On This Date: Bill Cartwright/Charles Oakley trade

June 27th 1988: The New York Knicks trade Bill Cartwright for Charles Oakley in a draft-day trade

The New York Knicks completed one of the more successful draft-day deals in franchise history when they traded Bill Cartwright to the Chicago Bulls for Charles Oakley and a 1st and 3rd round pick swap in the 1988 NBA Draft.

Cartwright largely felt out of place in New York as Patrick Ewing cemented his role as the franchise cornerstone at center. While Charles Oakley had dominant rebounding seasons with the Bulls, he was deemed expendable after the team drafted Horace Grant in the previous season. As the Knicks needed a true power forward and the Bulls needed a formidable center, this swap made perfect sense.

Additionally, the pick swap gave the Bulls the 11th pick and the Knicks the 19th pick. To further shore up the frontcourt, the Bulls drafted Will Perdue. The Knicks drafted Rod Strickland, despite having Rookie of the Year Mark Jackson as the team’s main point guard. Strickland was traded to the Spurs in his sophomore season after demanding a trade due to a lack of playing minutes.

Ultimately, the trade proved to be a win-win for both teams. Cartwright enjoyed several productive seasons with the Bulls including winning 3 championships during Jordan’s first three-peat. Oakley served as the Knicks’ power forward for 10 seasons and was the perfect frontcourt partner for Ewing. Some of his accomplishments included making an NBA All Star Game and earning a selection to the NBA All Defensive Team in 1994.

On This Date: The New York Knicks acquire Antonio McDyess

June 26th 2002: The New York Knicks acquire Antonio McDyess on Draft Day

Fresh off their first season out of the playoffs, the New York Knicks were in a strange position: scouting potential lottery picks. The Knicks spent little to no time scouting 1st round picks over the past 10 seasons as the team played deep into the playoffs. Knicks GM Scott Layden, facing significant criticism from fans and analysts from his questionable signings, trades, etc., was in deep pressure to make a bold draft choice.

Hearing significant boos and “Fire Layden” chants on draft night, the Knicks drafted Maybyner “Nene” Hilario with the 7th pick. Fans immediately booed the pick as they expected anyone else including Chris Wilcox, Amare Stoudemire, UConn standout Caron Butler, and even Jared Jeffries at the minimum. Instead of dealing with the criticism of drafting Nene, Layden went even further and traded the pick.

The Knicks traded Nene, along with Mark Jackson & Marcus Camby, to the Denver Nuggets for Antonio McDyess, the 25th pick in the NBA Draft, and a 2003 2nd round pick. Layden orchestrated this trade simply because he thought this was the best chance to get back into the NBA playoffs. He thought McDyess would be that athletic frontcourt presence that would complement the Knicks core players. Camby came off a year where he only played in 29 games due to injury. Jackson, then 37 years old, was on the downside of his career.

The trade didn’t benefit the Knicks on any angle. The team had high hopes for McDyess entering the preseason. Fans thought he nearly regained most of his athleticism until he tore his patellar tendon after a putback dunk. McDyess missed the entire 2002-03 season and only played 18 games with the Knicks before the team dealt him to Phoenix for Stephon Marbury. Camby got over his injury woes to have a generally healthy and productive tenure with Denver. He was on the NBA All-Defensive teams from 2005-08, winning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. Nene’s had a productive career in the NBA as both a starting center and as a backup. He just came off a season as the backup center for the Houston Rockets.

The 25th overall draft pick in the 2002 NBA Draft became Frank Williams. After he played sparingly during his rookie season, he received decent minutes in his sophomore season and was slated to receive decent minutes as a backup PG until Isiah Thomas acquired Marbury. He was traded to the Bulls in the next season and left the NBA afterwards. The 2003 2nd round pick, however, became Maciej Lampe. Despite the cheers for the pick, Lampe turned out to be a bust in the NBA.

On This Date: The 2015 NBA Draft AKA we drafted Porzingis

June 25th 2015: The New York Knicks’ 2015 NBA Draft: Kristaps Porzingis, Jerian Grant, Willy Hernangomez

The 2015 NBA Draft was quite special to me for various reasons. The main one was that I personally attended the draft at the Barclays Center with my cousin. We initially enjoyed the draft selections from the top section of the Barclays Center with a bunch of crazed 76ers fans, Lakers fans, and Knicks fans. Additionally, we also scrolled on Twitter to see what Shams & Woj had to say.

After the Timberwolves drafted Karl Anthony Towns, the question was who would go 2 and 3. In a bit of a quagmire, D’Angelo Russell & Jahlil Okafor went 2 and 3. The question now was who should the Knicks pick.

Fans had various thoughts on the pick. Some wanted us to take Willie Cauley Stein. Others wanted Justise Winslow. Some wanted Kristaps Porzingis. A few stray fans shouted Emmanuel Mudiay to troll us.

Then Adam Silver came to the podium and he proclaimed that the Knicks selected…. Porzingis. The crowd booed and cheered, some in jest. ESPN showed us the crying Porzingis fan. Sadly, this fan got a lot of attention well past the draft for his attention-seeking antics. I was a bit unsure of the pick, but was encouraged by some of the initial reaction I saw online from different pundits.

Fast forward to past the lottery and Shams & Woj broke the first trade. The Knicks acquired the rights to Jerian Grant from the Atlanta Hawks. I was like “cool, we got a point guard that’s the son of Harvey Grant. Nice!” I later realized that we traded Tim Hardaway Jr. in the process. I didn’t know at the time he was at Clyde’s Wine and Dine for the Knicks draft party. That was pretty hilarious. We started the draft with only the #4 pick, but now had 2 first round picks.

