Amar'e Stoudemire was supposed to be the foundation of a new tomorrow, the first superstar free agent who would help transform the Knicks into a perennial playoff team.
That was almost five long years ago. Now, in the final year of his contract, Stoudemire is injured and bewildered, wondering what has happened to his team and, perhaps by extension, his career.
"This is beyond my imagination at this point," he said. "I never thought I'd see this. When I first signed with New York, that wasn't the game plan. This is definitely mind-boggling."
Stoudemire made his comments an hour before the Milwaukee Bucks handed the Knicks their 11th straight loss, 95-82, at Madison Square Garden. Stoudemire, who has a sore right knee, did not play.
The Knicks (5-31) have dropped 21 of their last 22 games and have lost a franchise-record 10 straight at home. This marks the first time they have lost 11 in a row since the 1984-85 season, the year the Knicks won only 24 games and ended up getting the No. 1 draft pick that produced Patrick Ewing.
The Knicks will need a bit of luck to end up with 24 wins this time around. And luck doesn't seem to be in abundant supply for rookie coach Derek Fisher, who has had to deal with so many injuries that he sometimes finds it hard to run a practice.
On Sunday night, the Knicks were without Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Iman Shumpert and Andrea Bargnani. Samuel Dalembert supposedly was available but didn't play.
Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks with 17 points and J.R. Smith had 15. Brandon Knight scored 17 points for the Bucks, who had five players in double figures.
The Knicks' latest loss was underscored by the fact that they were playing a Bucks team coached by Jason Kidd. Kidd was the Knicks' point guard two seasons ago, the last time they made the playoffs. He knows something about what Fisher is going through as a first-year coach.
Last season, Kidd's Nets team opened 10-21 but finished 44-38. Kidd said anything can happen, especially in the Eastern Conference. He added, however, that it isn't easy to get a team to believe in itself after getting off to such a tough start.
"Your margin of error is slim now," Kidd said. "Everything has to kind of go perfect."
Sunday night's game was far from perfect for the Knicks. Though they managed to stay within striking distance in the first half, they found themselves down by 15 points in the third and couldn't fight back.
Stoudemire is far from the only player stunned to be playing on a 5-31 team. Dalembert, who was acquired during the summer by the Knicks, said he never expected the season to turn out the way it has.
"If someone had told me this would have happened, I would have said, 'No, no,' " he said. "I've been on teams where we had some issues, but nothing like this . . . It's tragic. It's tragic."
Notes & quotes: Anthony (knee) will be with the Knicks Monday night when they play at Memphis and on Wednesday when they play in Washington, Fisher said. He was uncertain about when Anthony will play again . . . Fisher said Shumpert (dislocated shoulder) will be re-evaluated sometime this week . . . Stoudemire said he will not join the team on the Memphis/Washington trip. "Soreness is the main problem right now," he said. "You have to listen to your body when it tells you you're being overused."