On This Date: Carmelo Anthony hits game-winning shot against Timberwolves

November 30, 2016:  Carmelo Anthony hits game winner over Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves

Carmelo Anthony countered an off-shooting night by making the game-winning basket against Andrew Wiggins. Melo used his signature jab-step to get space against Wiggins to hit the midrange jump shot. This was Melo’s 2nd game-winning basket in 5 days hitting the go-ahead shot against the Charlotte Hornets. Continue reading →

On This Date: Knicks post 28-0 run in 3rd quarter to beat Raptors

November 22nd 2017:  The New York Knicks post 28-0 run in 3rd quarter to defeat the Toronto Raptors 108-100 in MSG 

In a – quite recent – flashback, the Knicks took a 11 point halftime deficit and went on a historic 28-0 run to defeat the Toronto Raptors.  The win put the Knicks at 10-7 to start the season.  According to Ian Begley, the 28-0 run was the longest run – at the time – since 2009.  The Knicks outscored the Raptors 41-10 in the third quarter. Continue reading →

Separating Kristaps Fact from Kristaps Fiction

Barring something extremely unlikely, Kristaps Porzingis will play more games against the New York Knicks before his career is over. As such, this last week is not the last time we’ll hear about the drama that proceeded his exit and the subsequent trade that sent him to Dallas.

But a funny thing happens to NBA narratives over time: they get warped and distorted, like a wood floor that’s seen one too many leaks. Eventually, if you put some pressure on it, the original truth will break into fragments…convenient bits of fact and fiction mixed and matched at the teller’s whim.

So before we get to that point, I thought now that the fiasco of KP is over for the year, I’d settle some things once and for all.

Continue reading →

On This Date: Porzingis’ first Knicks moment that wasn’t

November 11th, 2015: Kristaps Porzingis almost hits a game winning three against the Charlotte Hornets, but was waved off by a split second.

Kristaps Porzingis first exciting moment as a Knick didn’t end up counting. He was just a small pinch of a second away from shocking the NBA with a thrilling game-winning shot. With 0.6 seconds left and the game on the line, the Knicks ran a SLOB (sidelines out of bounds) triangle set with Lance Thomas inbounding the ball. Carmelo Anthony flashed up to the top of the key and set a screen against both Marvin Williams & Cody Zeller. Porzingis set a nice juke and received a pass from Lance Thomas behind the line. Continue reading →

On This Date: The Knicks sign Jarrett Jack

September 15th 2017: The New York Knicks sign Jarrett Jack

Days before the beginning of training camp, the Knicks signed Jarrett Jack as insurance at the point guard position. Along with Ramon Sessions, Jack was initially meant to mentor Knick rookie Frank Ntilikina. Continue reading →

On This Date: The Knicks sign Michael Beasley & Ramon Sessions

August 8th 2017: The New York Knicks sign Michael Beasley & Ramon Sessions

Two of the first few acquisitions under the Scott Perry Era were Michael Beasley & Ramon Sessions. The Knicks signed both players to one year contracts. Beasley spent the previous season with the Milwaukee Bucks. He played serviceable minutes off the bench backing up Giannis Antetokounmpo and proved to be a consistent 6th man with his offensive prowess. Sessions played 50 games with the Charlotte Hornets in the previous season before missing most of the 2nd of the year recovering from a lateral meniscus tear in his knee. Continue reading →

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: 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 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 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: Knicks defeat the Spurs in Spree’s return to MSG

February 12th 2017: Latrell Sprewell and James Dolan bury the hatchet as the Knicks defeat the Spurs

The Knicks snapped a 4-game losing streak with a 94-90 victory against the San Antonio Spurs on a nationally televised broadcast. Carmelo Anthony led the way with 25 points (including 3 three-pointers), 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. Kristaps Porzingis scored 16 points and blocked 4 shots. Willy Hernangomez made his second start of the season and had 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 steals. Willy’s minutes increased steadily after a shoulder injury sidelined Noah for the remainder of the season.

Despite the victory, it off-the-court headlines dominated the story. Throughout the 2016-17 season, Phil Jackson sent veiled shots at Carmelo Anthony expressing disappointment that he’s not a “star” in the realm of a Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. Days before the game, Phil sent a cryptic tweet aimed at Melo:

Additionally, Charles Oakley was arrested only a few days earlier after an altercation with security personnel during the Knicks/Clippers game. Oakley allegedly hurled some parting shots at James Dolan. Dolan subsequently alerted security to escort him out. Oak was subsequently banned from MSG for one year.

To quell the PR backlash, Dolan decided to reconcile with Latrell Sprewell and ended their 13+ year feud. Spree sat courtside with Dolan, Bernard King, and Larry Johnson. Since the moment, Spree has spent plenty of games courtside at Madison Square Garden and participated in various Knicks charitable causes.

Don’t quit on these Knicks

Dear Knicks fans,

To say the past few weeks have been crazy would be an understatement. While we were focused on the murmurs around Anthony Davis, the Knicks front office pulled off one of the most polarizing trades in franchise history. To the surprise of most (outside of Steve Mills, Scott Perry & maybe the club medical staff), Kristaps Porzingis is gone. Done. Cancelled in New York.

The temperamental Latvian phenom went from unicorn savior to public enemy number one in a matter of hours. There are a lot of facts swirling about the whos, whats, whens and whys, but I’m not here to dive down that rabbit hole. As the dust settles and New York continues on in its rebuild, separating fact from emotion paints a very different picture for the future of our franchise.

Without the need to slander anyone or trade insults, I want to have an honest talk about Kristaps Porzingis. His skillset can’t be ignored. A 7-foot player who can shoot the three and block shots is ridiculous…on paper. When he was drafted in 2015, Kristaps’ skillset was relatively unheard of…until Steph Curry officially broke basketball. The league has been moving in the direction of perimeter scoring ever since.

KP was essentially the first of his kind (a big man who was a modern perimeter scorer) and the city, hungry for something good…anything good…celebrated him like he was the second coming of Patrick Ewing.

