NEW YORK — You would need three sheets of looseleaf paper to list each thing that’s bedeviled the New York Knicks in the last three seasons alone. They’ve been duped by rival executives, torched by a wide variety of opposing players—from LeBron James to Jimmer Fredette—and stumbled over themselves monthly. Now you can write in “assistant coach.”
In the closing seconds of a 113–110 loss to the Wizards on Thursday, Washington assistant Sidney Lowe stepped on the floor and yelled into Knicks guard Courtney Lee’s ear to act as a sixth defender, forcing him to pass up an open shot to win the game. Lee, positioned in the corner, could see forward Kelly Oubre closing out on him as he received a pass, and thought the voice to his right was a defender ready to block his shot.
“I’m hearing ‘I got your help, I’m right here! I’m right here!’” a dejected Lee said postgame. “And to come to find out that it was their coach standing next to me saying that. I’m thinking that he’s a player so I drive and then try to make a play. I don’t know if the league should look into that or not, but if that’s a tactic and a defensive scheme, it worked, because I thought it was a player.
“Their coach was like two feet away from me.”
Replays showed Lowe nearly making contact with Lee and influencing his decision not to shoot before the coach was pulled away by a sideline official seconds later. By then, it was too late. The Knicks had missed their chance, failing to get off a potential game-winning shot in 13 seconds.
“I saw it live,” said Carmelo Anthony. “He was on the court. They had six players on the court.”
As Anthony spoke to a hungry scrum of reporters, Lee sat a mere five feet away, staring blankly into his locker with a blue towel over his head. He’d urged the league to review the situation, explained how Lowe so closely simulated a Wizards defender with the sound of his voice and even lamented the fact that had he bumped into Lowe, a technical foul would have been called. But there was nothing that would reverse the outcome of the Knicks’ 12th loss in 15 games. After an encouraging win in Boston, New York once again failed to build momentum, falling into the same bad defensive habits that have plummeted their defensive efficiency to the bottom of the league.
In the last two weeks alone, the Knicks have seen their point guard disappear, a riff develop between their president and star player, and their franchise forward deal with what Jeff Hornacek has called “Achilles tendonitis.” An opposing coach interfering with a crucial fourth quarter play is as Knicks as it gets.