Newspaper article International New York Times

Knicks Head to London as a Ragged Ambassador ; Team May Be the Worst in League, and the Future of Its Big Star Is in Doubt

Newspaper article International New York Times

Knicks Head to London as a Ragged Ambassador ; Team May Be the Worst in League, and the Future of Its Big Star Is in Doubt

Article excerpt

Though they were in the conversation as the worst team in the N.B.A., the Knicks planned to represent the league "with a sense of pride," their coach said.

Since the Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz opened the 1990-91 N.B.A. season in Tokyo, the league has used parts of its schedule to promote its product overseas.

This week, the mission of spreading the joy of basketball around the world slipped into somewhat dubious hands: those of the Knicks, candidates to be called the league's worst team.

As the Knicks prepared on Monday to depart for London, where they will play Thursday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, Coach Derek Fisher emphasized that his players had a job to do in England, both on the court and off it, despite the team's shambolic state.

"We're representing the city; we're representing our organization and the entire league," Fisher said. "Regardless of our individual circumstance right now, we still have to go out there still with a sense of pride about what our purpose is for being there."

That individual circumstance is rather poor.

The Knicks on Saturday fell to the Charlotte Hornets, 110-82, their 15th consecutive loss -- the longest skid in franchise history -- and they departed for Europe with a 5-35 record and the league's lowest winning percentage. The Knicks' average margin of defeat in their previous eight losses was 19.5 points. And after a big trade last week, they are speaking openly about operating in an all-out rebuilding mode.

This would have been difficult to predict in late October, when tickets to the London game, set to take place at O2 Arena, were put on sale. They sold out that day in one hour, according to an N.B.A. spokesman.

The Knicks played in London two seasons ago, when they finished with 54 wins in the regular season before losing in the second round of the playoffs.

At the time, the Knicks had a cast of established, veteran stars. The names in their lineups of late inspire casual fans to open Google on their smartphones. …

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