The Knicks may not win another game the remainder of the season. And for the truly tortured fan, they can live with that for two reasons: a higher draft pick and whether the franchise’s front office actually shows some direction.
The former is highly likely with each passing defeat, including last night’s 108-101 at Utah being the most recent loss, when the Jazz came back from a 12-point deficit on the strength of 36 fourth-quarter points. But the latter really has Knicks’ fans concerned. The losing they can take, after all, considering the Garden hasn’t seen a consistent winner since the 1990s when the team averaged 52 wins a season (not including the abbreviated 1999 lockout campaign). But for teams like the Knicks who endure nightly soul-crushing defeats, at least most can parlay that into future hope – usually through annual high draft picks. The Philadelphia 76ers (26-45) are Exhibit A for a franchise that has the look of a team that may be only a couple healthy seasons away from actually looking like a legit ball club. Critics may scoff at Philadelphia’s process, but if forwards Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can actually get on the floor together, the Sixers would have a great and inspiring 1-2 punch for many years. And that’s not even including other ascending talent on the roster like forwards Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric.
The Knicks (27-44), conversely, only have one budding star on hand on which to build, forward Kristaps Porzingis, and not much else in terms of hope. Team president Phil Jackson has done this squad a great disservice since taking the reins three seasons ago. Since Jackson was lured away from his favorite hot spots of Los Angeles and Lakeside, Montana with a five-year, $60 million deal, the Knicks have gone 76-159.
New York currently possesses the sixth-worst record in the league, tied with the equally dreadful Sacramento Kings. Help could be on the way, via a deep draft that showcases both future stars and bonafide rotational players. But in reality, the Knicks’ current plight should’ve never been. Hindsight is always easiest to celebrate, but Jackson was foolhardy in providing Carmelo Anthony with a no-trade clause – a contractual passage so rare that only one other player in the league has one: Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki. Not even the likes of LeBron James and Russell Westbrook hold that kind of clout. And Jackson bid against himself when signing center Joakim Noah to a four-year, $72 million deal, last summer. The return on Noah’s deal has been catastrophic, as he only averaged five points and 8.8 rebounds per game and is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery in late February. The Knicks only received 46 games for a player who’ll pocket roughly $18 million this season.
Last Saturday was Jackson’s anniversary of being put in charge by owner James Dolan. It’s a mark every Knicks’ fans wishes they can forget. Since his introductory press conference on March 18, 2014, when he claimed he was brought in to “develop a culture,” Jackson has only managed to create a culture of contempt with his most famous player and open animosity by the players towards his system of choice, the Triangle offense. His failures in New York have been as magnificent as his triumphs were as a coach during his days in Chicago and Los Angeles, where he enjoyed two separate threepeats and one repeat.
Perhaps the only shining light for the Garden faithful is that the last and only time Jackson possessed a Lottery pick as president was in 2015, and he actually found a gem. That player was Porzingis, who was raucously booed that night, but has ultimately gotten the last laugh. Knicks’ fans can only hope Jackson soon takes this team from laughingstock to at least respectability.
-There’s been 46 players and four head coaches in Jackson’s three years in New York. If anything, that’s a culture of disarray and disorganization – with no real hope in sight.