Can we agree that in hindsight this was definitely an overreaction?

Porzingis remains unique as a 7’3″ big man who can both block shots and score like a guard; but his scoring ability, alone, is not as unique as it once was with the rest of the league catching up to the modern style of the NBA. Every functional big man from Brook Lopez to Marc Gasol can shoot the long ball now. Spacing has become more important than ever, and as always, players continue to evolve. Let’s not forget the Lauri Markkanen once set a Bulls franchise record for threes against us. Sigh. The life of a Knicks fan is tough, but I digress. The point here is that Porzingis’ skillset is easier to find than it once was and what he brings to the game can be emulated by a combination of other players (shout out to Luke Kornet).

Another uncomfortable truth about Porzingis is linked to his injury history. It’s been so long since we’ve had homegrown, star-level talent that I think Knicks fans, myself included, got too emotionally attached. I’m the first to admit a bit of clouded judgement, but I have always thought something was worrisome about his injury profile. Even when considered “healthy,” Porzingis never played a full season or shot above 45% from the field. He’s ridiculously skilled, but what good is a star player who isn’t available? A front-court player with recurring lower body injuries is a major red flag for any organization. A cracked cornerstone leads to an unstable foundation.

It’s always bothered me that the “Unicorn” never finished a full season. Richard Gerrafo of Fansided noticed something was up too. He wrote of his concerns, noting that,

“From January of 2016 until February of 2017 (approximately one year and one month), Porzingis suffered six different injuries. He has injured his left Achilles, left groin, left leg, right shoulder, right ankle, and right foot. ”

In his time with the Knicks, Porzingis also had issues with his quadricep (an injury that occurred during his pre-draft workout and again less than a year later), elbow, achilles, and then, of course, a devastating ACL tear.

Scott Perry was well aware of this unfortunate truth. From a purely basketball perspective, Kristaps was too unstable to be a true franchise cornerstone. Not for a maximum contract without injury protections. And as much as people criticize the Knicks for not wanting to offer their resident star player a max contract, it seems they tried to negotiate a contract similar to how other franchises have navigated injury-prone players.

It would have been very “Old Knicks” of Perry to cave under the pressure from the Latvian’s management team, but Scott stood his ground and made a pragmatic move in the best interest of the team. Not only did he refuse to extend KP’s contract last year, he went on record to say his primary goal is “making the Knicks a very good basketball team going into the long term.” He believes in team success over the benefit of any one person and has shown an uncanny ability to think pragmatically about the future.

Team building – real team building, the sustainable kind that we’ve longingly watched from afar from RJ Buford, Pat Riley and Danny Ainge – is a game of chess not checkers. Singular moves must be dissected in the context of a broader strategy.

The news of the Porzingis trade was shocking, yes, but the Knicks’ front office made the right call and the team is set up for future success whether we land a premiere free agent this summer or not.

Yes, Porzingis is gone, but don’t quit on these young New York Knicks. Call me an optimist, but when I look at the current state of affairs in Knickerbocker land – a talented young core, the most open cap space in franchise history and 7 first round draft picks over the next 5 years – I can’t help but notice the upside of so much possibility. Even if the team strikes out on the Kevin Durant/Kawhi/Kyrie sweepstakes this summer, they are under no pressure to sign long-term contracts for anything less than a franchise changing star. There is no rush because our GM has transformed the draft from a desert into a wellspring of possibilities and there will always be another chance to ink a game changer in the future. It’s not a make or break summer when an organization has positioned itself for long-term success through young players and financial flexibility.

Scott Perry is not the inexperienced, short-sighted GM you are looking for. Just the opposite, actually. In just over a year, he has erased years of management failure, properly delegated authority, lifted the weight of bloated contracts and created one of the most talented scouting teams in the league.

I have faith that any future moves are made with one goal in mind – building a championship level roster. As a result of strong leadership, the Knicks go into the summer with an assorted mix of new talent, all the cap space in the world (for this offseason and beyond), no uncertainty about Porzingis, plus the added bonus of seven first round draft picks over the next 5 seasons. SEVEN. More than the last 10 years combined. We finally have picks, money and talented scouts…all at the same time. Recent social media reactions be damned, this regime is intelligent and pragmatic.

The future isn’t guaranteed to anyone, but the Knicks’ front office has done its best to minimize risk while placing the franchise in a position to be master of its own destiny. The change fans have longed for is finally here – if we can manage to see the forest for the trees. Don’t sell low on these Knicks.

On This Date: Knicks trade Willy Hernangomez

February 7th 2018:  The New York Knicks trade Willy Hernangomez to the Charlotte Hornets

The Knicks traded Willy Hernangomez to the Charlotte Hornets for Johnny O’Bryant and two 2nd round picks in 2020 and 2021. Willy requested a trade a few days earlier after being stuck on the bench behind both Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn. To add insult to injury, the trade occurred only a day before Kristaps Porzingis, Willy’s friend dating back to the Sevilla days, tore his ACL. The Knicks immediately cut O’Bryant, who’s now playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Euroleague.

After making the All-Rookie 1st team in the 2016-17 season, there was hope that Willy would become the starter for the Knicks. However, those plans derailed once the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and the 2018 Bulls 2nd round pick that turned out to be Mitchell Robinson. Immediately after the trade, Willy had to compete with Enes Kanter & Kyle O’Quinn for minutes at the center position.

Unfortunately, Willy was not able to separate himself from Kanter to receive minutes. The Knicks valued Kyle O’Quinn’s defense to garner minutes regardless. Kanter, however, came into camp in the best shape of his life and showed to be a better offensive threat. Willy did not come into camp in tip-top shape.