After a quick break to grab drinks, security began to escort us to the lower bowl of the Barclays Center. After the lottery picks, many fans headed to the exits leaving the lower bowls largely empty. For TV reasons, they wanted us to fill out the lower bowl. While there, we encountered some interesting people, including the family of several draft selections. I personally saw Sam Dekker’s family as well as then-girlfriend Olivia Harlan.

After the 2nd round started, the Philadelphia 76ers drafted Guillermo “Willy” Hernangomez. However, Shams & Woj stated that the pick was traded to NY for two future 2nd round picks. That was pretty cool. I knew he played with Kristaps Porzingis in Sevilla, but that was about it. We ended the draft with 3 picks, so I was pretty pumped. This was a fun draft overall.

Unfortunately, none of the three players remain on the team. Each player departed in successive seasons. At least I have the memory of the draft.

On This Date: Knicks draft Trevor Ariza

June 24th 2004: The New York Knicks draft Trevor Ariza with the 43rd pick in the 2004 NBA Draft

Isiah Thomas’ first draft pick as a Knicks executive turned out to be a gem in the big picture. The Knicks drafted Ariza in the 2nd round with the 43rd overall pick. Ariza was a freshman out of UCLA who was the 3rd youngest player in the draft ahead of Dwight Howard & Shaun Livingston. It was now assistant GM (and UCLA alum) Gerald Madkins that advised Isiah to draft Ariza in the 2nd round.

Ariza, while entering the league very raw and skinny, played 80 games and started 12 of them. He showcased a combination of athletic potential and defensive upside as a rookie. He often electrified the MSG crowd with his vicious dunks.

Unfortunately, Larry Brown got in the way of Ariza’s future in NY. After calling Ariza “delusional” after the latter questioned why he wasn’t in the team rotation. Eventually, Brown sought more more veterans and Isiah dealt him at the trade deadline for a near washed Steve Francis.

While Francis’ NBA career ended in 2008, Ariza went on to win an NBA championship with the Lakers in 2009 and became a solid role player in the NBA for various organizations including the Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, & Washington Wizards. This is the prime example Knicks fans use to why the team should exercise patience with young players.

On This Date: Knicks fire Larry Brown

June 23rd 2006: The New York Knicks fire Larry Brown

The New York Knicks fired Larry Brown, less than 1 year after signing a 5 year $50 million contract to coach the team. The team bottomed out to an embarrassing 23 wins amidst way more internal turmoil than victories.

The Larry Brown era was simply disastrous. The team gave Brown a $50 million to return home, less than 2 years after winning a championship with the Detroit Pistons. Brown privately lobbied to return home to New York while in the 2005 NBA Finals with the Detroit Pistons.

However, shortly into the regular season, Brown complained that the roster was not a fit for him. This wasn’t a new phenomenon with some of his previous stops. Brown would often bottom the team out as the front office eventually acquired players to fit into his offensive and defensive systems. The team would eventually turn around, win games and make the playoffs.

Unlike some of his previous stops, Brown publicly argued and embarrassed his players. The feuds embroiled the tabloids throughout the entire season. Stephon Marbury’s career was forever tarnished after the season. He even called sophomore Trevor Ariza “delusional.”

He came into odds with GM Isiah Thomas early on in the tenure. Brown wanted more veterans on the roster and Isiah stood pat only until the trade deadline. By that time, the Knicks were far out of the playoffs. Due to Brown’s requests, Isiah acquired Jalen Rose & traded Trevor Ariza for Steve Francis. The latter move was painful and short-sighted at the same time. Francis only lasted one more season with the Knicks while Ariza won a championship with the Lakers and remains a productive player in the NBA.

Near the end of the 2005-06 campaign, it looked like Brown publicly tried to sabotage the season. The 42 starting lineups was already strange, but Brown just embarrassed the Knicks organization with his public feuds. It left James Dolan with no choice but to fire Brown with 4 more years remaining on his contract. Fortunately, Dolan only had to pay Brown $18.5 million due to a settlement reached by both parties.

Brown has a reputation for leaving teams on a bad note. Like millennials today, Brown is quite nomadic in the coaching circles and organizations often got tired of his antics quickly.

After the firing, Dolan mandated Isiah Thomas to be the next head coach. He gave him the mandate to fix the team and show progress. For some crazy reason, Isiah got an extension in March 2007 and ended up coaching through the 2007-08 season before Donnie Walsh fired him.

On This Date: Knicks acquire Derrick Rose

June 22nd 2016: The New York Knicks acquire Derrick Rose

In somewhat of a surprising move, the New York Knicks acquired Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday, and a 2017 2nd round draft pick from the Chicago Bulls for Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant, and Jose Calderon (later waived). The move was even more emotional and surprising for Rose, who learned about it while in Los Angeles filming a documentary.

Phil Jackson hurried the developmental process to try to win now at all costs during Carmelo Anthony’s final years of his prime. Acquiring Rose, while he 201 games over the previous 4 seasons, showed to be a harried attempt to do so. Despite being a shell of his MVP self, Rose still played 66 games during the 2015-16 season and was an upgrade to the Knicks point guard troupe that was significantly outmatched over the last several seasons.

Acquiring Rose meant sacrificing both Jerian Grant & Robin Lopez. Grant played 76 games in his rookie campaign and was under the impression to receive more minutes in his sophomore campaign. Unfortunately, Phil determined his acquisition, at the cost of Tim Hardaway Jr., to be a mistake. Lopez, who proved to be a decent value center in his only season with the Knicks, was a sacrifice required to send off Jose Calderon’s contract.

