By Jack Golub
I honestly don’t get it. My life as a Knicks fan has been a tumult of shattered-hope sadness. There is a special kind of despair that results from getting the same misguided dream ripped to shreds every year. The Dolan Era of Knicks basketball is an arsenic-poisoned abyss. Stay away, for your own safety. This trade makes me irate — I hate it with a fury I don’t like to give to sports teams I’m not a part of. It just doesn’t make sense.
Even if Kristaps Porzingis had told the Knicks that he’d only take the qualifying offer then leave (which would be unprecedented for a player of his caliber, as he’d be leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table and sacrificing long-term security even though he’s the tallest player in the NBA and would at that point be only a year removed from ACL surgery), and the Knicks decided they had to trade him, it’s still A FULL YEAR OF PORZINGIS!! I refuse to believe that they couldn’t get more than Dennis Smith and a couple weak first-round draft picks. With every other team in the league interested in acquiring Porzingis — and many like the Raptors, Celtics, Clippers, Suns, Nuggets, etc. able to make compelling offers — why would the Knicks settle for such a crappy return? Look, I can understand it if Mills and Perry were worried about star players with only a year left on their contract. Recent history (Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George) suggests that it’s hard to get a return commensurate with the star’s value. Fair. If I were Scott Perry, I might well be willing to bite at the first good offer I get. This wasn’t it. They could’ve gotten something better had they taken their time.
Alas, let us not forget the other components of the trade. Tim Hardaway Jr., of the maligned three-year/$71 million contract, is not a flawless piece. He is, however, a reliable shooter/playmaker who averages nearly 20 points a game. Courtney Lee is a prototypical three-and-D wing, the type of role player that every team needs. Trey Burke is a little worse, although he comes without the contract baggage. It’s not as if THJ, Lee and Burke had no value on their own. These guys can hoop. The Knicks didn’t need someone to take them off their hands. They literally used Porzingis as sweetener for contracts that weren’t even that bad. They could’ve traded those players separately for an okay return.
I’m angry. I’m frustrated. Most of all, I’m sad. I thought relatively new GM Scott Perry was supposed to be good. I thought president Steve Mills finally had wrestled control away from Dolan. I thought coach Fizdale would build a winning culture. In the end, it’s the same old shit.
We just don’t learn. We cleared the floor for two max slots a few years ago, getting only Amar’e. Then, compounding our mistake, we traded away half the team to get another star, Melo, who was going to sign with us in free agency after the season anyways. Instead of LeBron and D-Wade surrounded by some young players, we got Amar’e, Melo and some duds. This year, we’re thinking KD and AD, or Kawhi and Kyrie, but more likely than not, we’re going to wind up with Kemba and Tobias Harris. Is that a superteam?
The worst, and I mean the worst, part of this trade is not that it is so bad, but that despite being so bad it isn’t even that surprising. The Knicks haven’t re-signed a first round pick since 1994! And it’s not like we haven’t made good picks. While I wish KP would’ve been willing to stick it out and bring the Knicks back to glory, I can’t blame him for being fed up with a perennially mismanaged team. The history of the Knicks is a bumbling march through shortsighted blunders, littering the roadside with ill-conceived plans and empty promises. The trade doesn’t make sense, but then again, it does. It’s classic Knicks decision-making. Maybe at this point, the only person left to shame is myself for getting fooled again.
But just wait ‘til we get Kyrie and KD though…
Contact Jack Golub at golubj ‘at’ stanford.edu.