Upon hearing of the trade, many fans had mixed reactions. Some thought that Hernangomez would have been an integral piece to our core and that we should have traded O’Quinn or Kanter instead. Others were more giddy about the 2nd round picks acquired and weren’t too high of Willy’s lack of defense and his trade request. (he was a backup after all)

In retrospect, this trade ended up as an overall win for the team. It’s far less likely that Willy will blossom the way Rod Strickland did when traded to the Spurs. Since he requested a trade, it gave the front office no choice but to trade him. For Steve Mills, it meant giving up on a player that he personally scouted when visiting Porzingis before the 2015 NBA Draft. The Knicks regained 2nd round picks in 2020 and 2021 that they ironically had given up to acquire Hernangomez in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Seeing a need at the center position, the Knicks drafted Mitchell Robinson who will likely have a higher ceiling and potential than Hernangomez. Willy’s received sproadic minutes in the 2018-19 season including several DNPs. He’s been decent on the offensive end, but inconsistent on defense.

On This Date: Day 2 of Linsanity and KP’s devastating ACL injury

February 6th 2012: Jeremy Lin makes his first start and helps beat the Utah Jazz

Day 2 of Linsanity gives Jeremy Lin his first career NBA start on way to a 99-88 Knicks victory. Lin put up 28 points, 7-9 from the free throw line, and 8 assists. He continued to dazzle fans with his uncanny ability to drive into the paint and make acrobatic layups. Near the end of the 4th quarter, Lin hit a three at the end of the shot clock and stuck his tongue out and gave us a signature wink.

One recipient of Lin’s 8 assists was Tyson Chandler. While Chandler continued to be a defensive presence, Lin rewarded him with scoring opportunities on the pick and roll. Another recipient was Steve “Discount Double Check” Novak. Novak received several passes from Lin that led to wide open threes. Novak scored 19 points off the bench on 5-8 shooting from three. Beginning with this game, Novak continued to receive consistent minutes off the bench and served as a major three-point threat.

The most important story outside the victory was the absence of both Carmelo Anthony & Amare Stoudemire. Melo only played 5 minutes before pulling his groin. The injury sidelined him for the next 7 games, which represented the entire tenure of Linsanity. Amare was away from the team following the death of his brother in a car crash.


February 6th 2018:  Kristaps Porzingis tears his ACL.

In what nobody knew would represent Kristaps Porzingis final game in New York, the 7′ 3″ unicorn tore his ACL after landing awkwardly following a dunk on Giannis Antetokounmpo. Due to the graphic nature of the injury, we decided not to post the video. The dunk had put the Knicks ahead by a point. The injury itself put a damper on the game and the remainder of the season.

KP’s friend Willy Hernangomez witnessed the injury firsthand on the Knicks bench. The Knicks traded Willy the next day as part of a busy trade deadline that involved acquiring Emmanuel Mudiay.

The injury put the Knicks in position to refuse an extension offer to Porzingis in the offseason. Had he stayed healthy, it’s possible he would have tried to negotiate a designated rookie extension which would have allowed him to earn a higher percentage of the cap based on performance criteria.

Once it was clear he would miss most of the 2018-19 season, there was no way for him to meet any of the performance parameters that would lead to a higher salary, and therefore, the Knicks could theoretically offer him the same extension offer in 2019 as they could have in 2018. It therefore made sense for them to wait to see if he returned healthy and maintain cap space from his reduced cap hold. Whether this strategy frustrated Porzingis is yet to be fully reported. And whether the injury cast doubt on the Knicks willingness to offer him a max contract has also not yet been fully reported.

The Knicks traded Porzingis just before the one-year anniversary of the trade after he provided the front office with a 4-team list of teams where he preferred to be traded and threatened to rehab in Spain if not traded by the deadline. It appears that both sides were ready to move on, as the Knicks were considering offers for Porzingis before he officially made it clear that he wanted out of New York. Of course, it was no secret that Porzingis was unhappy, so the Knicks were not surprised by what they learned in the meeting requested by him and his brother before the trade.

The Porzingis trade didn’t alter the plan, it amplified it

Are the Knicks deviating from their plan or following it?

Sit here, children…plenty of room down in front. Take a pillow if you like. There’s juice boxes in the bin.

It’s story time.

Once upon a time there was an NBA team in a bit of a pickle. For starters, they weren’t very good. Over a 5-year stretch, they averaged 25 wins per season and didn’t sniff the playoffs. They’d gone through three coaches over that span of time, and even fired their president in the midst of all the losing. They also engaged in some of the most egregious spending of any team in the league, paying middling players far more than they were worth.

That this NBA team just so happens to be located in one of the league’s two major markets made all this spending that much worse.

Things got so bad; in fact, in order to gear up for a summer in which some of the league’s best players were going on the market, including arguably the very best player, they had to attach an asset to dump one of those horrendous contracts. Not just any asset either; an All-Star in his early 20’s was sent packing.

Maybe all of this shouldn’t have come as a surprise given the fact that the owner of the team was only running things because the owner’s father had built an empire that the owner stood to benefit from through nothing more than sheer genealogical luck.

Thankfully though, all was not lost. This team had a well-respected coach, one seemingly destined for success as a head man ever since he was an assistant for one of the most respected coaches in the league. They also had a bevy of young assets that by themselves weren’t much, but could easily grow into a positive supporting pieces or potential trade chips down the line.

Low and behold, come the summer that they’d been gearing up for – the one that the new front office had planned for, a plan they never once deviated from – they struck gold. No, they didn’t get the second piece they were hoping for, but it was only a matter of time until that came to fruition.

They got the guy that mattered.

Yeah, I know…there’s a lot of differences between the Knicks and the Lakers.

For one, Los Angeles is the most storied franchise in the NBA with an owner that has the namesake of a man who did it better than anyone. The Knicks, much to the chagrin of our collective superiority complex as New Yorkers, have won two championships in 73 years1 and have, if not the most derided owner in professional sports, one of the prime contenders.

The Knicks also just traded away someone who’s already been an All-Star, as opposed to D’Angelo Russell who only found himself once he got to Brooklyn. The ceiling on each player is not comparable, although neither is the risk. New York has also done a healthy amount of losing this year, unlike Los Angeles in 2017-18 season, but they also own their own draft pick, which LA did not.

