On This Date: Knicks sign Ronnie Brewer

July 25th 2012: The New York Knicks sign Ronnie Brewer

The New York Knicks continued to add more defensive oriented pieces to the roster by signing Ronnie Brewer to a contract. Brewer played the previous 2 seasons with the Chicago Bulls and was part of coach Tom Thibodeau’s bench mob. At 6’7 with a long wingspan, the Knicks expected Brewer to provide a defensive identity off the bench.

Brewer started the season as the team’s starting small forward due to Amare Stoudemire’s knee injury. Ultimately, Iman Shumpert’s return from a torn ACL pushed Brewer out of the rotation. As the Knicks sought to shore up their frontcourt depth, the team traded Brewer mid-season to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a future 2nd round pick. The team used the spot to sign Kenyon Martin.

On This Date: Knicks end up with the 4th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft

damn…

May 19th 2015: Knicks end up with the 4th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft

After ending up with the 2nd worst record overall in the 2014-15 season, the worst record in franchise history, and only 1/2 game ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the NBA Draft gods decided not to be nice and gave the Knicks the 4th overall pick in the NBA Draft. The crowd immediately showed disgust after deputy commissioner Mark Tatum displayed the Knicks envelope.

Immediately after the pick, Steve Mills showed a sign of disgust after realizing the team would be out of the Karl Anthony Towns sweepstakes. The Knicks did a relatively outstanding job shifting into rebuild mode early in January after their terrible start to the season. Out were JR Smith & Iman Shumpert and in came extended minutes for both Lance Thomas & Lou Amundson.

Unfortunately, a few too many clutch baskets from Tim Hardaway Jr. & Langston Galloway helped the Knicks avoid the worst record in the NBA. On the bright side, the Knicks drafted Kristaps Porzingis and the rest is history.

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: Linsanity hits Toronto

February 14th 2012: Linsanity strikes in Toronto

On Valentine’s Day in 2012, Jeremy Lin gave Knicks fans more reasons to love him with a dagger three-point shot to defeat Jose Calderon and the Toronto Raptors 90-87 in the Air Canada Centre.

Lin had a double double with 27 points and 11 assists, but the most important shot was the final one that broke the hearts of Raptors fans. After Tyson Chandler grabbed an Iman Shumpert missed jumpshot, Lin received the ball for the final shot. Lin organized right around halfcourt as Calderon retreated past the three-point line expecting Lin to drive to the basket. Instead, Lin stepped ahead to hit the dagger three.

The game also marked the return of Amare Stoudemire after being away from the team due to the death of his brother. Amare was rusty in his return, but scored 21 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Contrary to popular expectations, we never saw the Amare/Jeremy Lin battery pick-and-roll tandem come to full fruition during Linsanity. A combination of missed games, added muscle (which slowed him down considerably), and a lack of cohesion with Tyson Chandler stunted the potential pick-and-roll potential.

Ironically, Jeremy Lin recently signed with the Raptors after being bought out by Atlanta.

On This Date: The Birth of Linsanity

February 4, 2012: Linsanity Begins

The New York Knicks, losers of 11 of their previous 13 games, needed a jolt to spark the team. The trio of Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler were not meshing, partially due to the lockout.

The team also lacked point guard production since amnestying Chauncey Billups before the season. Toney Douglas significantly struggled with starter minutes. Mike Bibby was beyond his prime. Baron Davis was still sidelined with a back injury. While rookie Iman Shumpert showed promise with his athleticism and defensive awareness, he did not have a natural feel as a point guard. With the Knicks down 20-16 to the then-putrid New Jersey Nets, coach Mike D’Antoni finally unleashed Jeremy Lin.

Due to the lack of point guard depth and Iman Shumpert’s injury in the first game of the season, the Knicks claimed Lin off waivers in December. Lin spent most of the first month of the season shuffling between the Knicks and the Erie Bayhawks of the D-League. The Knicks almost cut him near the end of January, but Baron Davis suffered a minor setback in his recovery and the Knicks just came off a bad loss against the Boston Celtics.

Lin came off the bench to play most of the 1st half against the Nets. He helped the Knicks cut a 10-point deficit down to two by halftime. He brought a new level of energy with his defense, aggressiveness attacking the paint, and passing. Players such as Landry Fields and Toney Douglas, who struggled for most of the season, felt revitalized during the game. He showed excellent chemistry with Tyson Chandler by feeding him several alley-oop passes.

Lin also played most of the 2nd half. With the Knicks down 72-70 to start the 4th, Lin continued to impress and shock the MSG faithful. He scored 12 of his 25 points in the 4th quarter and did most of his damage against Deron Williams. He attacked with pizzazz and scored a ton of difficult layups to excite the crowd.  The crowd, overall, was in awe of his performance.

Lin ended with 25 points on 10-19 from the field and 8 assists. This game forced D’Antoni to start his in the next game against the Jazz and thus began the short, but fun Linsanity era. Additionally, the game helped reenergize Madison Square Garden and helped fuel a 7 game winning streak.

On This Date: Knicks beat the Pistons in London

January 17, 2013: The New York Knicks defeat the Detroit Pistons in London

Beginning in the 2010-11 season, the NBA expanded their horizons by playing regular season games overseas. While this was not their first experiment in doing so – the NBA held a couple games in Japan during the 1990s – it became more of a tradition beginning this season. The games would be brand as either the “NBA China Games,”  “NBA Japan Games,” or “NBA London Games.”

