The universe has been cruel to the Knicks for quite some time. Nothing has gone right for the team since the Patrick Ewing Era ended. It could simply be bad karma for handing the team over to James Dolan in 1999. Dolan running the team doesn’t help, but the answer is a little broader than that. The team never committed to a proper rebuild.
If you look at all the moves made in the past 16 years you will see a lot of quick fix rebuilds predicated on making moves just to make moves. They’ve spent money on free agents the same way someone spends money at the bodega when they got the munchies. They’ve given away draft picks like looseys and the end result has been being the butt of every joke.
A proper rebuild is not rocket science. The best way to do it is not by overpaying depreciating assets, but instead by acquiring good assets. This is how the OKC Thunder and Golden State Warriors built organic super teams. Assuming the Colangelo’s don’t butcher Sam Hinkie’s work it will also be how the Sixers returned to relevancy.
While those teams committed years to rebuild the right way the Knicks have tried to cut every possible corner. Here are the major moves the team has made in the past six years (no one has the stomach to re-live the Isaiah years).
2010: Sign Amar’e Stoudemire to five-year $100 million contract
This was the classic “make a move to make a move” signing in response to LeBron opting for South Beach instead of the Big Apple. Stoudemire’s signing was an immediate shot in the arm as the Knicks made the playoffs in Stoudemire’s first two seasons, but his knees went soon after that. The legacy of this signing is it was a preamble to Carmelo Anthony coming to town.
This move immediately electrified the fan base. The team had its first true franchise star since Ewing, a guy that could go toe-to-toe with LeBron. Or so we thought. Carmelo has held up his end of the bargain, but forcing his way to New York compromised the solid roster Knicks GM Donnie Walsh had built (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and even Ray Felton).
Walsh soon resigned as it was clear he did not want to make the trade. Carmelo was set to be a free agent at the end of the season but did not want to lose out on potential money with the lockout on the horizon.
2011: Amnesty Chauncey Billups
This is where stupidity kicks in. Rather than using that precious amnesty on Stoudemire’s mammoth contract they used it on Billups. To make the move even more idiotic the team had recently exercised Billups’ option prior to waiving him. They could have declined Billups’ option and used the amnesty on Stoudemire to clear space to sign Tyson Chandler.
2013: Trade 2016 first-round pick for Andrea Bargnani
Words cannot properly capture how dumb this trade was so Ari Gold will let you in how every Knicks fan saw this trade.
Bargnani was a disaster who lasted half a season before hurting himself trying to dunk. You can’t make this shit up.
Phil Jackson’s inaugural move as president was a sign of things to come. It’s not just the fact that he somehow got 10 cents on the dollar for Tyson and Felton in exchange for worse players. Jackson turned down receiving Jae Crowder who has turned into a key guy for the Celtics who are currently second in the Eastern Conference.
2014: Re-sign Carmelo Anthony to 5-year $124 million contract extension
Where Jackson royally screwed up was adding a no-trade clause. Chances are Carmelo would have re-signed without it and the addition of the NTC crippled Jackson from blowing things up and starting over.
Had Lance Thomas not been included this would have been on par with the Bargnani trade. J.R. Smith had worn out his welcome, but there is no way in hell he was worth a pile of nothing. Same for Shumpert. Both played big roles in the Cavs’ two Finals runs and continue to play a huge role. Not getting a first-round pick or another professional basketball player is embarrassing.
2015: Draft Kristaps Porzingis
Could have been luck. Could have been fate. Either way Porzingis is now the team’s only hope of returning to relevancy once they realize he should be the focus. Jackson demonstrated serious balls to stick with a pick he knew would be received poorly.
2015: Trade two future second-picks to Sixers for rights to Willy Hernangomez
A broken clock is right twice a day. The 2015 Draft was the apex of Jackson’s Knicks tenure. Trading for Willy was a straight up great move. If only Jackson could have had more nights like this the Knicks are maybe competing for a playoff spot instead of pong balls every year.
Similar to Thomas, if not for Justin Holiday being apart of this deal Jackson strikes out in a big way. Derrick Rose has not played poorly, he simply doesn’t mesh with Carmelo and Kristaps Porzingis. Lopez was a great value at his price tag ($12 million/yr.).
Holiday is a great bench piece who should be re-signed this offseason. Rose is an expiring deal who has gone AWOL, not played a lick of defense, and insured that he is not worth anyone’s time.
2016: Sign Joakim Noah to a 4-year $72 million contract
The NBA’s version of the Brock Osweiler signing. This signing still makes zero sense seven months after the fact. Joakim Noah is past his prime. Anyone with a pair of eyes can see that. To Noah’s credit he has busted his ass whenever he has been on the court and is the type of example you want to show the younger guys to follow. It just happens to be a pricey example.