Perhaps most notably, unlike the Lakers, New York still employs one of the men who has been here for almost all of this losing. For many fans, the mere presence of Steve Mills is enough to cast doubt on every action the Knicks take, simply because he has been involved in so many poor decisions in the past.

Yet it was Mills, along with general manager Scott Perry, who has stood before us so many times over the last 18 months and said, in different iterations, that for the first time maybe in their history as a franchise, the Knicks were going to build things “the right way” and “not skip any steps.”

Following the team trading away its best young player since Patrick Ewing, it would be easy to use these words as a “gotcha” moment. One could argue that this trade amounted to a dissolution of the right way and instead was a reversion back to the same way.

Same Old Knicks, that is.

Before we get to the logic of this assertion, let’s get two things out of the way:

  • The notion of using a young, All-Star level player – injury or no injury – as a mechanism to salary dump anyone, let alone one signed so recently by someone still running things, on its face, is abhorrent.
  • Whether it is 10%, 50% or 90%, the New York Knicks under this regime bear some responsibility for not being able to foster a stronger relationship with Kristaps Porzingis and2his people.

These two clouds hovering above all of this cannot be ignored, and the parties involved need to be held accountable. They certainly have been.

So yeah…what’s done is done, and it should be criticized appropriately. The question in front of us now is whether this trade somehow represents a deviation from the process this front office staked out from the onset, or does it simply put themselves in better position to follow it?

For many, the idea of opening up an ungodly amount of cap space in a summer that just so happens to represent a potential seismic shift in league power is the equivalent of putting all the chips into the middle of the table. I myself used this exact analogy when I first reacted to the trade last week. This, it would seem, is the opposite of “the right way” and instead amounts to betting little Suzy’s college fund on black.

Is it really, though?

Let’s start with an important distinction: for many organizations, building “the right way” means building slow and steady, and doing so through the draft. This is somewhat by default. Of the three methods for acquiring star players, 1.5 of them are closed off to many NBA teams.

The reality is that the Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings of the world are never going to get a meeting with a top-ten player. Moreover, trading for one is now also fraught with peril. Sure, you can get one for a period of time, and you might even get a Paul George to re-up unexpectedly. But this is the exception, not the rule, and with players exerting their power like never before, small market teams aren’t often going to trade a known asset for the mere chance at something greater.

Somewhere between 20 and 25 NBA teams operate in this reality. The rest – the Miami’s and LA’s of the world – get a buffet of all three options. The Knicks should be in this latter group, but are usually in the bathroom dry heaving when the food gets served. As a result, only once in their history have they been in position to get a plate and stand on line.

2010, of course, didn’t work out so well. Whether it was slumping James Dolan in his black turtleneck, Donnie Walsh in his neck brace, or the immortal Tony Soprano donning a beard, things didn’t go according to plan with LeBron.

Some people also mention 2016, when the team couldn’t get a meeting with Kevin Durant, but remember they a) had no cap space with which to make a signing because Phil Jackson had spent it on Joakim Noah3 and Courtney Lee and b) still employed Carmelo Anthony, who just so happened to play Durant’s position. They never had a chance at KD back then.

They do now.

There’s only about six or seven players who truly matter in the league at any given time, and KD damn near tops the list. Perhaps improving your odds to land such player seems like a prudent gamble to take.

Yeah but it’s the Knicks…who’s going to play for this joke of a franchise?

Look…we have no idea what motivates players. What we do know is the evidence that is reported. When Kyrie demanded a trade, New York was on his list. When Kawhi Leonard started making waves, New York was rumored to be a spot his people favored as well. When the Jimmy Butler saga started going down, he had the Knicks on his list, although later backtracked when it was clear they weren’t interested. And then just this week, Anthony Davis had New York right next to LA as a preferred landing spot.

For all of James Dolan faults and for all of the “dysfunction” surrounding the team, the Knicks keep landing on trade lists (and from recent reports, they do for more than just leverage). It’s why, from day one, opening up cap space was always part of the plan. It’s what you do when you have the luxury of playing in one of the NBA’s major markets and have all three player acquisition options open to you.

It’s why, even if there weren’t copious amounts of smoke billowing around New York and Durant’s free agency (something that never existed in 2010 with LeBron), if the Knicks failed to position themselves to make a run at him this summer because of what happened in 2010, it would be akin to taking a vow of celibacy after one date that ended in a spilled cocktail, the words “I don’t like you, in that way…like, at all,” and a hearty handshake4. It would, in short, be organizational negligence.

But isn’t trading away a potential franchise player just as bad?

In an ideal world, of course; but the Knicks aren’t operating in an ideal world. They’re operating in one where said potential franchise guy wanted to be here less than LeBron did in 2010.

Really, the trade comes down to this: as Zach Lowe noted on his recent podcast with Kevin Arnovitz, the Knicks are essentially wagering that a second max slot and a bevy of young players and draft assets, all of which can be used to acquire a third star, is more appealing to Kevin Durant than an unhappy Kristaps Porzingis and much less in the way of future picks to be used for deal-making5. I know which one I’m placing my bet on.

If Durant didn’t come, you’d still be stuck with an unhappy Unicorn, with the only way to possibly placate him being to start winning by any means necessary, even it meant signing a lesser player with all that cap space.

That’s skipping steps, and the opposite of building things the right way. It’s the opposite of sustainable. It’s the opposite of putting yourself in a position to compete for a championship. Most of all, it’s the opposite of patience.

Theoretically, if the Knicks whiff on KD and company this summer, they could simply sit free agency out, stocked with draft picks (perhaps Zion?!?!) and young players. AKA they could continue to rebuild in a slow and steady manner.

That it has since come out, courtesy of Marc Stein of the New York Times, that the Porzingis brothers requested a meeting with New York’s brass and threatened to leave the team and continue his rehab in Spain if he wasn’t traded to one of four teams by the deadline is almost besides the point, just like it’s besides the point that Porzingis could have effectively held the organization hostage – not the other way around – if he refused to sign a long-term deal come July.