Looking back, the results of the deal were conflicting at best. Rose played 64 games and averaged 18 points/game, but was a sieve defensively and had several off-the-court incidents, including a rape investigation and going AWOL midyear, that were part of a multitude of distractions for the Knicks team. The acquisition of Rose pushed Phil to go all-out in making the playoffs. Unfortunately, due to trading Lopez, he subsequently signed Joakim Noah to a disastrous 4 year/$72 million contract that still hurts the Knicks to this date. Noah played all of 53 games with the Knicks and was most noted for fighting with Jeff Hornacek in practice.

The Knicks ultimately started the season around .500, but a chain of distractions and an unfortunate losing streak after Christmas derailed the roster. Phil Jackson sparred with Melo throughout the season while the latter continued to show the decline in his game. The Knicks only won 31 games and Melo, Phil, & Rose were all gone after the season. The Joakim Noah contract remains on the Knicks’ books for another two seasons.

Furthermore, Kristaps Porzingis voiced his displeasure with the Knicks by skipping out on the exit meeting after the season. His dissatisfaction was largely due to the controversy surrounding this team. Ultimately, Phil tried to trade him before the 2017 draft and was fired for doing so. Porzingis still held contempt for the organization until the infamous trade in February 2019.

For the few bright sides, Justin Holiday showed to be a consummate professional with the Knicks. Holiday averaged 7.7 points/game and played all 82 games. He left after the season to rejoin the Bulls. The 2017 2nd round pick became Damyean Dotson.

On This Date: Knicks win Game 3 of the 1999 NBA Finals

June 21st 1999: The New York Knicks win Game 3 of the 1999 NBA Finals

Down 2-0 in the NBA Finals, the Knicks returned home to win a pivotal Game 3 89-81. Naturally, the #8 seed Knicks became the first and only #8 seed to win an NBA Finals game. From the outset, the Knicks fans ran on adrenaline.

Watching the starting lineups on TV was chilling. My energy level was over 1000 just seeing everyone walk out. The calm demeanor of Allan Houston & Charlie Ward transitioned into the signature L from Larry Johnson to the rambunctious energy from Latrell Sprewell & Marcus Camby. Both Sprewell & Camby brought that same intensity bumping into the players like they did on defense heading into the game.

As for the game itself, Houston & Spree carried the Knicks. Both players combined for 58 of the team’s 89 points. More importantly, both players hit a combined 18-22 from the foul line. The 22 FTs equaled the Spurs’ total amount, even though David Robinson was 13-17 from the foul line.

Jeff Van Gundy made a starting lineup change to insert Camby into the starting lineup. Even though Camby suffered from early foul trouble, he had 3 blocked shots in 16 minutes. Overall though, the team’s heart and home court advantage helped propel the Knicks to victory.

Unfortunately for the Knicks, this was their last victory in the NBA Finals. The Spurs finished the series in 5 games and won the final game in MSG.

On This Date: Knicks waive Paul Westphal

June 20th 1983: Knicks waive Paul Westphal

The New York Knicks waived Paul Westphal on this date. Westphal arrived to the Knicks as a free agent in the 2nd half of the 1981-82 campaign and remained with the team through the 1982-83 season. He started 71 of the 98 games he played as the team’s shooting guard and averaged 10.3 points/game and 5.5 assists/game. He won the NBA’s Comeback Player of the Year in 1983 after helping the team reach the NBA Playoffs.

Westphal had a more storied career with the Boston Celtics & Phoenix Suns, winning a championship in 1974 with the former. He was one of the rare players at the time who could truly play both guard positions. He had the scoring abilities to be the team’s shooting guard, but the passing abilities to play point. He averaged more than 20 points/game for 5 straight seasons from 1976-80 and made the NBA All Star Team each season from 1977-1981.

When Westphal signed with the Knicks, the team placed a stipulation where they had to pick up either two one-year team options or waive him at the end of his contract in 1983. With Westphal making more than $450,000 in the previous season and the team’s tight salary cap at $4.6 million, the Knicks decided to waive him.

The Knicks replaced Westphal with Darrell Walker in the 1983 NBA Draft. Westphal returned to Phoenix for one more year to finish his NBA career. Afterwards, he embarked on his coaching journey beginning in the collegiate ranks in Arizona. He eventually joined the Phoenix Suns staff under Cotton Fitzsimmons and was promoted to head coach in 1992. He took the Suns to the 1993 NBA Finals and reached the playoffs for 2 more seasons before his dismissal midway through the 1995-96 season. He returned to coach the Seattle Supersonics in 1998.

After the team fired him in 2000, Westphal returned to the collegiate ranks coaching Pepperdine University for 6 seasons. The Dallas Mavericks hired Westphal as an assistant under Avery Johnson and remained with the organization until the Sacramento Kings hired him as an assistant coach in 2009. Westphal didn’t enjoy the same success in Sacramento he enjoyed with his previous coaching assignments. The combination of a inexperienced roster and conflicts with budding star DeMarcus Cousins led to his firing early in the 2011-12 season.

Westphal came back to the NBA in 2014 to reunite with his former assistant coach Lionel Hollins in the Brooklyn Nets. He served as his assistant until his firing in 2016. He was recently elected to the Naismith Basketball of Fame in April 2019.

On This Date: Hakeem Olajuwon blocks John Starks’ potential game-winning 3 to force a Game 7

June 19th 1994: Hakeem Olajuwon blocks John Starks’ three point shot to force a pivotal Game 7

The New York Knicks were one three point shot away from winning the 1994 NBA Finals. Well, maybe it wasn’t that close, but it sure felt like it for Knicks fan. With the Knicks down 86-84 and 5.5 seconds remaining, Pat Riley drew up a play for John Starks. Starks was the hottest Knick player in Game 6 with 27 points on 9-17 from the field and 5-9 from three. Ewing set a screen for Starks to drive to the left side of the court. Unfortunately, Hakeem Olajuwon switched onto Starks. As Starks put up the potentially title-winning three point shot, Hakeem blocked the shot and the Rockets defeated the Knicks 86-84 to tie the series and force the pivotal Game 7 in Houston.

