Well, at least it was over quickly.
Only two weeks after NBA Free Agency opened at 6 p.m. on July 1, it has essentially closed for many teams and, spoiler alert , the New York Knicks were big, huge, fat losers.
The team that has spent the better part of two seasons putzing around the cellar of the Eastern Conference, making Photoshop edits of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson (as well as assorted other stars) in Knicks’ uniforms put the ultimate cherry on top of the shit-sandwhich known as the 2019 NBA Offseason.
To their credit, Durant and Irving slaughtered the Knicks dreams before they could really get out of the infancy stage (small mercy’s) with an announcement on their decision to sign with the crosstown Brooklyn Nets coming about an hour *before* the official opening of Free Agency via Adrian Wojnarowski (something something, tampering).
Believe it or not, the clown killer that is NBA Twitter (harmless fun at first until it starts murdering you with an axe because you don’t understand the Dallas Mavericks cap situation) exploded. If there is one sure thing in these unsure times, it’s that “Knicks LOL” gets the clicks that get the chicks.
The proverbial punching bag of the NBA, nobody catches these jokes like the Knicks.
They have an owner that at his very best is the front man for a band called “JD and the Straight Shot” and at his very worst is, I don’t know, some kind of weird “what if Donald Trump owned an NBA team?” thought-exercise. They’ve sided with sexual harassers, banned fans, barred news outlets from covering the team, and oh yeah gone just 163-329 since 2013, including two 17-win seasons.
Could they have gotten away with some of those things if they were a winner? Maybe. Probably, even. But with the report from Ramona Shelburne and Woj that James Dolan elected to be shrewd where his money goes for the first time literally ever and not offer Durant the four-year max, opting to lowball him over concerns about his recovery from the Achilles tear that ended his season during the Finals, the kind folks of Twitter had their target and good googly moogly were they going after it.
I love rolling through all the awful contracts Dolan has given out over the year’s, and Twitter damn-near handed out an Excel file filled with them yesterday. Stephon Marbury 5yrs/$90 million, post-heart condition Eddy Curry 6yrs/$60 million, Allan Houston 6yrs/$100 million, one-leg Amare Stoudemire 5yrs/$100 million, Tim Hardaway Jr 4yrs/$71 million, the $21 million owed to a partially washed Derrick Rose, completely washed Joakim Noah 4yrs/$72 million, 30-year-old soon to be washed Carmelo Anthony 5yrs/$124 million (and a fun no-trade clause)…
And-around-and-around we go. What fun.
Objectively, it’s easy to see why the guy who paid Marbury/Curry/Houston/Stoudemire/THJ/Noah/Rose/Anthony and a host of ridiculous coach and executive contracts (Larry Brown 5 yrs/$50 million and was fired after a year, Phil Jackson 5 yrs/$60 million and left with two years left on it, Derek Fisher 5 yrs/$25 million and was fired after his second year) suddenly deciding NOT to pay someone is fairly laughable. Even extremely laughable. Downright belly-laughable.
But if there is one thing sports bloggers are good for, it’s finding the ground no one else has considered and claiming it as their own (this is how we get Clay Travis and really the entirety of Barstool), and this case is no different.
(As a fellow sports blogger, here is my go at it: isn’t it a GOOD thing that Dolan learned from his dozen multi-million dollar mistakes and played on the side of caution? Would YOU want to pay someone $30 million to rehab for a year, then possibly have him return and not be the same guy, with a wage that increases annually for three years? Granted this is not Clay “Actually, Everyone Hates The Women’s National Soccer Team” Travis levels, but I’m still young in the game)
After the initial “oh, we are living the worst case scenario we only talked about in hushed tones all season” moment, the Knicks and their fans have pivoted flawlessly into Plan B. And what does Plan B look like?
According to Enes Kanter, Zion Williamson without the hops.
