Elfrid Payton’s harsh Knicks assessment: ‘Not respecting the game’

A wake-up call? That’s just what Monday night’s disgrace at the Garden may turn into for the Knicks.

A day after their horrendous 121-115 loss to the woeful Wizards, the Knicks were still hard on themselves for ruining Christmas — with starting point guard Elfrid Payton stating the club was “not respecting the game.”

At Tuesday’s practice in Tarrytown, interim coach Mike Miller showed the club film of the meltdown in which they blew a 13-point first-quarter lead and fell behind a depleted Wizards squad by 17 points with 4:40 to play.

Several players spoke afterward about a lack of focus at the Monday morning shootaround carrying over. From all corners Tuesday, the Knicks claimed to have a renewed edge with the Nets on tap Thursday at Barclays Center.

“We definitely could’ve been more focused overall as a group [Monday] at shootaround,” said Payton, normally not one of the more vocal Knicks. “That’s just not respecting the game. I think we did a better job of that [Tuesday].”

Asked if the loss, which put the Knicks’ record at 7-24, was a wake-up call, Payton said, “Yeah, as if we needed one. But, for sure.”

Payton’s point was clear. The Knicks shouldn’t have needed such a jolt after getting routed in the past two games by Miami and Milwaukee, but those powerhouse teams are Eastern Conference title contenders. The Wizards, one the NBA’s dregs, were missing eight players, yet the Knicks made obscure guys like Ish Smith, Troy Brown, Anzejs Pasecniks and Gary Payton II look like stalwarts.

Elfrid Payton (l) and Mitchell Robinson
Elfrid Payton (l) and Mitchell RobinsonRobert Sabo

The Knicks started out the Miller era 3-3, but have lost three straight, lending an air of gloom with Christmas here. The Knicks were not on the national Christmas card after a failed free agency and were yanked last week from TNT’s holiday slate for Thursday’s game versus the Nets — another sign of disrespect.

Miller decided to practice on Christmas Eve, but give the players Christmas Day off. Julius Randle said after Monday’s game the players “need to look in the mirror” across the Christmas lull. Payton said he thinks it will be a great time to review the team’s state.

“For sure, obviously, we’ve got to be thankful for things in our life, put things in perspective, but it’s definitely a good time for us to reflect and see what we need to work on,” Payton said.

Not even a rigorous comeback that sliced the Washington lead to three points in the final 40 seconds could ease the pain Monday. Miller said he didn’t notice a lack of concentration at the Monday morning shootaround, but admitted his words did not sink in and that made it “frustrating.”

“I would say we didn’t execute what we covered consistently in that game and that causes frustration,” Miller said. “We talk to our players about rules that we play by. We have defensive rules that are very basic that all the teams have. We have offensive rules. When it looks good, we’re all in sync and we’re all playing together. If we don’t execute those details, something is a little out of kilter and it’s a frustration for players. We went in and we covered the things we needed to cover and we didn’t show it in the game.”

In particular, the Knicks did a poor job after Washington went into a zone in the second quarter.

“It just took us too long to figure it out,” Payton said. “Credit to them for changing the game. It just took us a little too long to figure it out.”

Without specifying the event, Miller reiterated a lack of urgency after a solid first quarter, adding the Knicks were slow to react.

“How do we adjust or adapt to something we’re seeing, something that may be different, something we’re struggling with, how quickly do we adapt,” Miller said. “Does it take us three, four possessions or does it take 10 possessions? That’s part of that recognition what we try to work on every day.”

Randle was most vocal after the contest. On Tuesday, Randle said the mindset was back to where it needs to be, although that won’t be confirmed until they face Brooklyn.

“We were just more sharper and focused on what we were trying to accomplish today,” Randle said. “I felt like from me down on, it was a lack of focus [Monday]. I felt like we could’ve been better, sharper with how we executed. The coaches did a great job of giving us a game plan to go out there and execute and prepared us very well.”

For more on the Knicks, listen to the latest episode of the “Big Apple Buckets” podcast:

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