There are so many what-if moments tied back to this game. Had Hakeem not blocked the shot, it seemed that Starks would have made the three. Starks was the most productive Knick during the game and deserved the final opportunity to win the series. Unfortunately, this loss and missed shot carried onto Game 7 with his 2-18 performance.

On This Date: Knicks draft Ewing

June 18th 1985: The New York Knicks draft Patrick Ewing

The fortunes of the Knicks’ franchise rose to an upswing on this date when the Knicks drafted Georgetown center Patrick Ewing with the #1 overall pick in the 1985 NBA Draft. Ewing was the consensus selection for the top pick. Ewing had one of the most successful collegiate careers in NCAA history as he reached the Finals in 3 of his 4 seasons – winning in 1984 – and was consensus All-American for 3 straight seasons. The Knicks’ future was immediately bright.

Ewing went on to win the 1985 Rookie of the Year and shortly after began a decade long run of dominance as one of the league’s durable and proficient centers. Of his many accomplishments, Ewing was an 11x All-Star, member of the original 1992 Dream Team, and one of the 50 Greatest Players of All Time. The Knicks retired his number in 2003 and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

Outside of Ewing, the Knicks also drafted Gerald Wilkins in the 2nd round. Wilkins, the younger brother of Dominique Wilkins, was the Knicks starting SG for most of his tenure in NY and had a scoring average that peaked at 19.1 in his sophomore campaign. Additionally, the Knicks drafted PG Fred Cofield in the 4th round. Cofield spent most of his basketball career in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA). The Knicks later hired Cofield as a scout in 2017 as part of their front office restructuring beginning with the hire of Scott Perry.

On This Date: The OJ Game

June 17th 1994: The New York Knicks win Game 5, but the game was overshadowed by the infamous OJ Simpson car chase

The New York Knicks defeated the Houston Rockets 91-84 to take a 3-2 series lead. Patrick Ewing had another dominant performance with 25 points, 12 rebounds, and a then-NBA Finals record 8 blocked shots.1 John Starks had 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists on 7-14 from the field.

For as amazing as the victory was for the Knicks, the game was largely overshadowed by the OJ Simpson car chase. The white Ford Bronco driving up I-5 on a slow chase from the cops. Helicopters overlooking the Bronco as it sped by police officers. Most of the NBC affiliate stations put the game on split-screen to show the car chase live. For most fans, the audio of the NBC news coverage was front and center while the game was on the side. KNBC in Los Angeles didn’t even put the game on TV and just focused its attention on the chase.

Most people know the background behind the OJ Simpson murder case, so it’s not necessary to rehash here. According to Jeff Van Gundy, Al Cowlings, the driver of the Ford Bronco, allegedly drove the car slow along I-5 to listen to the NBA Finals on radio. Additionally, because of the OJ car chase, we also missed Anthony Mason & Hakeem Olajuwon nearly coming to blows.

On This Date: Knicks drop Game 1 of the 1999 NBA Finals

June 16th 1999: The New York Knicks drop Game 1 of the 1999 NBA Finals

For the first time in the 1999 NBA Playoffs, the underdog New York Knicks team lost a Game 1, with a 89-77 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs. After the Knicks ended the 1st quarter with a 27-21 lead, the Spurs dominated in the 2nd quarter and pulled away in the 4th quarter. The Spurs’ twin towers of Tim Duncan & David Robinson proved to be too much for the hobbled, undermanned, and undersized Knicks.

The Knicks simply could not stop Tim Duncan. Duncan dominated against the undersized Knicks defense of Larry Johnson or Marcus Camby to the tune of 33 points and 16 rebounds. David Robinson had a near triple double, and just-as-close 5×5 game, with 13 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocked shots. Camby & Johnson both committed 5 fouls a piece. Johnson played through a sprained knee he suffered at the end of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Allan Houston & Latrell Sprewell scored 19 points a piece, but neither player could get into a shooting rhythm in the 4th quarter to withstand the Spurs’ runs. Both players combined for 5 points in the 4th as the Spurs turned a 6 point lead with 8 minutes remaining into a 15 point lead with 2 minutes left in the game.

On This Date: Pat Riley resigns via fax

June 15th 1995: New York Knicks head coach Pat Riley suddenly resigns via fax

In a stunning moment after a disappointing 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals exit, Pat Riley suddenly resigned via fax as head coach of the New York Knicks. Riley just finished the 4th year of his 5 year contract with the Knicks as he left the team amidst contractual issues.

Riley desired not just a contract extension, but an ownership stake in the team and control in basketball operations. The latter point seemed treacherous with relation to Dave Checketts and Ernie Grunfeld’s roles within the organization. Furthermore, Cablevision & ITT Corporation purchased the Knicks from Viacom shortly before the 1994-95 season. Paramount Communications sold their stake in the Knicks to Viacom shortly before the end of the 1993-94 season. Therefore, there was no chance that Riley could receive any ownership stake.

Supposedly Riley asked for a 5 year extension and $50 million, plus 25% ownership of the Knicks. Clearly that offer was unrealistic. The Knicks supposedly countered with $25 million, but Riley refused the offer. Ultimately, Riley joined the Miami Heat before the 1995-96 season. Riley not only became coach, but also was the president of basketball operations and received an ownership stake in the franchise. The Knicks subsequently filed tampering charges against the Heat and received $1 million and a 1996 1st round pick as compensation. The Knicks drafted Walter McCarty with the 1st round pick.