Beginning in the 2012-13 season, the NBA rebranded those series as the NBA Global Games. The Knicks played their first ever regular season game overseas in London against the Detroit Pistons in the O2 arena. The Knicks were the road team in the matchup.

The Knicks previously played overseas in various exhibition and preseason games. Their first game was in 1990 as part of the McDonald’s Championship. The championship was an exhibition game that featured an NBA team (Knicks) competing against a club team from Europe, Australia, and South America. The Knicks later played a preseason game in Mexico in 1993 and Paris in 2010.

Before the game, the Knicks spent time touring London, interacting with younger fans at community outreach events and visiting the Tower Bridge. These events were done in unison to help promote the game of basketball in the United Kingdom. While basketball is popular in many different countries, it does not have the same influence in London due to the lack of professional teams in the country.

As for the game itself, the Knicks easily won the game 102-87. Carmelo Anthony led the way with 26 points and Amare Stoudemire scored 17 off the bench. The game also marked Iman Shumpert’s first regular season game since the horrific ACL injury in Game 1 of the 2012 playoffs. Shumpert returned to the starting lineup and scored 8 points in less than 15 minutes of action.

On This Date: Knicks acquire Stephon Marbury, and eleven years later, trade away JR Smith

January 5, 2004: The New York Knicks acquire Stephon Marbury

In the first major transaction of the Isiah Thomas era, the Knicks acquired Stephon Marbury in a blockbuster trade with the Phoenix Suns. The trade included the following players/picks:

Suns Acquire:

Howard Eisley
Antonio McDyess
Maciej Lampe
Charlie Ward
Draft Rights to: Milos Vujanic
Knicks 2004 1st Round Pick (Kirk Synder)
Knicks 2010 1st Round Pick (Gordon Hayward)

Knicks Acquire:

Stephon Marbury
Penny Hardaway
Cezary Trybanksi

The trade brought Marbury near to where he grew up in Coney Island. Marbury always showed New York a lot of support and spent his summers playing in Rucker Park. He was a part of Fat Joe’s Terror Squad team and was supposed to play in the highly anticipated 2003 matchup against Jay-Z’s S. Carter team. Unfortunately, the game never happened because of the infamous Northeast blackout.1

From a basketball perspective, Marbury completely changed the composition of the team. For one, the Knicks finally found a star PG who was young (Marbury was 26 at the time of the end) and dynamic.

The Knicks were mired in mediocrity the previous few seasons due to a roster that lacked athleticism and youthful energy. Marbury immediately brought both into the fold. Isiah – a point guard himself – understood the importance of having a playmaker. He saw the Knicks manhandled by point guards such as Jason Kidd, Sam Cassell, and Jamal Crawford, and he knew a trade was necessary to reverse the fortunes of the team.

Penny Hardaway arrived in New York as a relic of his better days. He had a relatively productive first season with the Knicks as a bench player. Injuries sidelined him for most of the following two seasons before the team traded him to the Orlando Magic in 2006 for Steve Francis. Trybanski only played 3 games for the Knicks and the team traded him to the Bulls as part of the Jamal Crawford sign-and-trade.  

The trade, along with the Lenny Wilkens hire, amongst others, helped the Knicks win 39 games and make the playoffs as the 8th seed. Unfortunately, the playoff berth marked the high point of Marbury’s career. The culmination of losses, conflicts with coaches, and off-the-court scandals ruined Marbury’s tenure with the team. His support from the front office to fans to even beat reporters (Yes, Isola had a close relationship with him too) soured as his play suffered and his controversies represented his only highlights. The combination of the above led to his release in 2009.

In retrospect, the trade, at the time, was a necessary move to reverse the direction of the team. However, Isiah neglected to consider the importance of draft picks and roster construction around Marbury. The trade immediately added a significant amount of salary and restricted the Knicks from making any major moves in free agency. The Stephon Marbury era remains a disappointing moment in franchise history.


January 5, 2015: The JR Smith era ends

Phil Jackson continued the process to clean house by trading both JR Smith and Iman Shumpert in a three-way trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers & Oklahoma City Thunder. The Knicks received Lou Amundson, Lance Thomas, Alex Kirk, and the Cavs 2019 2nd round draft pick. JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and the OKC 2016 1st round pick (Furkan Korkmaz) went to the Cavaliers. Dion Waiters went to the Thunder in the trade.

The trade helped the Knicks clear additional salary cap space while removing the team of players that didn’t fit with their future plans. JR Smith never meshed in the triangle offense and was largely a malcontent during his years with the Knicks. Iman Shumpert was on the last year of his rookie deal and injuries mostly hampered his production on the team.

Contrary to public opinion at the time, Lou Amundson & Lance Thomas did play a role on the team. While Phil immediately cut all three players acquired, he re-signed Lou & Lance to successive 10-day contracts and eventually for the remainder of the season. For a 17-win team, both players brought a level of professionalism, toughness, and ability to run the team’s offense. With a lot of younger players on the roster, especially after the Carmelo Anthony injury, these traits were integral to the team.

Both players served as mentors to our rookies, particularly to Kristaps Porzingis & Frank Ntilikina. The Knicks rewarded Lance – a NY native – with a 4-year, $27 million extension in 2016. While he’s probably well overpaid, the Knicks valued the intangibles he brought to the team. The players in the locker room view him as the de facto captain and he’s served the role well so far.