Two words that are rarely correlated: optimism + Knicks. But they’ve finally coalesced in 2015.
Since freeing up cap room to make a run at Lebron James and other marquee free agents in the years preceding 2010, all the hope James Dolan sold New Yorkers was a mirage. The team was only able to use their salary cap because they were the only ones desperate enough to offer Amar’e Stoudemire a five-year contract. Up until the team acquired Carmelo Anthony, Stoudemire was a legitimate MVP candidate. It was all downhill from there.
In year two of the five-year albatross the Knicks inked the former Phoenix man to, it was painfully obvious it’d be a mistake haunting the team for years to come. In a salary cap league, the man that’s responsible for the largest chunk of a team’s wage bill simply cannot be a failure. Stoudemire, thanks to injuries, was a colossal one at that.
Then the team mortgaged its future and depth to bring Anthony on board in February of that season, just months before his contract in Denver was set to expire and it was apparent he wouldn’t be resigning. The then New Jersey Nets were circling the Nuggets with a war chest to offer Denver, as desperate as the Knicks were for star power and relevancy ahead of their move to Brooklyn.
The following offseason they surrendered their remaining flexibility by signing Tyson Chandler to a huge deal. The pipe dream schemed by Anthony, Stoudemire and Chris Paul to team up in New York to rival James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami was no more.
It’s not surprising, really. Under Dolan, all the Knicks have done is sacrifice their future for false hope to help sell criminally highly-priced tickets.
See: Marbury, Stephon and Francis, Steve.
Phil Jackson tried to use the Knicks to leverage himself into the Los Angeles Lakers front office but that never came. Dolan offered Jackson cartoonish amounts of money to make the Knicks good again, like they were when he was a solid rotation player for their two championships.
Anthony is still here, but Stoudemire and Chandler are not. This upcoming NBA Draft will be the last impact from any shortsighted transactions the Knicks have made, as their draft pick gets to be swapped with Denver’s then given to Toronto. This was for Andrea Bargnani.
The Knicks had no choice but to try to be decent this season, if for no other reason than to make the draft pick less valuable that they’ve packaged away.
But good they are. Anthony has recovered from a knee injury and real NBA players were signed over the summer. Anthony, as some forget, is still a top player in the association. The Knicks have a great player on their books. Funny how one injury makes so many forget.
Most importantly, the Knicks did the most uncharacteristically Dolan move (because he wasn’t involved in it) since he inherited Daddy’s money: they kept a draft pick and invested in it wisely.
Kristaps Porzingis gives Knicks fans hope. Real hope, hope for the future. Not just this season.
The season and Porzingis’ NBA career is less than two weeks old, but he’s already galvanized a fan base and proved doubters wrong. He works hard, is willing to learn and improve. He’s not just some tall Euro dude who doesn’t exactly love the game.
Porzingis is the future and it’s exciting for Knicks fans to project what he might be in his prime. But there’s no reason to not be moderately excited about this year, either.
Will they contend at the top? No. Of course not. Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic are asked to play meaningful minutes.
But, is there a potentially fun team with playoff aspirations somewhere in there? Yes, yes there is.
When the Knicks have any five of Anthony, Porzingis, Robin Lopez, Derrick Williams, Kyle O’Quinn, Langston Galloway or Jerian Grant on the floor, they’re fun and competitive. The problem is, that’s only seven players to choose from and just two young guards. But the makings of a team is there, as is the trend of smart decisions. Arron Afflalo has yet to play a game after signing as well. He’ll add to that mix of players.
Lopez wasn’t the Knicks first choice this offseason, that was DeAndre Jordan then Greg Monroe, but he was a savvy pickup. They needed his defense, mentality and infectious effort levels.
Williams was a calculated risk. The ‘uber’ athletic #2 overall draft pick in 2011 has yet to put it together but he wasn’t signed long-term nor big money. Early on in the season he’s been one of their top performers.
O’Quinn is everything Williams is not: he was unheralded coming out of college, not that athletic and has a reserved, normal hairstyle. But, he’s smart, thrifty and consistent. His light four-year deal is looking damn well in its embryonic stages.
The Knicks have the makings of a playoff team this season all the while keeping the future bright. You know, like a normal organization. Normal is a huge step up from the circus that Dolan has been running.
Normal is a step up the ladder to a championship contender. With the sewage garnered at Madison Square Garden, things won’t differ drastically in just a year and change. But the ingredients are there and the future is still intact.
Porzingis is the face of change for New York, he’s the key hand holding the fortunes of the future. Those gigantic hands aren’t a bad place to be right now.