Derrick Rose is trying to peak for the playoffs. If there is one to peak for.
Since his return from a severe case of COVID-19, then getting interrupted by an ankle sprain, Rose has been up and down as the backup to point guard Elfrid Payton.
In his five games post-COVID-19, Rose is shooting 37.9 percent. He had a 16-point first half in Brooklyn Monday, then went scoreless in the second half.
“Having COVID, coming back in, missing the game, just trying to get my rhythm, trying to get my timing down, trying to get my wind, but that’s going to come,” Rose said before the Knicks faced the Celtics in Boston on Wednesday. “I’m trying to use these last 20-something games to prep myself for a playoff series. It’s going to take some time but it’s going day by day, practice by practice, and in the game, quarter by quarter. I had a pretty good half last game and now the goal is to have two legit halves and just play as hard as I can so I can build up my wind.”
The Knicks have lost four of five games. Their loss in Brooklyn on Monday began their final 22-game stretch that is ranked second-toughest in the East.
Since team president Leon Rose made no upgrades at the March 25 trade deadline, they will need Rose to be a big factor to revive an offense that’s been at the bottom of the NBA in scoring or they will almost assuredly be in the dreaded play-in tournament.
The NBA has a new and bizarre play-in tournament that has baffled some players. Ten teams in each conference will get to play at least one game after the regular season ends in May.
Rose was unaware of the format but knows it’s best to avoid it. To do so, the Knicks would have to finish in sixth place and they are scot-free – in the playoffs – breakers of the seven-year playoff drought.
If they finish between seventh and 10th place, then all bets are off. If the season ended today, the Knicks and Celtics, ironically, would be playing each other in the play-in tournament in the No. 7 vs. No. 8 seed contest. (The clubs are tied for seventh at 25-26).
“I really don’t know the rules of it,” Rose said. “What is it? How many games do you have to play?”
When told about the complex format of the 7 vs. 8 loser facing the winner of the 9 vs. 10 matchup for the rights to be in the actual playoffs, Rose said he’d like to avoid it altogether.
“I heard about it last year but didn’t pay too much attention to it,” Rose said. “We weren’t in the playoffs and I don’t watch basketball like that. If we’re there, we have to play those games. But we want to avoid that and just try to win as many games as possible. So we don’t have to worry about that. That’s our ideal choice if we can pick it.”
The Knicks’ playoff drought will move to eight years if they don’t make it past the play-in round. They’d be back in the lottery again. Only a sixth-place finish will assure them a berth.
“We’re comfortable but not that comfortable,” Rose said of the Knicks’ standing. “A two or three game slip could end up getting out of the playoffs. We’re cautious about that, what we have to do, the urgency that we have to play with every night and just try to play our game, play with a faster pace and just play together and we’ll find ourselves there. Bu we’re watching the standings.”
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