On This Date: Knicks sign Ron Baker

August 1st 2016: The New York Knicks sign Ron Baker

The New York Knicks officially inked Ron “Ron Burgundy” Baker to a contract. Without a draft pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Phil Jackson immediately invited Burgundy to the Summer League squad. The Knicks subsequently signed Baker to a non-guaranteed contract.

The Wichita State alum, and former teammate of Cleanthony Early, came into the league with a reputation as a tough defensive guard who could also hit the open 3. Burgundy was a combo guard who had PG skills. Despite being only 6’3, his 6’8 wingspan allowed him to defend taller guards and small forwards.

Baker made the Knicks opening night roster. He split his time between the Knicks roster and the G-League team. He played 52 NBA games in his rookie campaign and started 13 of those games after the Knicks waived Brandon Jennings & Derrick Rose suffered a season ending knee injury.

His rookie season led Steve Mills to give Baker a 2 year contract worth $8.9 million. Due to Mills’ other more infamous move that offseason1, this contract went under the rug. This was one of the more questionable signings, but somewhat justifiable due to his defensive efforts.

Unfortunately, Baker’s 2017-18 was marred by multiple injuries. An ankle sprain kept him out of the beginning of the season. Additionally, Baker suffered a shoulder injury rehabilitating from his ankle sprain that would foreshadow his downfall later in the year. To add insult to injury, Burgundy was the victim of a nasty Anthony Davis poster that resulted in a fractured orbital bone. The final nail to the season was when he tore his right labrum diving for a loose ball against the Nets in January 2018. He missed the remainder of the season.

Due to the plethora of Knick guards on the roster, Baker received minimal playing time to start the 2018-19 season. The Knicks later waived him to create room to sign Allonzo Trier to an NBA contract. Baker later signed with the Wizards, but eventually underwent surgery again on his torn right labrum.

Burgundy recently signed with CSKA Moscow to regain footing in his young basketball career.

On This Date: Knicks agree to sign Robin Lopez

July 3rd 2015: The New York Knicks agree to sign Robin Lopez to a 4 year contract

The Knicks made their first big splash in the 2015 free agency by agreeing to sign Robin Lopez to a 4 year, $54 million contract. The Knicks went into free agency looking for a big man to complement both Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. After striking out on Greg Monroe, the Knicks agreed to a contract with Lopez.

Lopez had a solid 2014-15 campaign with the Trailblazers even after missing 23 games with a broken hand. Lopez showed durability over the previous few seasons and proved to be a serviceable rotational player in the lineup.

Lopez played all 82 games for the Knicks and had a solid season with 10.3 ppg and 1.6 blocks/game in 27.1 minutes/game. Outside of his presence on the floor, Lopez showed to be a solid member in the Knicks community and was often a frequent target of the NBA mascots. Knicks fans learned a lot about his affinity for Disney and Star Wars.

Unfortunately, the Knicks only got 1 year out of Lopez. The team dealt Lopez to the Bulls in a package for Derrick Rose. Unfortunately, the trade forced the Knicks to sign Joakim Noah. The rest is history.

On This Date: Knicks agree to sign Joakim Noah

July 1st 2016: The New York Knicks agree to sign Joakim Noah to a 4 year $72 million contract

The Knicks agreed to sign Joakim Noah to a 4 year $72 million contract in what now looks like one of the worst decisions in franchise history. Noah only played 25 games in the prior season after undergoing season-ending left shoulder surgery. However, Phil Jackson, alongside an endorsement from Derrick Rose, believed that Noah would return to his old self and that his defense and passing skills would be valuable in a Knicks offense that balanced principles of the triangle offense. Rose himself vouched for Noah to come home to reunite together after spending their entire careers together in Chicago.

Unfortunately, the reunion and overall tenure in New York turned out to be a disaster. Noah missed parts of the preseason with a nagging hamstring injury. Noah only played 46 games in his first season with the Knicks. He clearly lost a step or two on defense and lacked the fire and intensity he had while with the Bulls. Unfortunately, his season ended early with a knee surgery further compounded by a 20 game PED suspension and a subsequent rotator cuff surgery.

After beginning the 2017-18 season suspended, the Knicks tried to ease Noah into playing shape. However, the center position was occupied by Enes Kanter & Kyle O’Quinn. Willy Hernangomez already sat in the doghouse due to his poor defense. Noah only played 7 games before effectively ending his Knicks career after fighting with Jeff Hornacek in practice.

The Knicks stretched Noah’s contract before the beginning of the 2018-19 season officially ending his tenure with us. His impact still lasts as his contract has stretched through the 2021-22 season. Although the cap hit still remains on the books, the Knicks now become a team with cap space to sign 2 max free agents.

The main issue of the Noah signing was the contract. Many GMs failed to properly evaluate the free agent market and overestimated the potential of revenue sharing on the NBA salary cap. Many players received excessive contracts including Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng, Noah, Ian Mahinmi, and Bismack Biyombo, amongst many others. The perspective was that the contract would represent a smaller % of the cap as the latter would eventually spike in the upcoming seasons. As of 2018-19, the cap % did not spike up to their initial expectations.

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 hire Phil Jackson

March 18th 2014: Knicks hire Phil Jackson as President of Basketball Operations

The Knicks brought back Phil Jackson into the organization as the new President of Basketball Operations on a 5 year $50 million contract. The Knicks previously courted him on several occasions (back in 1999 and 2005) to coach the team, but was rejected due to a myriad of reasons (mostly related to the fact that the team wasn’t as talented). Phil spent most of his playing career with the Knicks where he won 2 championships as a player.