No, the Knicks didn’t go all in; they merely diversified their risk portfolio. Keeping Porzingis, on the other hand…that would have been pushing all the chips into the middle of the table, and would have been doing so with a pair of sevens, a hope and a prayer.

Did they wish KP had bought in? Of course. Did they wish this trade was a move they never had to make? Almost certainly. But is it one they had to make if they indeed wanted to continue on the plan Scott Perry set out when he was hired? You betcha.

Again, there are three ways to build in the NBA: free agency, the draft and trades. Following the Porzingis deal, the Knicks have more cap space than any team in league history, seven first rounders over the next five years – including a likely top-five pick this season – and a bevy of young trade chips to rival any team outside of Boston or LA.

All of this, in a market that keeps coming up again…and again…and again, every time one of these big-name guys becomes available.

Does this mean things will work out as planned? Of course not. Hell, things didn’t even work out perfectly for the Lakers, who didn’t wind up needing the Mozgov money they unloaded with D’Angelo Russell to sign LeBron after all. But they played the odds. It’s what you do when you have an NBA team in one of these rare markets. New York keeping it’s doors open right now isn’t a deviation from the plan; it’s finally employing a plan they should have been using all along but never got out of their own way long enough to employ it.

Now they sit and wait.

Of course, if all the chatter surrounding KD and Kyrie turns out to be white noise, the Knicks brass will truly be put to the test. If they respond by inking non-stars to max deals instead of holding steady and waiting for the next moment to use their assets wisely, they would be publicly shamed, and rightly so. In that case, it would indeed be the Same Old Knicks to the nth degree, and yes, very much the wrong way to build a team.

If they do swing and miss though, and use all their cap space to take in some bad, one-year money to acquire more assets, then for the first time in maybe forever, we will know this talk of patience and sustainability is legit.

Time will tell which road we end up traveling. Most are expecting failure, and maybe it happens that way after all.

Or maybe, finally, a new story will get written this time around.

Did the Knicks do their due diligence on the KP trade?

It’s been a few days. That the Unicorn will now be hobbling flying over rainbows in the land of meat and cheese has officially sunk in. We will still be in our feelings for a while, but we’re Knicks fans, so we’re used to it.

There’s been a lot of he said/she said talk in the aftermath about who was actually more sick of who, but there are a couple of things we’ve become certain of over the last few days:

  1. Kristaps Porzingis didn’t really want to be a Knick (context on this in a bit);
  2. The Knicks have been desperately trying to clear cap space for a majority of this season, and not only was the asking price astronomical now, but according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, would only have gone up this summer;
  3. KP was apparently not ready to play with the Knicks holding him out against his will, or if he is ready to play, the Mavericks are taking the same approach; and
  4. There’s a chimney-full worth of smoke surrounding some combination of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis joining forces in Manhattan within the next six months

How at fault the Knicks were in letting Porzingis get so disenfranchised with the organization can and will be debated for some time, but it isn’t really pertinent to this particular conversation. The same goes for whether the Knicks would have been better served swallowing hard, keeping KP past the deadline, and calling his bluff by offering him a massive sum of money in July and daring him not to take it.

What can’t be debated is this: the upcoming summer and the names that will define it have combined to form a dome under which all of the NBA currently operates. It must, at the very least, frame our conversation about the trade New York just pulled off – arguably the most significant one in the team’s history – in this sense: can we really fault them for prioritizing cap space as the most significant asset they wanted back in the Porzingis trade?

Let’s put aside, for a moment, that one of the contracts they needed to move was one that Steve Mills himself inked just a year and a half ago. For as bad as the optics on this are, it would have been even worse if he had bitten his nose to spite his face and held onto Timmy in an effort to prove the contract was a wise expenditure of money. At least he recognized it for what it was: a bit of a disaster.

Now, Hardaway Jr. is gone, along with Courtney Lee, Trey Burke and KP’s relatively large cap hold. All told, the Knicks cap space for the upcoming summer more than doubled. Add on top of that the fact that they acquired two future first round picks which allow them to potentially acquire a star via trade, and the Knicks are well-positioned to go big game hunting.

If they hit, it’s a massive, massive win. If they don’t, the first question that should be asked is whether, instead of cap space and picks, they could have garnered a stronger return in the form of players and/or more picks in trading their own star player.

It’s not a discussion we need to have yet…not until the July feeding frenzy is over. Whether this was this even the best cap-clearing deal they could have gotten, however, is more than valid. According to SI’s Chris Mannix, there’s reason to wonder:

Before we answer the question of whether they got the best deal, we have to look at what they dealt away.

Strictly speaking, Kristaps Porzingis was a distressed asset. He was an asset with massive, massive upside, but was distressed nonetheless due to several factors. For one, he had a checkered injury history, including the most recent one which now seems like it will keep him out for the better part of 18 months. On top of that, there is a looming contract deadline that could get messy – more on that in a second.

There are other minor concerns about his game and feasibility in a league where defensive versatility becomes more valuable by the hour6, but even putting those aside, there was reason to be skeptical that some treasure chest of picks and players awaited the Knicks in return for the grumpy gimpy gifted Latvian, at least not if the Knicks wanted to clear their books in the process.

What else was out there?

With all this as the backdrop, there were some other potential trade partners, ones able to take on all the salary New York wanted to dump and send back unwanted expiring money in return2.

Just not as many as you might think: Atlanta, both Los Angeles teams, Denver, Brooklyn, Chicago, Indiana and Sacramento is the entire list.

Now let’s add another layer: any acquiring team had to worry about doing the qualifying offer dance with Porzingis if he didn’t care to stick around. According to ESPN’s report, that’s one factor that scared off the Pelicans.

