City of Has-Beens: Is New York where basketball careers go to die?


Early this sea­son the two New York teams, loaded with bloated con­tracts, big names and title aspi­ra­tions, have  a com­bined record of 6 and 18. Teams that looked good on paper com­ing in, have strug­gled to make the pieces fit.

Watch­ing Amar’e dis­rupt on court chem­istry for ten min­utes every few games, one could for­get he was an unstop­pable force not that long ago.

Its hard to believe his only high­light of note in the recent past has been this…


So were so many of the play­ers on these ros­ters. This got me think­ing, has New York got the wrong approach to team build­ing (duh…YES!)
(Even the Nets Nyets are now fol­low­ing suit with JJ, KG, PP, AK & even D-Will who hasn’t looked any­thing like he did in Utah)

Think­ing back to the teams from the late 90s, this seems less like a recent devel­op­ment and more like a pat­tern – one that really hasn’t served them well. But like all unhealthy pat­terns, it’s almost impos­si­ble to break.

The more ones looks at it crit­i­cally, the more it seems past-their-prime stars have made New York the des­ti­na­tion of choice to bring their fad­ing tal­ents to, to bury thier careers at. Is it just coin­ci­dence or is it because of all the mar­ket­ing and busi­ness build­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties the city pro­vides for a life after bas­ket­ball? Or is it just GMs try­ing to pacify a rabid fan base with quick and even­tu­ally flawed fixes rather than devel­op­ing a true work­ing sys­tem and nur­tur­ing tal­ent over time (see San Anto­nio, OKC, Indiana)

Noth­ing cap­tures this hap­haz­ard approach to team build­ing than this odd Tom Waits song/sketch/interlude.



Seri­ously – What are they build­ing in there???

It’s easy to for­get, but they’ve had so many big names on their ros­ters for the last decade and a half, one would expect them to be per­pet­ual title con­tenders rather than under­per­form­ing Least­ern Con­fer­ence bot­tom feed­ers.
Between the late 90′s to now, in no par­tic­u­lar order, these are some of the big (under­per­form­ing / unsuc­cess­ful / unnec­es­sary / unfor­tu­nate) names they’ve had on their roster:




At his peak (95–96): 22 & 7 + 2 steals per | PER: 24.6 | 14.4 Win Shares

With the Knicks (03–04) 7 & 2 with less than a steal per game | PER: 9.0 | 0.2  Win Shares

Appar­ently wall street doesn’t deal in pennies.


Steve Fran­cis

From ‘Ste­vie Fran­chise’ to ‘Ste­vie Wonder-what-happened-to-him?’



From this


to this





From Grand­mama ter­ror­iz­ing oppos­ing power for­wards and back­boards in Char­lotte, to Grand­papa – a ground-bound shell of him­self in New York. Still he did give us this…



Was des­tined to be a star till his knee trou­bles robbed him of his explo­siv­ity. Hob­bled around in New York till luck­ily he got out and became a valu­able role player for the Pis­tons & Spurs.



The Man who gave us this

gave us this in his first game,



but then that was all he had left to give…



One of the best 2 way big men of recent past, was a glo­ri­fied vic­tory cigar for parts of the early sea­son last year… and then he got hurt again.



The one Sacra­mento player who the Lak­ers really feared in the 02 play­offs, hit­ting big shot after big shot, for­got to bring his shot with him when he came to city.



One of the great­est point guards of all time rein­vented him­self as a super unselfish, 3 point shoot­ing role player but sud­denly for­got how to shoot completely.



The last great Home­town Hope. Got buck­ets, lost games, lost team­mates, lost coaches & finally lost his mind.


Glen Rice

For one sea­son he was arguably the most feared scorer in the league not name Jor­dan. But that was in char­lotte, many, many years before New York.


Vin Baker

Once a 20 & 10 guy, reduced to an out of shape, 3 & 3 guy.



There was never a house of Mutombo in New York – must be the crazy real estate prices.


And the few play­ers close to their prime that New York has had? They either leave and peak at a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion, achiev­ing much greater suc­cess in bet­ter bas­ket­ball cul­tures, or dete­ri­o­rate and dis­ap­pear pre­ma­turely (pag­ing Eddy Curry). Just look at all the tal­ent that flour­ished after leaving.

Zach in Mem­phis. David Lee in Golden State. Spree in Min­nesota. Jamaal in LA. Melo in L.A.? (Maybe Carmelo does leave after this sea­son for a sit­u­a­tion where he’ll get to finally win con­sis­tently, with some other team with a bet­ter team cul­ture, a ros­ter with con­ti­nu­ity, an identity.)

So how do you fix it? With no draft picks till 2018 and no real young tal­ent besides Shump, it seems tough. But maybe they don’t trade him at all. I don’t think Ken­neth Faried is the answer here. And Rondo (a big name star fresh off a seri­ous injury and an iffy fit with the team) just sounds like more evi­dence for the prosecution’s case. Maybe they man­age to tread water till Tyson comes back. Mean­while the added respon­si­bil­ity makes Andrea more aggres­sive on both ends. Amar’e remem­bers he used to be a bas­ket­ball player. JR get his head on straight. Shump finds his shot. Melo finds some moti­va­tion on D. Woody finds his rota­tions. The two point guard line­ups with Fel­ton,  Pablo & Beno help the offense find some ball move­ment. The team finally finds its iden­tity and starts win­ning some games, mak­ing some of the other East teams ner­vous again…

But that’s hop­ing for a lot. & Grant­land bril­liantly estab­lished the rela­tion between hope & the Knicks in this anec­dote from a few days ago -

Mean­while, in Bay­side, Queens, a father and his son watched the game together. “I hope the Knicks win!” the boy exclaimed, long after it was clear the Knicks were cer­tainly not going to win. “Remem­ber, son,” the father said as the clock wound down. “Hope is a dan­ger­ous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.” The father then grabbed his boy by the shoulders.

That’s why we watch the Knicks. Not to win. We never win. But to remem­ber not to hope. Never hope, my boy. Promise me you’ll never hope.



Dev Kabir Malik has a clinically alarming dependence on basketball and spends most of his time watching, analyzing, writing and even playing a little pickup (and some 2K too). In the little time he has left, he dabbles with design, art & music.