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Without Rose, Knicks Downed by Pelicans

PELICANS 110, KNICKS 96

Former MVP Derrick Rose, who was acquired to provide a long-awaited answer for the Knicks at the NBA’s most important position, did not show up for for the game against the Pelicans Monday night and his whereabouts were unknown while his team lost for the eighth time in nine games.

“Everything will be clear later on,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said afterward. “We want to respect whatever he’s going through.”

Rose’s closest friend on the team, Joakim Noah, said he contacted Rose after the game and said, “He’s OK.” Noah would not divulge the extent of their discussion or any further details.

“I don’t really want to talk about it,” Noah said, “because I don’t know what the situation is.”

Reports have surfaced that Rose may be in Chicago dealing with a family matter. Those close to him have been tight-lipped, but have suggested this is a personal matter and not related to any issues he has with the Knicks. Rose’s four-year-old son, P.J., lives in Chicago with his mother, Mieka Reese, and Rose often talks about how much he misses having time with him. Rose spent Thanksgiving and Christmas away from his son and while he has enjoyed living in New York, the separation has been tough on him emotionally.

The team officially would only say Rose was “not with the team,” which was announced to everyone’s surprise just minutes before the pregame player introductions.

Brandon Jennings took Rose’s place in the starting lineup and had 20 points. While he and Carmelo Anthony (13 of his 18 points in the first quarter) tried to conjure up some offense, the Knicks were flat on their way to a fourth straight loss at The Garden.

Melo’s night ended early as he spent enough time arguing with officials to earn two technical fouls during a timeout with the Knicks down 19 points in the third quarter. He was ejected from a game for the third time this season.

A minute later, Kyle O’Quinn was sent to the locker room after he was whistled for a Flagrant-2 foul called for a dangerous hard foul on Anthony Davis (40 points, 18 rebounds, 3 blocks in 29 minutes). The Knicks were down by as many as 29 points in the fourth quarter.

Frustration isn’t a strong enough word to describe this team right now, from the head coach through the players. Despite a 14-10 start, the team was never able to develop a defensive mindset that has been exploited on a nightly basis over the last few weeks.

For a while, the Knicks were managing to outscore their own defense, which masked some of the problems. They also won some close games, a few thanks to Rose’s heroics. But more recently, as Rose has continued to speak out about the defensive issues, his offense has become erratic.

Rose was criticized — mildly — by Hornacek after two miscues down the stretch in an overtime loss to the Hawks in Atlanta. He had been hearing more and more from the coaching staff about his drives against two and three defenders, which he struggled to finish. Hornacek often spoke about the need for Rose to trust his teammates and pass the ball.

Then in Milwaukee, with the Knicks down 13 and facing a seventh straight loss, Hornacek opted to go with Ron Baker over Jennings to start the quarter. As the Knicks made a spirited comeback, Hornacek left Baker in for the entire quarter as Rose remained on the bench. Afterward, Rose said all the right things.

“He made a decision to go with Ron,” Rose said. “As a teammate, I can’t get mad at that. Ron works his [butt] off, so I understand.”

Rose didn’t see the fourth quarter the following night in Indiana as the Knicks trailed by 26 after the third. Hornacek went with Jennings, who had 17 points in the quarter, and Baker in the backcourt.

After the game, Rose again talked about the issues on defense, but showed no indications of being upset with his minutes or sitting for another fourth quarter.

The Knicks didn’t practice on Sunday, but on Monday morning Rose was in attendance for the shootaround.

The Knicks have practice on Tuesday before heading to Philadelphia to play the 76ers on Wednesday. We’ll have the pregame coverage on MSG Network starting at 6:30 p.m. and it still remains to be seen whether or not Rose will be in the lineup when the game tips off.

“We expect him back, sure,” Hornacek said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

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