Riley instantly became the Knicks’ new villain. Signs with “Pat the Rat” and “Benedict Riley” proliferated around MSG whenever the Heat visited the Knicks. Riley was vociferously booed on his return to MSG. This move ultimately began the rivalry between the Heat & Knicks.

On This Date: Knicks play their first NBA Finals game in MSG since 1973

June 12th 1994: The New York Knicks drop Game 3 of the 1994 NBA Finals, their first NBA Finals game in MSG since 1973

21 years after their last NBA championship, the New York Knicks returned to MSG to host the Houston Rockets in Game 3 after splitting the first 2 games in Houston. Unfortunately, the Knicks couldn’t protect their short-lived home court advantage and lost 93-89.

The Knicks fell behind early, trailing by as many as 16 points in the 1st half and even by 14 points in the 3rd quarter. The Knicks had to rely on one of their signature 4th quarter rallies to get back into the game and take the lead midway through the 4th quarter. Unfortunately, Sam Cassell proved to be a thorn on the Knicks’ side in Game 3. Cassell scored the last 7 Rockets points, including a go-ahead 3 point shot to give the Rockets a 89-88 lead.

Shortly after the 3, one of the most controversial calls occurred in the game. The refs called an offensive foul on Patrick Ewing after he set a “moving screen” on Vernon Maxwell to get John Starks open for a 3 point shot. After looking at multiple replays, I still can’t see the moving screen.

After the offensive foul, Cassell hit 2 more free throws to put the Rockets up 3. After John Starks missed a couple three point shots, Hakeem Olajuwon fouled him with less than 4 seconds left to put him on the line to shoot 2. Starks needed to make the first and miss the second FT. Starks followed the command, but Otis Thorpe grabbed the defensive rebound with 2.8 seconds remaining. Unfortunately, Starks committed an out-of-bounds foul and Cassell hit 2 more FTs to seal the victory.

For the Knicks, Derek Harper led the way with 21 points, 7 assists, and 4 steals on 9-15 from the field and 3-7 from three. Unfortunately, neither John Starks nor Patrick Ewing got into any consistent offensive rhythm. Ewing struggled from the field with 18 points, on 9-29 from the field, 13 rebounds, and 7 blocked shots. Hakeem Olajuwon’s defense proved to be too much for Ewing in Game 3. Starks scored 20 on 6-16 from the field. Hakeem had a near quadruple double with 21 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and 7 blocked shots.

On This Date: Knicks become the first #8 seed to reach the NBA Finals

June 11th 1999: The New York Knicks make history in becoming the first #8 seed to reach the NBA Finals

Miracles. Only one word to define the 1998-99 season. After enduring the endless drama, on-court struggles, and injuries, the Knicks did the unthinkable and stormed past the #1 seed Miami Heat in the 1st round, the #4 seed Atlanta Hawks in the 2nd round, and the #2 seed Indiana Pacers to become the first #8 seed to reach the NBA Finals.

The Knicks defeated the Pacers 90-82 in Game 6 to advance to the Finals. This was done with Patrick Ewing on the sidelines and Larry Johnson sidelined most of the game due to a sprained right knee suffered in the 2nd quarter. Instead, the “role players” per se took charge in front of the roaring MSG crowd.

Allan Houston led the way with a team-high 32 points on 12-17 from the field. Latrell Sprewell scored 20 points, but his defensive energy was once again infectious for the Knicks team. Marcus Camby was an all-around force off the bench with 15 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, and 3 blocked shots in 37 minutes. Camby was the instrumental cog in the victory. While he was on the floor, the team was +26 and -18 while off.

The Knicks simply dominated on the free throw line. The team took 33 free throws, led by Houston (8-10), Camby (7-11), & Sprewell (6-6). The Pacers, on the other hand, only attempted 9 free throws.

The Knicks took control of the game in the 4th quarter. A Jalen Rose 3 point play with less than 29 seconds remaining put the Pacers down 86-82. However, the Knicks hit 4 more free throws and the Pacers simply conceded with 15 seconds remaining after Spree blocked Jalen Rose’s layup.

The MSG crowd went nuts as Chris Childs dribbled out the clock. Spree was running along the sidelines galvanizing the crowd. Jeff Van Gundy’s wife was shown in tears right after the buzzer sounded. Even with Patrick Ewing sidelined, he enjoyed the taste of seeing another NBA Finals. Just simply an ecstatic and priceless moment in Knicks history.

On This Date: Knicks hire Derek Fisher

June 10th 2014: The New York Knicks hire Derek Fisher as their next head coach

The Knicks officially announced the hiring of Derek Fisher as the next head coach. Fisher received a 5 year $25 million contract to become the head coach of a Knick team that missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season. This move was Phil Jackson’s first paramount move as President of Basketball Operations after firing Mike Woodson.

Phil anticipated Fisher to be the coach that could successfully implement the triangle offense to a Knick squad that often lacked offensive structure for much of the 2013-14 season. He anticipated the triangle offense to be of much success to this roster. At the same time, Derek Fisher wasn’t Phil’s first choice as head coach. Phil initially interviewed Steve Kerr for the head coaching position and almost came to terms on an agreement. However, Kerr had second thoughts and chose to stay close to home coach the Golden State Warriors. The rest is history.

