NEW YORK, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Fans of the NBA-worst New York Knicks have grown so ashamed of their team they've taken to wearing bags over their heads in embarrassment.
And not just in the cheap seats.
The "unknown" courtside fans were enduring the Knicks' 120-96 loss to the Houston Rockets Thursday night, the team's 14th straight loss. The Knicks are now 5-34, tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for least wins, and sole owners of the league's worst overall record.
"I'm protesting the [Iman] Shumpert trade," Dylan Samuels, one of the bag-headed fans, told ESPN.
Shumpert and fellow shooting guard J.R. Smith were traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of a three-way trade that saw rookie center Alex Kirk, forward Lou Amundson and forward Lance Thomas -- all below average or unproven players by NBA standards -- land with the Knicks. The Knicks also cut veteran center Samuel Dalembert to open a roster spot for the new players.
Despite the objections of Samules and his bagged cohorts, the current state of the Knicks is widely perceived as a conscious tanking orchestrated by team president Phil Jackson, a long-practiced, and increasingly openly acknowledged, strategic move by NBA front offices. In theory, finishing with a poor record and little contracted talent allows teams to rebuild without the restrictions of financial obligations and at least one high draft pick.
"He's just doing what he thinks needs to be done in order to turn this organization around," Knicks point guard Shane Larkin told the New York Daily News. "We all got trust in Phil. Obviously he has the rings to show that's what he's done in the past is the right moves, so trading Shump, J.R., Sammy -- in his eyes that was the right thing to do."
The 76ers front office, who manage the NBA's only other five-win team beside the Knicks, is currently openly throwing its second season in a row, a move that has been embraced by some as bold, while condemned by others as cynical.