While there’s no way to know for sure, but given KP’s apparent distaste for organizational strife and/or losing, it would seem logical to believe he wouldn’t want to sign long-term with Sacramento, Atlanta or Chicago for one or both of those reasons. What would have made a deal with any of these three even less likely is that they all probably would have balked at sending over the young player the Knicks would have requested back – Lauri Markkanen or Wendell Carter Jr. from the Bulls, Marvin Bagley from the Kings and John Collins from the Hawks.

Even with the KP flight risk, Atlanta probably would have been cool with giving up Taurean Prince, but New York would have then asked for either the Dallas 2019 top-five protected pick or Atlanta’s own 2020 pick with very light protections. You could have argued a trade package like this would have been on par with what the Knicks got if Prince had taken a step forward this season, but that hasn’t been the case. Not only has he regressed a bit, but he’s a year closer to restricted free agency than DSJ. Unless the Hawks were willing to give up the ’20 pick without protections – hard to see given the fact that Atlanta is sure to be terrible next year as well – it’s tough to see this trade beating what the Knicks got.

We can also cross the Lakers off the list, as such a transaction would have taken them out of the Anthony Davis sweepstakes, which would equate to Magic Johnson and LeBron James each conceding defeat. Ha.

That leaves Indiana, the Clippers, Denver and Brooklyn.

I doubt the Clippers would have given up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander straight up for KP given what he’s shown so far in his rookie year, but they definitely weren’t giving him up and taking back all of New York’s contracts, thus putting a crimp in their own notable summer plans, so cross them off too.

Denver has won five in a row and is back atop the Western Conference with Paul Millsap back playing a big role. He theoretically could have been the centerpiece of a trade with other young players coming back to make the money work, but those pieces – Trey Lyles, Juan Hernangomez and Michael Porter Jr. to name three – are players Denver likes, as opposed to Dennis Smith Jr., who the Mavs were clearly out on. This makes it less likely the Nuggets would have thrown in picks as well.

The real reason that this deal wasn’t going to happen is that, as we now know, Porzingis is unlikely to see the court this year. A Conference Finals appearance would mean everything to the Nuggets, and without Millsap, they’d have no chance.

Brooklyn is fascinating, just from this simple perspective: would James Dolan ever sign off on a move that sent his young star to the crosstown not-quite-rivals? It would have been a long shot, as the Nets would have needed to include newly-minted All-Star D’Angelo Russell to make the money work. Lose your best player in the middle of a playoff run, clog your own cap, and help out the Knicks in the process?

It’s a stretch. As Stefan Bondy reported earlier this season, the Nets were enamored with Porzingis. They’re also smart enough to know that Russel’s value will likely never be higher than it is right now. Perhaps most importantly, even with Lee and Timmy, they still could have had a boatload of money and maneuver towards max space in July.

The question – assuming Dolan would have stomached such a trade – then becomes whether it would have been a better deal for the Knicks than what they got.

For starters, there’s zero chance the Nets are ever sending out another unprotected pick as long as we all shall live. And who can blame them.

Even putting that aside, it would have been tough to see the acquisition of Russell working out well for New York. If they landed the max guys they seek, Russell’s cap hold gets vanquished and the Knicks have no player or pick to show for themselves in the deal. If New York struck out, they’d be left having to sign Russell to a hefty extension just to save face. They could then continue the slow and steady rebuild with an objectively worse “best” player – albeit one without any qualms with the organization – and far less cap space moving forward. It’s close, but it’s safe to say the deal they got trumps either scenario.

Last but not least is Indiana, which is maybe the most interesting of all.

Indianapolis doesn’t seem like KP’s kind of town, but they’re among the most well-run franchise in the NBA, which we know he craves. They’re also always in the playoffs, so there’s at least a chance KP would have given them a real shot at retaining his services.

The biggest issue here is that the Pacers are not an organization that tanks, so despite Oladipo going down for the year, it’s doubtful they would have included several expiring salaries as if they had no on-court value. The most likely combination would have been Thad Young, Tyreke Evans, Cory Joseph and Kyle O’Quinn, with the Knicks putting Noah Vonleh in the deal instead of Trey Burke as a Young replacement for Indy.

That just leaves the small matter of the young player the Knicks would get back in return. Aaron Holiday hasn’t played much in his young career – he’s averaging just 11 minutes a game – but he’s been good when he’s seen the court. You could argue that he’s the better prospect than Smith Jr., although the latter seems to have more of the skill set David Fizdale desires.

Then there’s the matter of draft compensation. Indiana has had some bad luck dealing away picks in the past – Kawhi Leonard and Caris LeVert were both taken with their selections – so it’s unclear just how willing they would have been to include any in the deal, let alone two.

Would the Pacers have entertained putting Domas Sabonis on the table? It doesn’t seem like something Indiana would do, but if they were, they certainly weren’t including picks as well.

So there you have it. If the Knicks swing and miss in July, we’ll have to come back and revisit whether there were any possible straight-up deals for someone else’s young stud or studs without any salary going out. Until then though, in these uncertain times, Knicks fans should rest assured that in this one, in this narrow framing of the entire Porzingis fiasco, they probably did as well as they were going to do.

The Kristaps Porzingis Trade Postmortem

Almost one year ago to the day (and two blogs ago for me personally) I wrote a story the day after Kristaps Porzingis went down with a torn ACL.

My message was clear. Although there was no silver lining to the injury, the Knicks should use their misfortune as an opportunity to do something they otherwise would have been unable to: repair the relationship with their fallen star, one that the previous regime had sullied. I proposed that when July 1, 2018 came around, New York’s brass should have approached Porzingis at midnight – torn ACL and all – with a max contract extension that would have kept the Unicorn in blue and orange well into the prime of his career.

Continue reading →

On This Date: Knicks win Double OT MLK thriller

January 18th 2016: The New York Knicks defeat the Philadelphia 76ers in a double overtime Martin Luther King Day thriller

The New York Knicks perhaps didn’t expect a MLK Day matinee against the five win Philadelphia 76ers to extend into double overtime. The Knicks held a 18 point lead in the 3rd quarter. However, the Philadelphia 76ers clawed back into the game, led by Ish Smith, Robert Covington & Nerlens Noel to tie the game and took a 96-93 lead with 3.4 seconds left in the 4th quarter.