Fisher, then 40, was a bold selection for head coach. He represented the youngest external head coaching hire in the organization since Willis Reed in 1977 (then 35 years old). Between then and 2014, Bob Hill (then 38 years old), Stu Jackson (34 years old), and Jeff Van Gundy (33 years old) were younger than Fisher, but had previously served as assistant coaches with the Knicks before their ascension. Fisher just finished a 2013-14 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder and played in the Western Conference Finals against the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs. Just like Phil’s old teammate Willis Reed, Fisher entered the job without any head coaching experience.

To aid Fisher’s development, Jackson surrounded Fisher with several assistant coaches from his Lakers tenure including associate head coach Kurt Rambis, Jim Cleamons, & Rasheed Hazzard. Fisher, in return, recruited several coaches from the Oklahoma City Thunder staff including Brian Keefe, Josh Longstaff, and later David Bliss.

Unfortunately, Fisher never seemed to feel comfortable coaching in the NBA. He lacked the moxie that was there in some of his fellow head coaching peers (you can see some of the moxie in Fizdale). He additionally never fully felt comfortable in New York. After a highly publicized off-court incident before the 2015-16 season and difficulty implementing any offensive system, Phil fired Fisher midway towards the 2015-16 season. Fisher had more than 3 seasons remaining on his contract.

On This Date: Knicks draft Micheal Ray Richardson

June 9th 1978: The New York Knicks draft Micheal Ray Richardson with the 4th overall pick in the 1978 NBA Draft

To a shock of a few people in Knicks land, the team drafted Micheal “Sugar” Ray Richardson with the 4th overall pick in the 1978 NBA Draft. The Knicks went into the draft looking for a center, a need glaring since Willis Reed’s retirement in 1974, and set their eyes on Rick Robey. However, the Indiana Pacers drafted Robey with the 3rd overall pick and the Knicks pivoted to Richardson afterwards.

After a solid rookie season, Richardson immediately thrusted into a perennial All-Star with the Knicks. He had a penchant for gathering triple double2 and stealing the ball with gusto. However, a combination of on-court and off-the court issues, including an excessive drug and partying habit, led the Knicks to trade him for Bernard King. Ironically, King recently recovered from an alcohol problem that plagued him during his early seasons with the Nets & Jazz.

One of the biggest regrets out of the draft obviously was what if the Knicks drafted Larry Bird instead of Sugar Ray. It’s important to note that at Bird intended to finish his collegiate career at Indiana. Many teams, including the Knicks weren’t willing to wait a year for Bird. At the time, teams had one full calendar to sign a player drafted in the previous season before the draft rights relinquished. The Celtics decided to wait for Bird to finish his senior year and signed him a week before the NBA Draft to a 5 year $3.25 million contract. The NBA subsequently changed the draft rules where teams were barred from drafting players before they were ready to sign. Essentially, collegiate players lost eligibility once the withdrawal date (May 29th in this draft) passed.

On This Date: Knicks draft Lonnie Shelton – with some controversy

June 8th 1976: The New York Knicks draft Lonnie Shelton, but had to clear some loopholes in order to sign him

In the 1976 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks attracted some minor controversy after drafting Oregon State Junior Lonnie Shelton with the 25th pick (2nd round). At the time, the NBA was in discussions to merge with the American Basketball Association (ABA) but the terms were not final.

Shelton originally declared for the ABA draft in 1975 as a sophomore in college. The Memphis Sounds drafted him, but the team folded shortly before the season was to begin. His rights transferred to the Spirits of St. Louis and he ill-advisedly signed a contract with the team without having any intention to play for the team. Shelton never played for the ABA team and instead returned to Oregon State. However, a federal judge ruled that his eligibility was lost. The Spirits planned to relocate to Utah for the 1976-77 season to become the Utah Rockies

By the 1976 NBA Draft, the ABA-NBA merger was near finalization. 4 of the ABA teams (Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, New York Nets, San Antonio Spurs) joined the NBA and the remaining two teams (Kentucky Colonels & Spirits of St. Louis) eventually folded. Shelton had undergone a lawsuit against the Spirits regarding the enforcement of his contract. The courts ruled that Shelton wasn’t officially signed with the team, but he did lose his college rights. The impending contract litigation led to many teams ignoring him, but the Knicks did their homework and drafted him in the 2nd round.

As for the 2 ABA teams that folded, the respective players were drafted in a supplementary dispersal draft in August 1976. The Knicks drafted Randy Denton in that dispersal draft.

Shelton was the Knicks’ first draft selection. The team forfeited their 1st round pick after the George McGinnis saga the year before. Shelton had a solid first two seasons with the Knicks, but was traded to the Seattle Supersonics as part of a compensation package in signing Marvin “Human Eraser” Webster as a free agent. Shelton eventually won an NBA championship with the Sonics in 1979.

As for the compensation package, the Knicks additionally sent over a 1979 1st round pick (via the Nets from acquiring Phil Jackson) and received a 1981 1st round pick in return. The Sonics used the 1979 1st round pick to draft Vinnie Johnson. The 1981 1st round pick eventually was traded in a three-way deal where the Knicks acquired Campy Russell.

On This Date: James Dolan promotes Steve Mills to President – Sports Team Operations

June 7th 2001: James Dolan promotes Steve Mills to President-Sports Team Operations for the New York Knicks

In a sign of consolidating power, Knicks owner James Dolan promoted Steve Mills to President- Sports Team Operations. In the new role, Mills had responsibility overseeing all business and team operational matters for the New York Knicks, New York Rangers, & New York Liberty. Ousted MSG President Dave Checketts originally hired Mills in 1999 to be the executive vice president of franchise operations. After the ouster, Dolan promoted Mills and Scott Layden started reporting directly to him. Before beginning his tenure at MSG, Mills spent more than 16 years working in the NBA league offices and was responsible for a variety of factors including working on the NBA Lockout in 1999.