Ever since the team relieved Glen Grunwald of his duties, James Dolan went into full pursuit to find a full-time President of Basketball Operations. Steve Mills returned to the organization to become the interim President of Basketball Operations. At the same time, Madison Square Garden recently acquired the Great Western Forum for the main purpose to renovate the arena to serve as an entertainment venue rivaling the nearby Staples Center.

Through the entertainment business and his own musical ambitions, Dolan maintained a long-standing friendship with Irving Azoff. In 2013, both Azoff and Dolan formed a joint venture – Azoff MSG Entertainment LLC – that served to fuel MSG Entertainment’s presence in the live event industries.

It was at one of Azoff’s parties in late 2013 where Dolan met Phil Jackson. Azoff setup the courtship beforehand to help broker the relationship. Phil advised Dolan on certain basketball transactions (including not trading anymore 1st round picks and nixing the Kyle Lowry/Iman Shumpert trade) over the course of the next few months. Things further progressed in March and the team finalized the hire on March 18th.

Phil Jackson’s hire brought massive expectations to the organization. Many expected the team to re-establish their winning culture and use the influence of Phil’s 11 rings to get back to the NBA Finals. Others expected the Knicks to bring back the triangle offense.

In the months after the hire, Phil had several looming questions to answer. After Phil fired Mike Woodson and traded both Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler, he was left with a major decision involving Carmelo Anthony. Melo unsurprisingly opted out of his contract at the end of the season. It was assumed that Dolan told Phil that Melo had to be a part of the long-term future of the organization. Therefore, Melo signed a 5 year $124 million extension with a no-trade clause.

Unfortunately, the Melo signing was one of many ill-fated decisions that destroyed Phil’s tenure with the team. Phil hired Derek Fisher with the intention to run the triangle offense. However, the team was not able to grasp the offense and immediately spiraled out of contention before the new year hit. Phil quickly went on a firesale and JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Amare Stoudemire were all gone from the team before the All Star Break. Additionally, Melo suffered knee soreness that required surgery. Due to his desire to play in the All Star Game, he postponed the surgery to after the ASB. The injury and surgery severely impacted Melo’s game to this date on both the offensive and defensive end.

Phil seemed to strike gold in the 2015 NBA Draft with the Kristaps Porzingis selection. However, Phil made a rash decision to fire Derek Fisher midway towards the 2015-16 season after only 1.5 years with the team. Phil later hired Jeff Hornacek as the new head coach.

Phil decided to embark on a win-now mission during the 2016 offseason and traded for Derrick Rose while signing Joakim Noah to a massive 4 year $72 million contract and Courtney Lee to a 4 year $50 million contract. The 2016-17 season also proved to be a mess, but it was mainly due to the fact that Phil publicly criticized Melo throughout the entire season. The side-effect to the Melo drama was that Kristaps Porzingis became disenchanted with the organization and decided to skip the exit meeting.

The final straw occurred during the 2017 NBA Draft where Phil tried to trade Porzingis to various teams and seriously considered to buyout Carmelo Anthony. Dolan rejected both ideas and ultimately both parties agreed to part ways. Phil’s last move was drafting both Frank Ntilikina and Damyean Dotson in the 2017 NBA Draft.

The remaining remnants of Phil’s tenure are Lance Thomas, Ntilikina, Dotson, and Joakim Noah’s contract that has been stretched until 2022. Phil did not trade any 1st round picks during his tenure, though he did give up several 2nd round picks in miscellaneous trades. Ultimately it seemed that Phil was never prepared to handle the responsibilities required to be President of Basketball Operations. His mindset was stuck on being a coach and that overshadowed what everyone else was doing within the organization. His public feud with Melo and the Noah free agent signing added dark stains to his professional legacy within the NBA.

On This Date: Derrick Rose goes missing

January 9, 2017: Derrick Rose goes missing

In one of the many bizarre events of the 2016-17 season, Derrick Rose disappears shortly before a Monday night home game against the New Orleans Pelicans. D-Rose attended shoot-around in the afternoon, but left unannounced soon after. The team later announced that Rose was not with the team due to a “family situation.”

The mysterious disappearance confused everyone from the coaching staff to the players. No one seemed to know where Rose was and whether his well-being was ok. Brandon Jennings started for Rose in his absence as the Knicks lost 110-96 against the Pelicans.

In a sign of a frustrating night, both Carmelo Anthony and Kyle O’Quinn were ejected from the game. Melo received two technical fouls and O’Quinn committed a flagrant 2 foul on Anthony Davis. Davis injured his hip on the play and exited the game as a result.

Rose returned to the team the next day, but the team fined him $200,000 for a failure to properly communicate in a timely response. He admitted he flew to Chicago to attend to a family matter. Rose did apologize to his teammates, coaching staff, and front office. There was an initial rumor of discontent with head coach Jeff Hornacek due to his 4th quarter benching against the Bucks, but Rose dispelled that thought in a post-practice interview.

While Rose had his best overall year since his run with injuries, the 2016-17 season was frustrating for both him and the team. Rose regained a lot of his quickness and athleticism, but was lackluster on the defensive end. His season was cut short due to torn cartilage in his knee that required arthroscopic surgery.