HOUSTON -- Coach Mike D'Antoni staged a two-plus hour practice yesterday befitting of a club in crisis. Though three-game losing streaks were commonplace last season, it is cause for concern for the resurgent Knicks and their playoff future.
As they hit the season's midpoint tonight to begin a critical three-game southwestern journey, D'Antoni said he is worried about making the playoffs. He issued a "call for urgency," warning the postseason is no lock.
"We don't look at standings and say, 'We're OK,' " D'Antoni said. "No, we're not OK. I think guys have to have a more sense of urgency. Instead of a wakeup call, [it's a] call for urgency. We played with that all year and lost it."
'WE'RE NOT OK': In the midst of a three-game losing streak, coach Mike D'Antoni issued a "call for urgency" hoping the Knicks can find their winning ways again.
At 22-18, the Knicks own the sixth seed, well ahead of preseason expectations. Last season, they were 16-24 after 40 games.
But it's reality-check time. The Knicks are not in a complete comfort zone, especially if an injury befalls Amar'e Stoudemire, Wilson Chandler or Raymond Felton, who is playing with an injured hand and has seen his play wane over the last 10 days.
The Knicks, who have lost three straight and four of five, are just six games ahead of ninth-place Charlotte in the loss column with a half-season of basketball remaining.
After their defense-less 129-121 loss to Phoenix on Sunday, D'Antoni harshly said the club had overachieved.
"I don't want to get ahead of ourselves," D'Antoni said. "I think we are what we are right now. We're trying to make the playoffs. We need to make the playoffs. Toward the end of the year, I expect us to be a very good team. The last two games we haven't been. We blew two games at home."
Stoudemire lashed out at the team's complacency Monday after the Phoenix defeat, saying the club should not be satisfied to be four games above .500, and it missed a chance to make hay at home.
Indeed, after Friday's Garden loss to Sacramento, the second-worst team in the league, the locker room was filled with smiling players cavorting over pizza.
"They could've cried and still came out and played bad," D'Antoni said. "I know they want it. When they're laughing or joking, they're human. [But] they hurt. They're upset they lost. These are good guys.
"If they were bad guys, I'd worry about it."
Though there's a clear need for a big center and a backup point guard to take the load off Felton, team president Donnie Walsh said he's not panicking to make a trade.
Walsh said the club isn't jacked up enough at the Garden. The Knicks are a mediocre 10-9 at home. They actually are better away from the Garden with a 12-9 record.
"In New York, you're on an emotional high every time and I don't know if the guys are used to that," Walsh said. "There's no comfort zone there. Whereas teams may come in [to other arenas] and not bring their 'A' game, everybody brings their 'A' game to New York. We got to get used to that. Most teams do feel more secure at home. I don't think we do."
The Knicks had nine three-game losing streaks last season, and Walsh said he isn't too worried.
"We are going through a mental, physical, emotional period where we're not at the same level we were at," Walsh said. "The truth is, we're getting to the point of the season where we have to go up a level from where we were at. It's a long season. You go through periods of not playing well. We have to cut through it."
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