4 Reasons Why Knicks Fans Should Be Really Really Happy Right Now
Ugh, the Knicks, amiright? How much worse could things get? A friend of mine paid $230 so that he and his girlfriend could sit in the nosebleeds and watch them get absolutely demolished by the Portland Trailblazers on Tuesday. In a season where they do not have a first-round draft pick because they traded it for a guy who, two years later, isn't good enough at basketball to play professionally, the Knicks have less than a .1% chance of making the playoffs. They suck and their fans are miserable, partly because the team sucks, but mostly because they're sick of being miserable because the team sucks.
It's an awful cycle of abuse.
Aside from the possibility of a blockbuster trade or Kristaps Porzingis growing three feet over the summer, there's not much to be happy about at MSG these days. That's why I've put on my optimist hat and listed four legitimate reasons for Knicks fans to put down the bottle, then put down the bottle in their other hand, and look the horizon with a smile on their faces.
Things aren't that bad. Here's why...
4) The Knicks are no longer ruled by a moronic despot.
Phil Jackson has done a lot of good things in his three years as president of basketball operations -- Porzingis, clearing cap space, signing Lance Thomas -- but he's hardly been perfect. Both Jose Calderon and Robin Lopez have proven too ineffectual to have warranted the lengthy, expensive deals they were given, and his proprietary offense has looked like an outdated approach to a game that has changed significantly since the Lakers won using it in 2010. Then there's the whole Derek Fisher thing, which seemed like a terrible idea when Phil picked him to be head coach and turned out to be a terrible idea because he was, in fact, a terrible head coach. Otherwise, Phil's been pretty damn good.
But the best thing Phil Jackson has done as a member of the New York Knicks front office has nothing to do with basketball. Phil's greatest contribution has been taking the reigns from James Dolan, proving that the guy writing the checks isn't quite as much like Napoleon as we may have suspected. The sheer fact that Phil's presence coincides with James Dolan's disappearance from the public eye (he's rarely seen at games anymore) means that Dolan -- who forced the Carmelo trade and thwarted the one that would've landed Kyle Lowry -- can and will let the basketball experts do their jobs. That was not the case over the last 10 seasons, when Dolan had his hands on the team's controls like a drunk businessman on a flight attendant's buttcheeks.
Be happy that your franchise isn't run by a malignant psychopath. A dummy, yes, but not Cthulhu.
3) Kristaps Porzingis was a vastly better draft pick than their other options.
Reminding Knicks fans about Kristaps Porzingis' promising future is like consoling your grieving friend by saying, "Hey man, sorry about your grandma dying and everything, but at least she's leaving you a bunch of money." They know KP is the real deal; that just doesn't do much in terms of cheering up fans while their still reeling from yet another losing season. If anything, dwelling on Porzingis' upside only highlights how pathetic the Knicks' current situation actually is, where the best thing they've got is a 20-year-old perimeter shooter who's been mediocre from behind the arc.
That's like Burger King shareholders getting excited about their surprisingly delicious new line of hot dogs. Woo freakin' hoo.
But look at this way: had the Knicks hitched their wagon to any other rookie -- aside from Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor (who weren't even available by the time they drafted) -- this season would've looked exponentially worse. Comparing Porzingis' first season to that of the five players selected after him shows just how lucky the Knicks got with this pick. In fact, until D'Angelo Russell's 39-point game against the Grizzlies on Tuesday, he was looking like a bit of a question mark going forward. Had Russell played the way he's played this season as a Knick -- which was their preference -- Knicks fans would be watching Kristaps Porzingis putback highlights and crying about what could've been.
For measure, here's how Porzingis stacks up against the players New York could've drafted with the fourth pick. It's not even close. Consider yourselves lucky.
2) Carmelo Anthony is getting better by getting worse.
Wanna know what an ego check looks like on a basketball court? Here ya go...
Carmelo Anthony has built his Hall of Fame career trying to singlehandedly win basketball games, which tells you one of two things about his priorities. Either Melo believes so strongly in his own abilities that he thinks he can win a championship without playing defense, passing the ball, or acknowledging the fact that he can't dunk over anyone; or that he doesn't care about winning championships. Unfortunately, if you're going to have the ball in your hands as much as Carmelo expects, you can't be as one-dimensional as he's been (at least if you want to win games, which he does, because duh). Luckily, Melo's done exactly that this season, posting career highs in rebounds and assists to make up for his worst scoring season since 2004. He's even leading the team in three statistical categories, which is insane. The takeaway? The worse Carmelo becomes at being Carmelo, the better he becomes at playing basketball.
BONUS: A humbled Carmelo Anthony who passes and rebounds and defends is a more compelling teammate for potential free agents.
1) In two years, the Knicks will be loaded.
I know that sounds crazy right now, seeing as the team's best player will be 33 and they don't have a lottery pick in June, but hear me out. Even in the (very likely) event that the Knicks strikeout in free agency this offseason -- when they'll have enough cap space to give someone a max contract -- they'll still have the option to suck and snag a lottery pick in 2017's draft. That's the advantage of having only one average player (Lopez) and two excellent players (Melo, KP) under long-term contracts: you'll lose enough to draft high, but the kids you draft don't have to play like All-Stars to dramatically improve the team. Just look at how Harrison Barnes helped the Warriors in 2012-13.
Pair the draft pick with a free agent signing, and you start to see why the 2017-18 Knicks will be exciting.
Once again, I know the prospect of suffering through a fourth consecutive season of shitty basketball doesn't sound fun, but consider the alternative. The Knicks sign someone like Bradley Beal to a huge deal this summer, they make the playoffs as a six-seed next year, draft a middling talent with the 17th pick, then enter 2017's young, star-studded free agency period without enough cap room to sign anyone. Is that really what you want?
But if they don't upgrade this offseason, in two years, the Knicks will have an All-Star Kristaps Porzingis, a humbled Carmelo Anthony who no longer pretends that he can drive on rim defenders, a lottery pick AND enough cap space to sign at least two of the following players: Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyle Lowry, Gordon Hayward, Dennis Schroder, Rudy Gobert and potentially Kevin Durant (if he decides to sign a one-year deal this offseason ahead of the cap increase). That's the position you want to be in...and it's very possible. So keep your chin up, Knicks fans. Building a championship roster isn't a track meet, it's a marathon -- so take solace in knowing that the pain you're feeling only means you're getting closer to the finish line.
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