plays with effort, a Kenneth Faried-type is not going to solve all the Knicks' problems.
Mike Woodson's offense needs to improve; the ball sometimes moves as much as the lengthy cab line in front of Penn Station during rush hour. Too many times the Knicks settle for a quick shot without a single pass.
But Woodson is also working with a flawed roster. The Knicks are too thin inside and have too much of the same thing -- streaky scorers who need the ball and play too much one-on-one. There just aren't enough easy baskets right now.
Of course, the Knicks could make things easier by playing hard and competing on the defensive end. But they aren't doing that.
Woodson described his team's effort as "soft." Once again, some fans have resorted to chanting for Woodson's head, because there isn't anything else for them to cheer about.
After the loss Saturday night, the Knicks talked out their frustrations in the locker room before reporters were let in. Kenyon Martin sat alone for a while in front of his locker stall with his head in his hands, staring directly at the floor.
Moments later, Anthony met with reporters but had no answers. "It's frustrating," Anthony said. "Messed-up feeling. Nasty feeling. I really am kind of at a loss for words right now."
That's certainly not how you want your soon-to-be-free-agent superstar feeling in November.