GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Lenny Wilkens gathered the New York
Knicks together Tuesday and told them they're a better team than they've shown while losing seven of their last eight games.
Whether he sticks around long enough to deliver any more
speeches remains to be seen. The Knicks are again slumping, and
when slumps happen in New York, changes happen.
"I'm going to do my job, and whatever happens happens,"
Wilkens said. "I know who I am, and I have confidence in my
abilities and don't worry about other things, things I can't
Wilkens' comments were oddly similar to ones he made at the end
of the 2002-03 season in his final days as head coach of the
Raptors. Wilkens will be back in Toronto on Wednesday night when
the Knicks play the Raptors, and the speculation over his job
security is certain to be ratcheted up if the Knicks lose again.
Knicks president Isiah Thomas was not at the team's practice
facility Tuesday and was unavailable for comment.
In his last public remarks nearly a week and a half ago, Thomas
called the Knicks a .500 club, or perhaps a little better. That
statement, widely interpreted as an effort by Thomas to lower
expectations, has been followed by a loss to the New Orleans
Hornets and back-to-back defeats against Chicago.
In the latest loss, the Knicks' coaching staff had a lapse when
it failed to ask the referees to put time back on the clock after
Ben Gordon hit a runner to give the Bulls a two-point lead.
Television replays showed the shot going through with 0.6 seconds
left, but the clock ran down to 0.1.
Had the Knicks gotten at least two-tenths of a second placed
back on the clock, they would have had the option of running a play
in which someone could have caught an inbounds pass and launched a
Instead, their only option was to loft the inbounds pass toward
the basket and hope for a tip-in - although Jerome Williams failed
to do even that when he saw Bulls big men Eddy Curry and Tyson
Chandler camped under the hoop.
Wilkens' use of his personnel also has been questioned,
including his decision to leave Allan Houston on the bench for
almost the entire fourth quarters of the two losses to the Bulls.
Both games came down to the Knicks getting one final attempt,
and in both instances Wilkens designed plays with the final shot
going to rookie Trevor Ariza.
"Lenny's not the one out on the court, we're the ones out on
the court," said Stephon Marbury, who defended the job Wilkens is
"If you had your full team and things were going bad, then you
could put most of the blame on the coach. But for us, we've had
three or four starters out, so we're not playing with our full
team. So it's not fair to coach to basically say 'Lenny Wilkens, he
doesn't know what he's doing,' or 'He's not getting the most out of
"That's not right, and that's not fair," Marbury said.
Indeed, the Knicks just got Jamal Crawford back from a 10-game
injury absence, and Tim Thomas played only four minutes Monday in
his first game back after a three-game injury absence. Reserves
Penny Hardaway and Michael Sweetney also have been sidelined,
helping contribute to New York's recent slide.
The Knicks' solo hold on first place in the weak Atlantic
Division, which may have given them a false sense of accomplishment
over the past month and a half, exists no more. Monday's loss
dropped them into a dead heat with Boston, and Philadelphia's
victory over New Orleans made it a three-way tie.
Following their trip to Toronto, the Knicks return home for four
games before embarking on a difficult six-game road trip to play
the Pistons, Clippers, Nuggets, Kings, Suns and Jazz.
It's quite possible that things could get worse for the Knicks
rather quickly, and Wilkens apparently felt a need to make a
statement to the team on the eve of such a critical juncture in
"It was a Lenny Wilkens speech. His point got across," Houston
said. "Very briefly we covered it all. We talked about what we
need to do as a mentality more than anything. We need to be more