Carmelo Anthony came to the rescue by connecting on a three pointer to tie the game. The game went into double overtime, but the Knicks, led by Langston Galloway and Robin Lopez, took charge in the period to get the 119-113 victory.

Melo played more than 49 minutes on a sore ankle, but had a respectable statline of 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. He struggled from the field (7-28), but had the pivotal three before the end of regulation. Arron Afflalo led the Knicks with 25 points. Kristaps Porzingis had a double double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, but left the game in the 4th quarter with a right foot injury.

The win brought the Knicks to a 19-11 record on MLK Day.

Navigating the Kristaps Porzingis news cycle

When the Ian O’Connor piece on James Dolan came out last month, it didn’t tell Knicks fans anything they didn’t already know.

At least not the ones that have been paying attention.

Dolan is, by all accounts, a flawed man. He’s clearly stubborn about a lot of things, including the righteousness of his own decision-making, which is perhaps the worst thing of all that a person can be stubborn about. His, shall we say, “unique” persona, has resulted in a working environment that has been painted as anywhere from uncomfortable to unbearable.

In the O’Connor piece, the term “culture of fear” was used. Later in the article, there was mention of a program designed to enhance the workplace experience for Garden employees – an implicit acknowledgement that said environment needed some TLC. Howard Beck used the word “tense” to describe the atmosphere around the franchise during our conversation earlier this season, and I got the sense he was being kind.

Again, none of this is news.

What is impossible to know, and what has tortured Knicks fans more than any single trade, signing, or game that has occurred during Dolan’s tenure, is just how much any of this matters.

The issue is that we’re not dealing with Amazon or Apple here. As long as we get our Christmas orders on time and our iPhones last their requisite two years before turning into fancy paperweights, we don’t care whether Jeff Bezos or Tim Cook is an unconscionable douche.

Sports are different. The output isn’t a product; it is a group of humans working together to achieve a discernible task. If the well is poisoned, that task becomes more difficult. This much is clear. What isn’t clear is the butterfly effect that poor ownership creates. If James Dolan yells at a subordinate on a Monday morning, the Knicks don’t necessarily get blown out at home on Tuesday night3.

The answer was a lot easier when Dolan was stepping into the basketball ops side of things and sticking his nose where it didn’t belong. Since he’s allegedly stopped doing that (and by all accounts, he has), we’re left to guess what effect, if any, the “maybe terrible, maybe just-not-great” working environment at the Garden has had on the team itself.

On one hand, we have some evidence that the answer is “none.” Putting a certain former power forward aside, seemingly every former Knick, including those who have played while Dolan has owned the team, has nice things to say upon their return. Many even work for the club. The organization has been undone by various bouts of incompetence over the years far more than any internal, organizational strife.

Regarding the current group, Rebecca Haarlow – someone who has covered team sports for over a decade – told me last week that the positivity around the team was “special” and that she’s never seen an energy like the one surrounding this group of players. Haarlow is an MSG employee, so take her words with a grain of salt if you must, but they seem to be fairly bold to not have at least a few layers of truth.

The group of players currently on the court isn’t the issue though; it’s the 7’3” elephant in the room that’s still working his way back – the one for whom there is more at stake in terms of the historical significance of his career than the rest of the roster combined2. Kristaps Porzingis is (justifiably) weighing where he is going to spend the prime of his career, and whether this organization can give him the opportunity to make good on his otherworldly talents.

His leanings in this regard should be the franchise’s top concern. Say what you want about his durability, but teams draft for decades without landing a generational talent the likes of Porzingis. Some teams in the NBA have never gotten so lucky.

Now, with July 1 a mere six months away, every Knicks fan is trying their best to read the tea leaves on where KP’s thinking is at. Specifically, we’re left wondering how much the aforementioned Garden culture affects him, if at all. The problem is that the primary conveyers of this information also happen to be the group that has been disenfranchised by James Dolan more than any other: the local media.

Two weeks ago, Steve Mills held a press conference for reporters, and the Daily News’ Stefan Bondy’s invitation got lost in the mail. Coincidentally, this happened immediately following the News splashing a drawing of Dolan on the back page under the headline “DO IT!” (as in, sell the team) in response to O’Connor’s article. Just as coincidentally, last week, Bondy caused minor waves when he wrote a piece about KP’s free agency that included the following line:

At this point, the question isn’t just whether the Knicks should offer Porzingis a max contract but also whether he should sign one. Because the word on Porzingis is that he loves New York but is skeptical about the Knicks. And who wouldn’t be?

“The word on Porzingis…”

What is a fan supposed to do with that? Is this reporting? Theorizing? Somewhere in between? Say what you will about Bondy, but he wouldn’t write it if there wasn’t some truth to it, somewhere, from someone. But how much is of his “report” is influenced by the events of the previous few weeks, not to mention the antagonistic relationship that has existed between the Garden and the press corps going back well over a decade?

It’s not just the Daily News either. Ian Begley, who I think most Knicks fans would consider a credible source on the Knicks’ beat, also alluded to the fact that re-signing KP isn’t a guaranteed fact when he wrote, “The smart money says the Knicks and Porzingis will reach an agreement this summer, but it’s foolish to see that transaction as a sure thing.

Bleacher Report’s Yaron Weitzman – who hasn’t been barred from any press conferences that we know of – followed up Bondy’s article with this nugget:

Even if this is reliable reporting (and there’s no reason to believe it isn’t), it brings us back to the original question: should we care? Maybe, maybe not.

We’ve all had bosses we think are dicks, but that doesn’t always equate to a poor experience as an employee. To this day, my favorite job is the one I had during high school where I was a car runner for Bay Ridge Lexus3.

My boss – who also happened to be my dad – was an unconscionable ball-buster, especially with me. But he was only in the service shop for an hour or so a day and he never really bothered me. His employees feared him, but they worked on commission, and nothing he did effected their bread, which was all that really mattered.