Learning from the horrors of 2016 (Rose/Noah/THJ, moves so universally panned at the time even the MTA was like “this system needs an overhaul”), the team elected to target short-term contracts with team options to maintain flexibility and hopefully play semi-competitive basketball while they wait to find a star to target (start gearing it up for Giannis 2021!).
The aforementioned hopless Zion, Julius Randle on a 3yr/$63 million deal with a team option on the third year is a good contract! $52 million spread between Wayne Ellington, Elfrid Payton, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson (what is it with the Knicks and those Bulls teams?) and Reggie Bullock (and now Marcus Morris, who completely stabbed San Antonio in the back to scoop up an extra $5 million from the Knicks, something you kind of have to respect and maybe even admire), all on 1+1 deals is a pretty… interesting base of players to fill out a roster!
Is the roster pretty much completely logjammed between a host of interesting young players who will need time to develop (RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr, Allonzo Trier, Damyean Dotson and Mitchell Robinson) and the group of veterans just mentioned who will be looking for playing time at those exact positions? Oh hell yeah.
But generally speaking, there are legit nuggets of talent in there! Ellington and Bullock, 38 and 43 percent career three point shooters respectively, immediately give the worst shooting team in the NBA a season ago a massive boost, which should provide spacing for the Barrett/Knox/DSJ/Trier’s of the team who need space to operate and develop, while the Randle/Robinson frontcourt pairing is at least fun in concept. Plus the Portis/Gibson/Morris trio is a great start at building a Mt. Rushmore for “Guys Who You Could See Finding Themselves In A Kermit Washington Situation”.
That smells like a 10-ish more wins and at least a semi-watchable team right there! 27 wins! Let’s do this thing!
The Knicks have more-or-less entirely beaten any fandom out of me, but this will always be something resembling my team, and so I get fans desire to enter the spin zone with takes like “hey, it’s a lot of depth!” and “flexibility!” , and it’s fair to say that those might even be true, to some extent, but it feels important to note that this offseason is still amongst the greatest failures in the teams history. That sting isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
Dolan and top executives Scott Perry and Steve Mills might have painted a pretty face on the situation, but this offseason has to be taken for what it is: a complete and utter disaster entirely of the their own creation.
Dolan guaranteed free agents were coming in a now infamous radio interview with The Michael Kay Show. Durant’s photo was used in marketing and promoting season tickets for next season. And oh yeah, they traded away freaking Kristaps Porzingis for CAP SPACE.
New York would have put extreme expectations on this offseason regardless, but the Knicks based an entire season around hype for signings that in hindsight seem like a pipe dream.
All those miss-steps can be explained away: Dolan didn’t say verbatim that KD and Kyrie were coming, he just strongly hinted at it! The season ticket photo was a mistake! Hey, we still got DSJ and a pair of firsts in the Porzingis deal!
And these are fairly reasonable excuses on the surface, especially the Porzingis deal, which will likely take a few years before you can really give a definitive answer to its success (did you really want to pay a 7 footer the max when he can’t stay on the court already, and doesn’t exactly seem like a pleasure to be around off the court?).
Of course, Knicks fans will continue to pack Madison Square Garden, it’s what they do. No, they are not going to jump fence and head to Brooklyn to cheer for the Nets. If there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that the national “Nets take over New York!” narrative does not exist in nature, at least yet. I mean, have you ever met a true, real Nets fan? Are they even excited about this? I can honestly say I have never met a Nets fan that wasn’t a huge douche bag and that is a statistical fact I plan on drilling into the skulls of my children.
So let’s spin it, Knick fans because we have no choice. The team, from ownership down, failed, and now here we are.
Let’s buy into Julius Randle bully-ball!
And big leaps for Knox, DSJ and Mitch!
And a rookie season that does not resemble his Duke career whatsoever for RJ!
And James Dolan becoming a suddenly shrewd businessman late in life!
This is the reality we have been left with, so by all means, let us bask in it!
GO NEW YORK GO NEW YORK GOOOOO!!!!!!!!