Losers of 11 out of their last 12, the Knicks came up short again yesterday in Jalen Rose’s NY debut against the Rockets. The New York Post’s Dan Martin assures Knicks fans that things can get worse, with a promise of increased playing time for Jerome James.

As Jerome James paused to catch his breath before trying to get back on defense while everyone else on the court was already well on their way down the floor, injured Houston guard Jon Barry laughed and said, “Somebody get that man some oxygen.”

It was only the second quarter of the Knicks’ 93-89 loss to the Rockets at the Garden yesterday and things didn’t get much better for the beleaguered center, who was booed loudly after picking up the third of his four fouls in just 14 minutes.

James wasn’t completely unproductive in his first game back since sitting out the previous five with a strained neck. He managed to score six points and grab eight rebounds, but the lack of conditioning that has plagued him all year is becoming more apparent to everyone, including opponents and fans.

At another point, Larry Brown exhorted, “Come on, Jerome!” as the Knicks waited for him to get into their offense. That caused a young fan behind the Knicks bench to exclaim, “You don’t slow down for a player! This is basketball!”

James, who also shot an airball from about two feet away from the basket, was unfazed by the criticism.

“That doesn’t bother me at all,” James said about the negative response he tends to generate whenever he plays. “I know what I can do. I like our fans, but honestly, half of them don’t know basketball. They’re just spectators. I know I’m getting better.”

The Knicks had better hope so, since he will likely be called upon more now that post presence Antonio Davis has been traded. James said he’s dealt with this kind of thing before.

“Yeah, they’re booing me now, but they’ll cheer me later,” said James, who hasn’t played more than 16 minutes in a game all season. “The same thing happened in Seattle. They booed me there, too. Now they’re praying to have me back.”

If that were the case, surely a trade could’ve been worked out by now, right?

The Nets won their 11th straight home game this evening, defeating New Orleans/Oklahoma 99-91. Richard Jefferson had 26 points, Vince Carter 21, and the Hornets’ Rookie Of The Year frontrunner Chris Paul had a miserable night, scoring just 6 points on 2 of 12 shooting.

I can only presume that Hornets coach Byron Scott’s return to East Rutherford was made just a little more special by the following missive from the Newark Star-Ledger’s Dave D’Alessandro.

Does Byron Scott know that we have something called the œinternet?

As you know, Coach now works in a community known as Oklahoma City, which is probably a fine, progressive place in an ass-backward sort of way, but he came out with a whopper yesterday that suggests he lives in a basketball bubble.

Now Byron says that even if he weren™t whacked in January of ˜04, he would have been out of here the following summer on his own volition. Here™s the actual quote in today™s Oklahoman, and try to suppress your giggles until the end:

“It was just too many things going on player-wise that I didn’t like that I wasn’t going to be able to deal with the next year,” Scott said. “So I wasn’t going to put myself in the situation. No coach wants to go through that type of stuff when you have mutiny. No coach wants to go through that crap.

Doesn™t he know people around here live for this, uh, crap?

Look, Byron™s a good guy, but he™s either too proud to move on from an ego-shattering experience or just a lousy revisionist historian

Just what was going on player-wise, exactly? Is he admitting that he realized that the players wisely decided they no longer wanted him around, and that it was a matter of time before somebody said so? Is he claiming he foresaw the Bruce Ratner Fire Sale? Does he really think that he would have been rehired so quickly if he bailed out on the team after what it went through in the summer of ™04? Could he really have lived with himself?