Do you like obscurity? Irrelevance? What if I told you that you were a laughing stock or an embarrassment? Who the hell wants to be defined like that? There is no entity that I know of, aside from the Philadelphia 76ers, that would want to be described like that. Former 76ers General Manager Sam Hinkie made “Trust the process” a catch phrase and a philosophy down in Philadelphia. During his stewardship, they defined losing and made it an art form.
That is Philadelphia and this is New York City. I am not a delusional Knicks fan and I know what this organization is and what it is not. I do not think the sun rises and sets at the feet of the Knicks franchise. I do feel the NBA is better off when major market teams in the association are thriving. However, the NBA does not need the Knicks to be successful in order for the league to thrive and be successful. If you think of that, just look at the new TV deal which totaled $24 billion. Look at the amount of money players are making and look at the valuations of NBA franchises. Everything is on the up and up and the Knicks have not been a consistent winning franchise in years.
In the last 16 seasons, the Knicks have made the playoffs five times. They have won one playoff series. The last time they advance to the Eastern Conference Finals was the 1999-2000 season. The Knicks have defined embarrassing as they have made more headlines away from the basketball court than on. I am not going to tell you that Phil Jackson has done a great job as president of the Knicks. The Knicks are a combined 49-115 the past two seasons. His first coaching hire, Derek Fisher, turned out to be a disaster. There has been too much tweeting and too many arrogant answers as his organization has been a doormat. Yes, he drafted Kristaps Porzingis and that will forever be check mark in his column.
However, the Knicks have ultimately been graded in the win-loss column the past two seasons and we have all been left wanting.
The Knicks entered this offseason looking to make a splash. They had money to work with and they know that Carmelo Anthony is not looking to leave and is looking to stay. As I wrote a few weeks back in this very column, I was not a fan of trading for Bulls point guard Derek Rose. However, when I saw what they gave up in order to acquire Rose, I was all for it. A package of Jose Calderon, Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant for the upside of Rose makes sense. Rose is in the final year of his contract and desperately needed a change of scenery. It is a one-year gamble on a player looking to restamp himself as a star for an organization looking for relevancy. For that very reason, the trade makes sense.
As NBA free agency got going at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time on Friday morning, Knicks fans were awaiting the next big move from Jackson. Reports quickly circulated that the Knicks were going to sign former Bulls center Joakim Noah to a four-year contract worth over $70-million dollars. I love the move. I know he is 31-years-old and is coming off of back-to-back injury-plagued seasons. I love the passion that he plays the game with. I love how great of a passer he is for a big man. I love that he is a winner and has been since his days as a Florida Gator. Do I love the fact the Knicks gave him a four-year contract? No. Am I concerned about his body holding up over the course of the contract? Absolutely. However, I think it is a good risk for a franchise that is looking to get back to the postseason.
The Knicks are not a championship caliber team by any stretch of the imagination. But I long for the days when I looked forward to Knicks playoff games on a consistent basis. Even though I have never witnessed this organization win a championship and those Ewing years ended in disappointment, those years were still fun and exciting when I think back to them. Why? Because there were spring days and nights filled with anticipation and hope. I have not been this hopeful about the Knicks in quite some time. The Knicks are not a perfect team. They are taking a big time risk on injury prone players staying healthy. But the juice is worth the squeeze and they were not done.
On Saturday night, news came down that shooting guard Courtney Lee has agree to a four-year $48 million dollar contract. He is exactly what they need, a defender and a shooter that fits quite well in the starting lineup.
You have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run. It is easy to criticize and say the Knicks should focus on drafting and developing and building around Porzingis. If you say that, you don’t know this town or this fan base. You might as well try and join the fray and become a playoff team. Jackson is not getting any younger and neither is Carmelo Anthony. As Head Coach Jeff Hornacek said last week, New York should have a “win-now thought process.”
The Knicks are making a run at relevancy — and for that, I applaud them.