The New York Knicks are back home to face three Eastern Conference foes this week after a disappointing end to their road trip. Here are a few things to watch:
Will Derrick Rose be back? Jeff Hornacek hopes so. The Knicks were blown out in Denver on Saturday as Rose watched in street clothes; he’s missed two straight games and four of the Knicks’ last six due to lingering discomfort from back spasms. The Knicks hope Rose will return Tuesday against Indiana. They need him; New York is 1-3 in games Rose has missed (1-4 if you count Tuesday’s loss to Phoenix, when Rose played just two minutes before leaving with back issues).
Change to the starting lineup? Joakim Noah played just 11 minutes against Denver and had two points and four rebounds. On the surface, it would seem that Hornacek went away from Noah because Denver plays smaller lineups. But the coach also referenced the Knicks’ tendency to start games slowly recently. He didn’t pin that solely on Noah, but also didn’t absolve him of blame; couple that with the strong recent play from Willy Hernangomez and Kyle O’Quinn, and it's no surprise there is media speculation that Hornacek will take Noah out of the starting lineup.
Pivotal stretch: The Knicks lost the last three games of their West Coast trip after winning the first two. Horancek wasn't too impressed. The Golden State loss was understandable. The Phoenix loss -- when the Knicks were up six in the final two minutes -- was a crusher. The Denver loss is perplexing. Was it the product of fatigue? (The Knicks were on the final night of an 11-day road trip.) Or is it a sign that the Knicks, with or without Rose, are struggling to get stops? We’ll find out more this week with home games against Indiana (Tuesday), Orlando (Thursday) and Boston (Christmas Day).
Roster addition? Rose’s absence has highlighted a potential depth issue at point guard. Some fans and media believe the Knicks can solve the issue by signing D-League guard Chasson Randle, who has excelled lately with Westchester. Randle, it should be noted, can sign with any NBA team at this point because he’s a free agent. New York would need to cut a player on the 15-man roster to add him.
More rest for stars? Carmelo Anthony was one of the few Knicks who played well against Denver (he had 29 points on 10-for-14 shooting and wasn’t happy with his teammates’ effort). Anthony put up big numbers after taking Thursday off due to right shoulder soreness. Rose also had a strong night against the Los Angeles Lakers after missing two games due to back spasms. The way they played after extended rest makes you wonder if the Knicks will give Anthony and Rose more rest days over the course of the season.