It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the New York Knicks were 54-28, the second overall seed in the Eastern Conference and were the proverbial talk of the town, recapturing some 90’s Knicks magic. That season ended with a second-round series loss to the Indiana Pacers. The image of Roy Hibbert denying Carmelo Anthony at the rim in Game 6 will always linger. From that point on, it’s been a nightmare that all of us Knicks fans can’t seem to wake up from.
Coming into this 2016-2017 season, there was reason to be optimistic. The team had brought in veteran players via free agency, Phil Jackson had made a move to extract point guard Derrick Rose from his hometown team and maybe more importantly, banished Jose Calderon to the Chicago Bulls. Not to mention it was year two with Kristaps Porzingis. After putting on a little extra weight in the off-season, he seemed poised to continue his rise to reach full unicorn status.
The season began as good as some people expected it to. The team was 14-10, the group was getting along great and new head coach Jeff Hornacek seemed to have his finger on the pulse of it all. The team hit a three-game losing skid, but got themselves back on track with two straight wins against Indiana and Orlando. That would be the final time they would win back to back games in 2016-2017.
Along the way, we would witness antics by the President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson, seemingly bashing his star player Carmelo Anthony cryptically through various tweets, yet would not face the media while the season was unravelling. We also saw one of the franchises most beloved former players, Charles Oakley, get forcefully removed from Madison Square Garden at the request of owner James Dolan. We don’t know exactly how the confrontation started, but Dolan tried to make Oakley look like a drunk whose life was a mess and came to the Garden looking for trouble.
When the season had ended, we finally got to hear from the “Zen Master” himself, Phil Jackson, who addressed the media to wrap up the dreadful year. The press conference was, to put it lightly, a disaster. The public basically learned that Phil would consistently undermine Hornacek at practice, criticized Carmelo without actually admitting it and that he has no idea what he’s doing in a front office position. With all this confusion, we learned that the players had no idea who was in charge or who to ultimately listen to. Add in the resistance to running an offense that seems to have gone out of style with baggy jeans, and you’ve got a franchise that can’t get out of its own way.
Exit interviews are a great way to take the temperature of a team; how the players are feeling, what could be done better for next year and an environment where a player could figure out what he needs to work on. Well, the youngest and brightest light on Broadway seemed to have had enough, and was so frustrated by the entire situation that he played hooky. That’s right, Kristaps Porzingis, the kid who has been nicknamed the “Latvian Mamba”, skipped out on his exit interview. He didn’t want to hear the garbage that he knew he would if he attended. Instead, Porzingis will return home to Latvia for what is being reported as a longer than usual stay home before he embarks on his third NBA season. Can you blame the kid for not wanting to hear what Phil Jackson has to say? That HAS to speak volumes that the best young player the team has has had enough after the in-season interactions with upper management.
If things couldn’t have gotten any worse, the team had tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 6th worst record (31-51). On Tuesday, a flip of a coin would decide which team would be slotted to pick 6th and 7th. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the Knicks lost, again, and have been awarded the unofficial slot of 7th in this year’s upcoming draft. Each team has a 5.3 percent chance of winning the lottery and jumping up to the top spot and an 18.3 percent chance to select within the top three. However, if no movement occurs then the Knicks will be selecting 7th overall. With everything that’s happened this year, how could you think they won’t stay where they are, or even worse, move down as far as three spots?
So, even when the New York Knicks aren’t losing on the court, they can’t buy a win off of it. Oh, and I forgot to mention: James Dolan picked up the two-year option on Phil Jackson’s contract. The “fun” will seemingly continue over the next two seasons, and I’m not excited to see how it plays out. If you want some optimism, here it goes: it feels as if we’ve hit rock bottom, and when you’ve hit rock bottom there’s nowhere to go but up. Enjoy the off-season my fellow Knick fans, it won’t be long enough.
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