When I first pitched my sports editor Michael Rosen on doing a Knicks column for the spring semester, it was early December and they were playing improved basketball. I was cautiously optimistic at the thought of starting off my column with a decent Knicks team to cover. In my spare time, I dreamed of saying, “Hello and welcome, the era of Knicks columns is back! Woohoo! The Knicks are somewhat good! What an interesting time it is to be a Knicks fan!”
And then, as luck would have it, everything fell apart.
The defense disappeared, (along with Derrick Rose, briefly). Joakim Noah and his clunky style of rebounding proved ineffective at best and detrimental at worst. Kristaps Porzingis continued to play like the young god he is, but an injured Achilles has hampered his growth and availability throughout the last month. The opponents didn’t get better but the Knicks got noticeably worse.
And then of course there is the ongoing Carmelo Anthony-Phil Jackson beef, which rivals only the LeBron-Barkley feud in terms of pure pettiness and the exorbitant amount of shade being thrown.
What an interesting time it is to be a Knicks fan, indeed.
Currently, the Knicks are 22 – 29, sitting third in the putrid Atlantic Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference.
They have reduced head coach Jeff Hornacek to the same dumbfounded, exhausted look that Speaker Paul Ryan had before he sold his soul to Trump. Hornacek spends days on end trying to get at least one Knick to contribute defensively and then spends 48 minutes a night watching his lesson plans evaporate.
This shouldn’t be misconstrued as criticism, I think Hornacek is a hell of a coach who emphasizes the importance of strong defensive play and with the right pieces to work with, I think he could absolutely build a balanced, structurally sound team. However, what he has instead is an offensively-obsessed team that lacks any interest in guarding the perimeter, establishing a presence in the paint or punching back when they get knocked down. Additionally, the Knicks can’t finish in close games, opting to settle for two or three point losses which seem to sting a lot more than the 20 or 30 point blowouts.
On the subject of player acquisition, there is one man, (Phil “Eleven Rings” Jackson), who makes these calls and he hasn’t seemed very happy recently. By that, I mean the last four months. It’s clear things have not worked out for Jackson like he thought when he came on board. The team is dejected, the fanbase has turned on him and now he’s at war with the franchise player of the last five years.
To be frank, Jackson needs to either commit his efforts to this team or get out of the way and let someone else figure it out. Jawing with Anthony through gossiping New York sports columnists isn’t going to bring this team back to the playoffs. If he wants to do even a quarter of what he did with the Bulls and Lakers, then he needs to start making moves that will actually assist this team and build around Porzingis.
Nobody is going to be satisfied seeing Anthony go to the Clippers, Cavs, Celtics or the New Paltz High School junior varsity team for anything less than a first round pick or a star player. A care package consisting of Austin Rivers, J.J. Redick and cash considerations will not do for this fanbase.
But fear not, blue and orange faithful, hope is not totally lost. We all know that Porzingis is the future of this franchise and there have been solid showings from ancillary players like Brandon Jennings, Kyle O’Quinn and Courtney Lee, who has been an amazing threat from behind the arc as of late. But more has to be done. This team will be lucky to make the playoffs and can’t pull come-from-behind wins solely on the back of jamokes like Ron Baker and Justin Holiday.