Being a Knicks fan is a one-of-a-kind experience. I won’t speak for everyone, but I don’t think it compares to rooting for any other sports franchise in the world. Being a Knicks fan makes you cry. Being a Knicks fan makes you shake your head. Being a Knicks fan makes you turn off the TV five minutes into the first quarter in disgust. Being a Knicks fan is a roller coaster ride, and for a 16-year old like me, I’ve seen it all. I was there when we were a team of Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford. I was there when Latrell Sprewell was choking coaches. I was there when Stephon Marbury was supposed to get us a ring. I sat disappointed, yet not surprised when LeBron didn’t come here in 2010, and once again I felt the same when we traded half our team to get Melo – and still are yet to pass the 2nd round. What’s worse is that I’m still a fan now. The Knicks are like that girl you know you shouldn’t trust or get too attached to, but something about them makes you keep coming for more. Unfortunately, time and time again they disappoint and right now, like I have been every year I have been alive, I’m wondering why I still care. We are in arguably the worst situation in the NBA. There’s nothing worse than coming into the season with goals of a championship, and ending the season with goals of an 8th seed. We have no cap space. We have no 1st round draft picks. We still have Steve Mills and James Dolan. We still don’t move the ball or play defense, and we are being imprisoned by contracts like that of Amar’e and Andrea. So what’s the point. Is making a push for the playoffs even important? Does it even make a difference? Why are we supposed to be excited to earn ourselves a 1st round matchup against Miami or Indiana, where we will presumably lose in 4 games? Why raise expectations or create a feeling of progress, when getting to the playoffs and then being eaten alive is worse than not making the playoffs at all? It’s painful. It’s hard to watch, and it’s just gotten old. One of the worst parts is when we have spurts of success and New York blows it right out of the water. Like what’s going on now.
Let’s cut the bullshit and all the hype and the yadyadyayda. Phil Jackson wasn’t the reason they won 8 in a row and no they aren’t going to make the playoffs just because he’s now apart of the team. Frankly, he can’t do shit until summertime, for now he’s just a face to plaster across newspapers claiming he’s New York’s savior.
Yes, they had an 8 game winning streak. Yes Amar’e is looking better and better each game. Yes, Phil Jackson is apart of the organization. But let’s not blow all of this out of proportion. Let’s use a little thing called perspective to properly evaluate what’s going on right now. The Knicks didn’t lose a game from March 5th to March 21st a 16 day period where they won 8 straight games. Wonderful. Look closer. They played teams with an average winning percentage of 35.7%. Of the 14 teams below .500, they played 6 of them… They played Philly twice! So yes a good win against Indiana is still credible, but their winning streak was bound to end. And look at how it ended. Their 8 game winning streak is now a 2 game losing streak to the Cavaliers… without Kyrie, where they blew a 17-point lead! And the Lakers who started Chris Kaman, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson, Jodie Meeks and Kendall Marshall… And not only did they lose to the Lakers but they were embarrassed – giving up 51 points in the third quarter to add to a total of 127 points.
On the season they are giving up 100 points a game and are 25th in defensive efficiency. Offensively they’re a bore, as almost every play involves Melo isolation. What’s worse is that tonight against the Lakers, a team with absolutely nothing to lose, a team that has been embarrassed time and time again by blowouts, criticisms, naps on the bench and more, played with more energy than the Knicks, a team scrapping for the 8th seed in the East. That’s what makes the least sense. They don’t play like they want it.
I’ve always said the Knicks roster is flawed because they lack two-way players. Look at all the premier teams in the NBA and you’ll see they all have a roster full of role players who excel at a specific skill and then players who lead the team, all of whom play both ends of the floor. Fly to Oklahoma City and you’ll see Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook – two players who are just as passionate defensively as they are offensively. Alongside them are role players who are on the floor to help in one specific facet of the game – someone like a Nick Collison. Go to Miami and see Dwyane Wade and Lebron, offensive superstars but guys who time and time again are on the All NBA defensive teams. Beside them are role players confined to their specific jobs like Ray Allen (shooter) Chris Andersen (rebounder) etc… The Knicks lack those types of players. Carmelo is a scorer. Tyson has no offensive game besides alley-oops. J.R Smith plays little to no defense. Raymond Felton is out of shape and has been average on both ends. The list goes on and on. The Knicks need guys willing to play both ends, like Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni. They’re not the most talented guys, but watch closely at all the forced turnovers and energy plays and it’s those guys who are right in the mix of things. They play both ends. So there’s task number one for Phil in the future, sign players who can play both sides of the court. Not just a bunch of puzzle pieces that don’t fit into any others. Get pieces that complete a puzzle.