How different is an NBA team? Maybe it’s not that different at all. Porzingis could think the treatment of reporters is completely unfair and feel bad for fearful Garden employees but still embrace being the face of the franchise because he knows if he ever won a ring here, he’d be draped in sports immortality for the rest of his life.

It’s also entirely possible he looks around every day and questions whether such an operation could ever put it all together to the point of reaching the ultimate goal. He could view the presser incident as the equivalent of a grown man pulling a “you can’t come to my birthday party because you laughed when I tripped and fell in gym class”-level move and exponentially increase the pace at which he plots his exit strategy.

Or he might not care in the slightest. We just don’t know.

What we do know is that the organization, for all its faults, has seemingly done everything humanly possible to make sure Porzingis feels like he is at the center of all of their plans, from talking him up every chance they get, to sending the head coach to spend a week in his home country, to something as silly as putting him at the head of the table in this ridiculous cartoon:

We haven’t heard any reporting – or even guessing – about whether any of these efforts have made a difference to the man and his camp. Is that because the people who would normally be giving us this information are less than inclined to seek positive angles on this particular subject? Or is it simply due to the fact that the Knicks themselves haven’t made KP available for interviews since camp opened?

Around and around we go. At the end of the day, parsing through what is and isn’t real is a fool’s errand. What KP feels about the Knicks – both on and off the court – is anyone’s guess, but to think he’s sold to the point of simply acquiescing to the organization’s desires is silly. It’s why the idea that he would sign a five-year max extension with injury protections is more than a little wishful thinking.

Do you lay out the red carpet and forgo any semblance of negotiation? No…you still make your pitch. But it should be far closer to a Home Run Derby soft toss than one made in October with a man on third. At the end of the day, Bondy is right4. There’s nothing stopping KP from holding fast at a three-year deal with a player option for the fourth season. The Knicks should want to guarantee him for every minute of five full years.

Which one ends up happening may finally give us the answer as to just how much the players do or don’t mind whatever is or isn’t happening on the inside of the Garden’s walls.

Until then, we sit, and we wait, combing for scraps of information and then deciding whether they mean a damn thing.

Such is life as a Knicks fan.

Kristaps Porzingis is progressing, but his return is not imminent

Ten months after Kristaps Porzingis fell to the Garden floor with a torn ACL in his left knee, the team has announced that he is making progress in his rehabilitation, but a return date is not imminent.

The full statement from the team is below:

Kristaps Porzingis underwent recent evaluation by the team’s medical/training/performance staff.  The evaluation confirmed that Kristaps’ knee is healing well, and he has made good progress with rehabilitation. Once he reaches the remaining rehab benchmarks, he will advance to on-court team drills and activities.  He will be re-evaluated in mid-February. 

Mid-February will mark the one-year anniversary of Porzingis’ injury. The timetable for players returning from ACL injuries tends to be in the 12-month range; however, each case is different, and with Kristaps Porzingis truly a unicorn in body type, it is difficult to evaluate his injury in comparison to others.

We learned from one of KP’s Comeback videos in June how the plan from the beginning was to take it slow with his recovery process, as his own fitness coach recognized that his body mechanics need to improve to reduce the risk of future injuries.

Steve Mills provided additional detail on Porzingis’ recovery at a press conference with reporters before the medical update was released.

“What he’s done is he’s progressed to the point where he’s able to do some one-on-one,” Mills said, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. “Actually work on the court with our coaches. There’s still some benchmarks that we need to look at to see when he could move to the next phase of his on-court development, on-court progression. But he’s at the point now where he’s able to do 45-minute sessions on the floor with our coaches to go through a bunch of on-court activities.”

There is ongoing debate by basketball observers on whether it is prudent to bring back Porzingis at all this season.

Some fans would prefer they take it slow with the budding superstar and let the team’s record fall where it may in the lottery standings without him.

Others believe it makes sense to have him return, at least for a short stint of games, in order to prove to potential free agents that he is healthy and ready to team up with another star to become a competitive force in the Eastern Conference, although when Mills was asked about this point in today’s press conference, he said it was not part of the consideration.

If Kristaps Porzingis meets the necessary benchmarks during his reevaluation in mid-February, I would expect it will still take some time for him to actually return to the court, so it’s safe to say that we probably won’t see #6 on the Garden floor until March, the earliest.

 

Porzingis wanted Ntilikina in the starting lineup last season

Frank Ntilikina is in a battle with the current coaching staff over playing time, but apparently he had a high-ranking player fighting for when he should have played last season.

According to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, Kristaps Porzingis was among a small group of players who asked Jeff Hornacek to start Ntilikina at point guard last season. Frank ended up only starting 9 games, and now Hornacek is gone.

Under new coach David Fizdale, despite his recent string of DNPs, Frank has started 14 games already. The French guard has nearly identical shooting numbers whether he starts or comes off the bench (~35%), but it’s his defensive prowess, and fit with Porzingis, that makes a difference.

The Knicks played to a +4.4 rating when Porzingis shared the court with Nitlikina last season, compared to a -1.6 rating when Porzingis played without the 2017 lottery pick. Knicks fans have missed the duo in the pick-and-roll defense this season.

Ntilikina finally found playing time against Brooklyn, after spending the last three games on the bench. He helped spur a Knicks comeback that fell short. When asked after the game if Frank would see more time against Charlotte, Fizdale indicated that he needed to watch the film before making a decision.

On This Date: Knicks beat the Nets and Robin Lopez outduels his brother

December 4, 2015: In a battle of the Lopez brothers, Robin beats Brook as the New York Knicks beat the Brooklyn Nets 108-91 in MSG.

In an ESPN-televised broadcast5, the Knicks went on a three point barrage to beat the Nets in a wire-to-wire victory. The Knicks scored 42 points in the 1st quarter to build a 21 point lead that proved insurmountable to the Nets. The win put the Knicks at a 10-10 record to start the season. Continue reading →