Since ousting Checketts in May 2001, Dolan sought more control of both of his premier sports franchises in the Knicks & Rangers. Checketts had full control over MSG’s sports and entertainment operations. Rather than searching for a new president of MSG, Dolan decided to split Checketts’ responsibilities amongst Steve Mills and Seth Abraham. Abraham previously served as a long-time executive at HBO (originally founded by Charles Dolan, father of James Dolan). Abraham oversaw MSG’s entertainment assets including Radio City Music Hall, MSG Network, MSG Boxing, and the Theater at MSG. Mills was part of a 6 man office of the chairman that included Dolan, vice chairman Robert Lemle, Layden, Abraham, and Rangers President Glen Sather.

Ultimately this proved to be Dolan’s first of many power moves in MSG that directly and indirectly impacted the Knicks.

On This Date: Madison Square Garden granted a charter basketball franchise

June 6th 1946: The New York Knicks became an official basketball team

The Basketball Association of America (BAA), the precursor to the NBA, granted Madison Square Garden a charter basketball franchise. Prior to 1946, the basketball scene was profitable and thriving in New York City with the advent of college basketball. Max Kase, then a writer for the New York Journal-American, met with Walter Brown, owner of the Boston Garden, to discuss the prospects of creating a basketball league that showcased the talents of college basketball players after graduation. As the owner of the Boston Garden, Brown saw an additional revenue stream to play basketball on days when the hockey team (Boston Bruins) were either off or on the road.

Kase originally wanted to own and operate the franchise in New York. He met with Ned Irish, a college basketball promoter and then-president of Madison Square Garden, to discuss the idea of leasing the area to his basketball team. Irish demanded that he keep ownership of the basketball franchise.

On June 6th 1946, Brown, Irish, Kase, and a group of 16 other area owners convened at the Commodore Hotel in Grand Central to grant charter franchises throughout major cities in the United States. The other owners were quite impressed with Irish rather than Kase. Therefore, the panel of owners granted a charter franchise to Irish.

Irish wanted to create a name for the franchise that resembled the city of New York. After reading Washington Irving’s book “The History of New York,” Irish went with the name “Knickerbockers.” Knickerbockers represented the descendants of the original Dutch settlers into New York. After establishing the name, Irish sought after St. John’s head coach Joe Lapchick to coach the franchise. Lapchick agreed, however he wanted to remain at the university for one additional year. Therefore, Irish hired former Manhattan College coach Neil Cohalan as the franchise’s first official head coach.

The Knickerbockers played the 1st ever NBA game on November 1st 1946 against the Toronto Huskies in Canada. Lapchick took over the coaching duties in the 2nd season and the BAA merged with the National Basketball League to form the NBA in 1949.

On This Date: Knicks advance to the 1994 NBA Finals and the LJ 4 Point Play

June 5th 1994: The New York Knicks advance to the 1994 NBA Finals

The New York Knicks advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in more than 20 years after defeating the Indiana Pacers 94-90. The game was back and forth with less than a minute remaining in the 4th quarter. With less than 35 seconds remaining, Dale Davis threw down a dunk to put the Pacers up 90-89. Little did they know that those would be the last points the Pacers scored in the game.

After Pat Riley called a time out, John Starks received the ball and drove to the basket from the right hand side of the court. Starks threw up a missed layup, but Patrick Ewing was there to throw down the go-ahead iconic tip-dunk with 26 seconds remaining to put the Knicks ahead 91-90.

The Pacers worked the clock and Reggie Miller received a pass off the curl which he subsequently airballed out of bounds to the delight of the MSG faithful. With 4.2 seconds remaining, Starks received the inbounds pass and was, surprisingly, flagrantly fouled by Reggie Miller. After the foul, Ewing was shown putting both his arms up (as shown in the iconic photos) in the air knowing he was off to the NBA Finals. He gave the courtside fans a high five and even bear hugged a fan along the way.

Starks hit one of the two free throws off the flagrant foul and subsequently hit an additional 2 free throws to seal the victory. Ewing ended Game 7 on a historic effort with 24 points, 22 rebounds, 7 assists, and 5 blocked shots.


June 5th 1999: Larry Johnson’s 4 point play

Without Patrick Ewing and down 91-88 with 12 seconds remaining in Game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals, the Knicks were in desperation mode to save the game. There were two choices: hit a quick 2 and foul or attempt a 3. Charlie Ward was the inbounds passer from the sideline by the Indiana Pacers bench. The Pacers tipped the inbounds pass, but it landed in Larry Johnson’s palms.

LJ took 4 seconds off the clock before making a move off of Antonio Davis.He drove left towards the sideline and Davis fouled him as he shot the 3 with less than 7 seconds remaining. Miraculously, LJ made the shot and the MSG crowd roared. The various TV replays showed the Garden crowd literally going nuts after the shot was made. It was a priceless moment.

LJ ran down to the other side of the basket about to celebrate only to be held back by Chris Childs & Latrell Sprewell. LJ completed the 4 point play to put the Knicks up 92-91. After the Pacers called a timeout, Mark Jackson threw up a desperation shot over pressure defense that missed to help the Knicks win Game 3.

Larry Johnson helped carry the Knicks in Game 3 after Patrick Ewing’s injury sidelined him for the remainder of the playoffs. LJ led the Knicks with 26 points and 3 three pointers, including the iconic 4 point play. The momentum of Game 3 didn’t carry over to Game 4, but it definitely played a role in winning both Games 5 & 6 to head to their 2nd NBA Finals in the decade.

On This Date: Wish Xavier McDaniel a Happy Birthday!