The Knicks are one of the most disappointing teams ever. And yes, injuries have plagued them. Chandler missed a lot of time… Amar’e misses a lot of games. Shumpert has had some trouble. But cry me a fucking river. The Bulls have played the past two seasons without Derrick Rose and with a plethora of injuries. This year they’re without Rose, they lost Deng and still with the players they have not nearly as talented as a Carmelo or a J.R Smith, still manage to be the 3 seed in the East! They are 40-31! You know why? Because it doesn’t matter who they have on the floor, they have a system, and they have a culture and they stick to it. That system happens to be aggressive and intense team defense, and an offensive system full of ball movement, screens and basket cutting. On paper they don’t compare to most teams in the league. If you wrote the starting five of the Pistons and the Bulls and asked people which was better, they’d go Pistons. But it’s Tom Thibodeau, defense, and passionate play that has kept the Bulls playing at such a high level. Step two to Phil Jackson’s makeover? Instill a new defensive and passionate culture of basketball in the Knicks.
What needs to be done is simple. I know I just wrote about Amar’e possibly opting out and helping the Knicks financially but what Phil needs to do is completely rebuild this team. It’s crazy to think but the difference between this year’s team and last year is two main things. J.R Smith played like the 6th man of the year last year posting career highs in points, rebounds and assists. This year his scoring has dropped from 18 to 13 and for a team so reliant on Melo to score, without their second option, the Knicks struggle offensively. They don’t have anybody besides Melo and J.R to create his own shot. The 2nd thing is the veteran presence of Rasheed Wallace, Jason Kidd and Kurt Thomas. Defensively, Rasheed and Kurt were the co-anchors of the team alongside Tyson. Granted Rasheed was injured a lot last season, his presence in the locker room and on the bench can’t be overstated. These guys were competitors and were guys who understood what it took to win games and how to win games. They were spirited and defensively motivated. Jason Kidd was a leader and floor general, teaching and keeping everyone composed. Without these guys, the team lacks that leadership and that competitive presence.
So Phil has to break it all down. Look at his roster and see who he wants stickin’ around for his time in New York. If I’m him, I’d try my hardest to keep Melo, Hardaway Jr, Shumpert and Tyson and let everyone else go. Start fresh and build around Melo and Tyson. Shumpert and Hardaway Jr are too young to give up on, and both have tons of potential on both ends of the floor. None of this will be easy though. Carmelo would have leave about 35 million if he went somewhere else, but why in the world would the guy want to stay here. It’s toxic. He’ll be stuck with probably the exact same roster as this year, with no draft picks, nor cap space. If he’s smart he’ll leave and go to Chicago and win a championship, or go to Houston and have fun playing basketball. He’s 30, and while all his friends have won championships, he’s still the odd one out. Time is running out for him, and with all the money he has and all the money his wife is making, he doesn’t need the extra $$$. He’s ready to run out the door, and I don’t blame him. So fuck us. When he’s gone we’ll be as bad as the 76ers. Except it won’t be on purpose.
For now the Knicks need to play with more passion and more attention to defense. They play 12 more games this season and are in 9th place in the East, 2.5 games behind the Hawks. 9 of those 12 games are against playoff teams, so if I had to guess, the Knicks will not be making the playoffs this year. Big fucking surprise. If they had a first round draft pick, I’d say tank, but they don’t… And there is no point in telling them to tank because they’re doing it anyway.
For a team projected to contend for a championship, they sure are a disappointment and a clusterfuck of an organization. I think I’ve come to terms with the fact they won’t win a championship before I die. So to be honest I’ve accepted their shittiness, as have all true Knicks fans, who love the team, but know what to expect from them. The Knicks have us hooked – hooked on big names, MSG, bright lights and the ever so slim chance of being successful in the future, but in reality the Knicks will always be the Knicks. Always coming short, always disappointing and always making us shake our heads wondering what just happened. But hey, that’s part of being a Knicks fan and I accept it. But let’s all pray Phil Jackson can wave his magic wand and make a new team appear – a team that is excited to play, a team full of young talent just dying to bloom into stars. A team of two-way players who love defense and love moving the ball and playing together. Will it ever happen? Who knows, but for now all we can do is… Well, there’s not much to do. We’re Knicks fans. Screw us.