NEW YORK — Even Carmelo Anthony laughed at his muffed stuff, when he didn’t jump high enough on his dunk attempt, slammed the ball into the rim and tumbled backward to the foul line.
Not so funny for Anthony and the Knicks is how perfectly Tuesday’s blooper summed up their season.
They tried to climb high and instead fell flat on their backs.
Another season has gone from hopeful to hopeless in a New York minute, as the Knicks have dropped out of realistic playoff contention by losing 15 of 18. They looked like one of the NBA’s most improved teams when they were 22-22, and now they just look like one of the worst.
“Everything just shifted all of a sudden,” Anthony said following a 104-85 loss to Portland.
And it happened so quickly, so unexpectedly that Anthony said this season is even tougher than last, when the Knicks finished with a franchise-worst 17-65 record.
Back then, they knew they were building from the bottom. This time, they thought they had escaped it.
“We looked a while back – not even a while back, a couple of weeks ago – and we sat in the locker room, and we were I think a game (behind) or even tied with Boston at one point in time,” Anthony said. “So we had some momentum going, it just went downhill from then. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, it just went downhill from there.”
Boston is now third in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks (25-37) are third from the bottom.
Anthony is frustrated, telling a heckling fan he should ask Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan for his money back, a response for which he apologized on Wednesday.
Everyone might want a refund after the last few weeks.
Team President Phil Jackson won more championships than any coach but missed on his first attempt in hiring one, firing Derek Fisher last month after just 1 1/2 seasons. Jackson did well with the drafting of Kristaps Porzingis and did upgrade the roster but not enough to take the pressure off Anthony.
Even Porzingis’ play has tailed off lately, and that combined with the Knicks’ collapse probably ended any chance the Latvian had of beating Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns for Rookie of the Year.
Porzingis, like Anthony, can’t explain exactly what happened.
“It’s not one thing that went wrong, just can’t really pinpoint something,” Porzingis said. “It’s just maybe a few little things just adding up to each other and we’re not playing the way we should be playing and things are not going our way. But I think going through these tough times, this will make us stronger as we go forward.”
For now, they’re going nowhere. Fans booed loudly in the second half of Tuesday’s loss, save for the cheers for Jimmer Fredette as he played out the end of his 10-day contract.
And since the Knicks are no longer playing good basketball, they can’t hide the bad story lines that inevitably surround the team. Before his exchange with the fan, Anthony and former teammate Amare Stoudemire seemed to take swipes at each other, though neither mentioned the other’s name.
Jackson had to clarify a tweet that he meant as an observation about Stephen Curry but read like a comparison or even criticism, saying the NBA MVP’s game resembled former but far-less-accomplished guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.
Anthony and Porzingis wouldn’t write off this season, but the damage appears to have been done. The Knicks will need to turn their attention to the summer, when Jackson will try to bolster the roster further without a first-round pick (dealt to Toronto in the failed Andrea Bargnani trade) and perhaps hire another coach if he doesn’t decide to stick with Kurt Rambis.
Perhaps he may try to trade Anthony, who has to approve any deal and has shown no interest in leaving New York. But headed toward a third straight season with no playoff appearance after never missing them previously, Anthony isn’t happy with the way things are going here.
“It gets frustrating,” Anthony said. “The losing gets frustrating.”