June 4th 1963: Xavier McDaniel’s Birthday

Xavier “X-Man” McDaniel celebrated his birthday on this date. The Seattle Supersonics drafted X-Man as the 4th overall pick in the 1985 NBA Draft. After several solid seasons with the Sonics, the team dealt X-Man to the Phoenix Suns early in the 1990-91 season.

Shortly before the 1991-92 season, the Suns traded McDaniel to the Knicks for Jerrod Mustaf, Trent Tucker, and a couple 2nd round picks. X-Man perfectly fit into Pat Riley’s system and culture providing the toughness and intensity that permeated throughout the locker room. He was known for his tough battles with Scottie Pippen in the 1992 NBA Playoffs.

Following the 1991-92 season, Knicks President Dave Checketts, for some strange reason, decided to wait until past September to try to re-sign X-Man. Unfortunately, X-Man and agent David Falk moved on from the Knicks and signed a three year contract with the Boston Celtics. Facing a gap at the small forward position, Checketts went ahead to acquire Charles Smith in a three-team deal that sent Mark Jackson to the Los Angeles Clippers and Doc Rivers to NY.

X-Man seemed a perfect fit for NY and perhaps Dave Checketts should have spent more energy keeping him on the roster.

On This Date: Patrick Ewing ruled out for remainder of the 1999 NBA Playoffs due to torn Achilles

June 3rd 1999: Patrick Ewing ruled out for remainder of 1999 NBA Playoffs due to torn Achilles tendon

Game 2 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals marked the last game Patrick Ewing played in the 1999 NBA Playoffs. Tests after the game revealed that Ewing suffered a partial tear of his left Achilles tendon. The injury sidelined Ewing for the remainder of the playoffs as well as the beginning of the 1999-00 season. He was not able to participate in a 2nd and majestic NBA Finals run with the Knicks. In hindsight, a 37 year old Ewing probably would have had little impact in defeating the San Antonio Spurs.

Achilles tendinitis bothered Ewing throughout the entire 1998-99 season. The combination of the shortened schedule, recovery from the wrist injury in the 1997-98 season, and age/not being in the best game shape resulted in nagging injuries. Ewing felt the Achilles pop after playing 40 minutes in Game 1 of the ECF. He played through the injury in Game 2 until team doctors realized the achilles was torn.

At 37 years old, the Achilles injury proved devastating for the remainder of Ewing’s career. His impact on the floor was largely diminished. The team decided to build without Ewing and traded him before the 2000-01 season.

On This Date: The Charles Smith game

June 2nd 1993: The Charles Smith game

With the Knicks down 95-94 at home in Game 5 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, Charles Smith miraculously missed 4 point blank layups to give the Bulls a surprising upset victory in Madison Square Garden for a 3-2 series lead. With around 10 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter, Patrick Ewing drove to the paint. He lost the ball and it went directly to Smith. Smith was not able to get a shot off on 4 attempts before the Bulls recovered the ball.

The Knicks never recovered after the disappointing home loss. After taking an initial 2-0 series lead, the Bulls won 4 straight games to head to their 3rd straight NBA Finals. As for Smith, he isn’t shy to discuss the missed opportunities in public occasions. As a Bridgeport, CT native, he couldn’t avoid those conversations either. After having a relatively successful business career upon retirement, Smith transitioned into a role serving as president of the National Basketball Retired Players Association. His main objective was to improve the welfare for retired players in the form of benefits, pensions, etc. He also established the transition assistance program to provide financial counseling to former basketball players to transition into the second phase of their life. The impetus of this program was the increasing number of players that filed for bankruptcy.

On This Date: Knicks agree to hire Jeff Hornacek as their next head coach

June 1st 2016: The New York Knicks agree to hire Jeff Hornacek as the next head coach

Jeff Hornacek & the New York Knicks came to agreement on terms to become the franchise’s next head coach. Hornacek was spotted with team president Phil Jackson & general manager Steve Mills at Nino’s Tuscany Steakhouse on West 58th Street during the middle of May.

Howard Beck reported shortly afterwards that Hornacek agreed to become the next head coach, but it wasn’t finalized until this date when Adrian Wojnarowski officially reported that the agreement was final. Hornacek received a 3 year contract that coincided with the end of Phil Jackson’s contract with the Knicks.

When Phil Jackson joined the Knicks, he originally hired Derek Fisher as his head coach. He fired Fisher midway through his second season due to a myriad of issues, including a reluctance to adopt the triangle offense (or any true system in general). Hornacek agreed to instill an offense that would modernize the team’s offense within the principles of the triangle offense.

Despite starting his first part of the 2016-17 season with a near .500 record, things began to tumble for Hornacek & the Knicks. A combination of lack of defense and overall team dysfunction (Carmelo Anthony, Phil Jackson, Derrick Rose) quickly led to the demise of the season. Despite what Hornacek preached before the season, the offense was not modern and did not really implement much of the triangle offense. After his first season, James Dolan relieved Phil Jackson of his duties and the Knicks eventually traded Carmelo Anthony.

Similar to his first season, Hornacek started the 2017-18 campaign at a near .500 record. However, a tough January & Kristaps Porzingis’ devastating ACL injury quickly ruined his second season. Hornacek also had a well-publicized confrontation with Joakim Noah. The combination of those factors, alongside a lack of offensive and defensive identity, led the new Knicks front office to relieve Hornacek of his duties after the season.

Hornacek’s Knicks tenure had some similarities with his run with the Phoenix Suns. Hornacek lost the Suns’ locker room early in the 2015-16 season after Markieff Morris threw a towel at him. Likewise, Hornacek never allowed himself to establish an offensive and defensive culture with the Knicks. He never took control of his own destiny in either situation.