This trail of tears left out Jackson running a smear campaign against Carmelo, insisting on the running the triangle and going on vacation during a head coaching search. At this year’s trade deadline he made a last ditch effort at cleaning the mess he created, but fell short.
According to ESPN’s Ian Begley the Knicks were ready to make the Derrick Rose for Ricky Rubio swap happen as the deadline neared. The Timberwolves walked away from the deal and the Knicks did nothing else at the deadline. The inactivity confused not only fans, but players too.
“Yeah, I mean, nobody likes to be in limbo,” Carmelo told ESPN. “We all want to know kind of what’s going on, especially when it’s involving you. But that’s not the way it is in sports. I don’t think I’m the only one that’s going through that or feeling that way. I think there’s other players who feel the same way, that they want to be involved — not involved, but at least up to date with what’s going on. I feel like I’m kind of up to date as far as when it comes to me what’s going on.”
Jackson’s plan of having no plan continued. On Monday night against the Raptors the Hoop Gods sent yet another message to the Knicks. Had they beaten the Raptors talk of the eighth seed would have commenced. Instead this happened.
The Knicks could not ask for a better look at the game winner.
At least the tank is alive pic.twitter.com/QUSHaf2JW2
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) February 28, 2017
The loss came in the wake of Brandon Jennings being waived and Joakim Noah going down for the season. Oh and if that weren’t enough apparently the triangle has risen from the dead like the Undertaker and is back.
The triangle is back and Jeff Hornacek said management will use remaining months to determine which players fit system and which don’t.
— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) February 28, 2017
The only hope now is that the triangle assists the Knicks in their quest for pong balls. Forcing Porzingis to play within the triangle is the equivalent of McNulty working as a patrol cop in Season 4 of The Wire. It’s an absolute waste of Porzingis’ talents. He was born to be a stretch five in a pick-and-roll centric offense.
Jackson’s decision to bring back the triangle should signal the end of the road for him. As a coach he’s up there with the greatest. As an executive he’s as bad as you get. The Knicks record with Jackson as president is 73-151 and getting worse by the day.
James Dolan, to his credit, has been a man of his word. He has given Jackson full control of basketball decisions. The only problem is Jackson has done little good with the freedom he’s been given. This will be the third straight season that started out as win only to be rerouted as a tank team by mid-January. Dolan should offer freedom to his next president of basketball operations only this time go for an executive with a real plan.
That executive should be Sam “Trust the Process” Hinkie. As Sixers GM Hinkie dealt with a ton of backlash for putting out a shitty product. At the time it looked like an injustice to the Sixers fans, but fast forward to now and all the moves he made as Sixers GM were correct. He stockpiled assets and won virtually every transaction he made.
He turned Michael Carter-Williams into a top-3 protected Lakers pick. Jrue Holiday was flipped for Nerlens Noel and Elfrid Payton. He then flipped Payton into Dario Saric. Most important, he robbed the Kings blind by taking on Nik Stauskas while grabbing an unprotected 2019 first-round pick which could now be as valuable as this season’s Brooklyn Nets pick.
Had he gotten his way in the 2015 draft the Sixers would have drafted Porzingis over Jahlil Okafor in addition to Willy Hernangomez (who he later traded to New York for a pair of future second-round picks). That’s the Knicks’ two young pillars that Hinkie already gift-wrapped to New York.
When Hinkie took over the Sixers they were a shitshow. They were still recovering from the atomic bomb commonly known as the Andrew Bynum trade. In New York Hinkie will be entering a great situation in comparison.
Believe it or not, the Knicks are in the best position they have been in under Dolan. They have a franchise player (Porzingis), anchor at center (Hernangomez) and all their future draft picks. Hinkie would just have to flip veteran assets like Carmelo, Courtney Lee, Kyle O’Quinn and maybe even Lance Thomas. If he was able to get a king’s ransom for Michael Carter-Williams just imagine what he can get for any of the guys mentioned.
What would convince Dolan to commit to a full rebuild? The Garden will still sell out. The team have been in the top ten in attendance every season since 2001. Throughout Jackson’s tenure which has produced a whopping zero winning seasons the team has been top five in attendance.
As of this writing the Knicks have the seventh-worst record in the league. They are three games back of the Magic for fourth-worst, but only four games out of the eighth seed. Being that their biggest need is point guard it would be foolish to not bottom out.
Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball are likely out of reach, but Dennis Smith, Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, and Frank Ntilikina are all better than anything the Knicks will fetch in free agency. Chris Paul is not walking through the door. Stephen Curry definitely is not walking through the door. It’s time for the Knicks to buy into #TheProcess and do things the smart way for once.