It seems anyone with a computer and an internet connection has one way or another written about the Golden State Warriors this week, and why wouldn’t they? Owners of the best record in basketball and one of the most complete rosters in any sport, these Warriors are true contenders.
But an equally impressive feat is being achieved by that sad team known as the New York Knicks. Currently sporting a hideous 5-32 record, the Knicks are making the Philadelphia 76ers, who have been shamelessly tanking for the better part of the last two seasons, look like world beaters.
An “anatomy of a disaster” breakdown of these Knicks wouldn’t be enough to really emphasize just how terrible they are. Despite the cachet of Phil Jackson leading the front office and his hand-picked hire in Derek Fisher coaching the team, the Knicks are shockingly devoid of talent, motivation and any semblance of good fundamentals.
To lay the entire team’s woes at the feet of Phil Jackson would be pretty unfair; after all, James Dolan and his gang had many years to practice running the team into the ground (hello, Isiah Thomas!). But the current dire straits the Knicks find themselves in can be sourced, at least from a front-office perspective, to the signing of Ama’re Stoudemire on an uninsured megabucks contract.
Stoudemire was coming off several fine seasons in Phoenix, benefitting from the “Seven Seconds or Less” era and the transcendent play of point guard Steve Nash to put up otherworldly offensive numbers. However, anyone who watched Stoudemire on defense knew that, for as many buckets as he scored, he would let in roughly the same amount on the other end of the floor. Despite major injury concerns, to the point that no one wanted to guarantee his contract, the Knicks splashed the cash and “won” free agency that year.
However, in the process, the Knicks had to flip fan favorite David Lee to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for talented-but-inconsistent first round pick Anthony Randolph, squad player Ronny Turiaf, and Summer League superstar Kelenna Azubuike, both to clear cap space and rid themselves of a huge minutes controversy at the power forward and center positions. In the 2010 NBA Draft, where many teams choose to restock their squads with cheap and efficient role players, the Knicks found themselves without any picks in the first round at all, taking Andy Rautins and Landry Fields in the second round. While both have eked out (meager) NBA careers, at the time neither of the players were projected to even be drafted, making their selections terrible value propositions for the Knicks.
This attitude of swinging blockbuster trades and giving away draft picks and cap space like cotton candy is the bane of many a team in many a sport, and truly no one does it better than the Knicks.
The Knicks’ offseason advances were rebuffed by LeBron James (who as we all know ended up signing with the Miami Heat), but they found a receptive ear in Carmelo Anthony, who demanded a trade from the Denver Nuggets and wanted to force a move to the Big Apple. The deal was eventually cemented, with the Knicks sending (former lottery pick) Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, a 2012 second round pick (became Quincy Miller), a 2013 second round pick (became Romero Osby), a 2014 first round pick (became touted Euro prospect Dario Saric), the right to swap picks in 2016, and a boatload of cash for Melo and Chauncey Billups, unloading Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph (and some more dough) to Minnesota in the process. For those keeping score, that is an entire lineup worth of players (and indeed, the Gallinari-Chandler-Mozgov trio ended up playing significant minutes on several playoff teams) for basically Melo, as Billups’ contract proved to be too rich for the Knicks to handle and he eventually resurfaced on the L.A. Clippers and the Detroit Pistons before retiring. A costly price for (admittedly) a superstar player, and one that leaves the Knicks with no flexibility and no draft picks. Sound familiar?
The misses have continued over the years. The Knicks birthed Linsanity, then realized they couldn’t afford it. They lured Tyson Chandler to New York to solidify their defense, then abandoned that commitment to defense by hiring and firing Mike D’Antoni and eventually sending him back to Dallas. They picked up Steve Novak, Baron Davis and Mike Bibby, eventually realizing that the latter two were running on fumes and trading the former, along with Quentin Richardson, Marcus Camby, a future first round pick, and two future second round picks for Andrea Bargnani. This deal in particular deserves applause, because whenever you can trade the farm for an injury prone, soft, and declining former No. 1 overall pick, you should. The Knicks finally made a smart move in the draft, picking up high ceiling 3-and-D prospect Iman Shumpert, but had to move on from him to remove J.R. Smith, his ego, and his exorbitant contract from their roster. I could keep going, but my wrists are already in pain from all the typing and the comedy is fairly repetitive.
Phil wants the Knicks to run the triangle, but their superstars are all injured and their squad is made up of no-names and has-beens who are patently incapable of running a square, let alone a triangle. They have little to no financial flexibilities, and all of their draft picks for the next four years have been doled out through their Russian-roulette trade habits. In short, they are stuck with the team they’ve got for the foreseeable future.
At least the 76ers are tanking with a purpose. The Knicks don’t want to tank, but they are, and even if they succeed, the rebuilding process is only just beginning.
Vignesh Venkatamaran now resides in the ‘dogouse’ because his editor is a huge New York Knicks fan. Laugh with him at said editor’s misery by contacting him at viggy ‘at’ stanford.edu.