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