The Knicks were PUMMELED this off season, on Twitter and by the sports media elite, when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signed with Brooklyn. Two things seem to have happened:
- Durant’s achilles injury made the Knicks have second thoughts, and not pursue him strongly since he’ll be 32 the next time he plays 1.5 years from now, and Kyrie Irving‘s stock has taken a hit this last year as he poisoned another clubhouse (Boston’s)
- It is now coming out that Durant and Irving started to have second thoughts about the Knicks midway through the 2018-19 season as they were putrid on the court with no sense of identity or direction, while the Nets were getting better and better. This is an indictment on David Fizdale as coach, and the Knicks management team.
- Even later information — coming in after this article was initially published — suggest Durant’s decision wasn’t easy and may have come at the last minute, and also that Kyrie Irving heavily influenced his decision — they are great friends. One might imagine the Knicks probably never gave Kyrie strong signals during the season that they really wanted him, which (along with the Nets winning) may have caused Kyrie to lean to Brooklyn. There was still a good chance Durant would join the Knicks but the achilles injury happened and then the Knicks interest in him waned.
Like everything else in life, it was probably some combination of all of the above.
More Bad News
On top of that, Anthony Davis, who had requested a trade to either NY or LA, was traded to the Lakers, reportedly because they had more assets to offer than the Knicks. It was also reported by ESPN’s Zach Lowe that league execs are collectively down on Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, and Dennis Smith Jr.
After finishing with by-far the worst record, they didn’t get the 1st pick the vaunted Zion Williamson. They whiffed on all the major free agents. The media says it’s all James Dolan’s fault and no top free agents want to play for NY.
They then went about and used their 2-max-slot contract space to sign a number of good-not-great players. Some called them role players. They were castigated for this — for example Bill Simmons said, “Any smart front office would have signed Randle and then kept the other 60m open to become a way station for bad contracts over signing 5 role players to 1 and 1 deals. They aren’t trading those guys for anything other than 2nd rounders. Congratulations dumbasses.”
The Good News
Here’s the good news:
- A lot of the above is nonsense. For example, regarding the Bill Simmons comment — when Durant went down with the achilles, the Knicks seemed to have set their sights on Greek Freak. This seems the right decision since no other free agent this summer or next a greatest of all time type. In fact, even before the achilles injury, I was worried the Knicks were going to lay all their hopes on a 31-35 year old Durant when the guy you really want right now is Greek Freak, 24 yrs old now and will be 26 when he’s a free agent. The bad contracts that Simmons says the Knicks should have been “a way-station for” would have to be contracts that ran out in 2 yrs. And those players would only serve as a distraction.
- The Knicks KEPT Mitchell Robinson, their young star who has sky-is-the-limit ceiling, instead of trading him in a deal for Anthony Davis. Knicks fans get to see if Robinson — who is “our guy” picked by “our GM” in the 2nd round — can achieve that ceiling. It will be FUN to watch if he does.
- The Knicks nabbed RJ Barrett as the #3 pick in the draft. A year ago today, he was expected to be the #1 pick in the draft, before Zion Williamson had his spectacular season. And PS: there are many worries about Zion’s weight (285 lbs on a 6’4.5″ frame) and if he’ll withstand the rigors of the NBA season at that weight. And.. god forbid what if he gains 20 lbs over the next few years? He’s 19 yrs old — people gain weight in their 20s.
- In free agency, they went “Money Ball” — instead of putting max money on very good but not elite players, they signed players like Bobby Portis — 6’11, 24 yrs old, who shot 40% from 3 last year and averaged 14 ppg — to lesser contracts that run out in 2 years so they can make that run at Greek Freak.
- Maybe the biggest news of the offseason has been almost completely ignored by major media, as always — the Knicks promoted their Westchester G League coach Mike Miller to David Fizdale’s assistant coaching team. Miller has 25 years experience, was in the San Antonio system, and has led Westchester to the playoffs 2 straight years, winning G League Coach of the Year in 2017-2018. He could become Fizdale’s secret sauce this year, organizing the defense.
The Knicks Current Roster
C: Mitchell Robinson, Taj Gibson
PF: Julius Randle, Bobby Portis
SF: RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Ignas Brazdeikis
SG: Reggie Bullock, Damyean Dotson, Wayne Ellington, Allonzo Trier
PG: Dennis Smith Jr., Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina
Good Things About the Knicks Heading Into 2019-20 Season
As we go into summer league and then the 2019-20 season, Knick fans are looking at this:
- Knicks have Mitchell Robinson and RJ Barrett on this team. That by itself could make this team extremely fun to watch — a possible nucleus for sustained winning for the next 10 years.
- Scott Perry seems to be a very good GM.
- Allonzo Trier is fun, fun, fun to watch score, score, score (and play pretty decent defense). He’s also working on his passing.
- Mike Miller joining the assistant coaching team could be the big event of the off season and make the Knicks a better defensive team
- The Knicks have a bunch of good “money ball” players and shooters like Bobby Portis.
- The Knicks have much roster flexibility and could go after a healthy, 24-yrs-old-now, 26-yrs-old-in-2-yrs Giannis Antetokounmpo. And if you think he will never play in NY with Milwaukee being so good — think again. The notion that free agents don’t want to play in NY is nonsense. Look at Anthony Davis and the extension he signed to stay in New Orleans — how did that work out? NY is still NY, and almost all players who have played for James Dolan speak highly of the guy. (Except Charles Oakley who is an abusive drunk).
- The Knicks may have dodged a bullet by not signing Durant, who seems to be a very contrary guy — besides the achilles and age factor, and Kyrie, who has destroyed the last two locker rooms he’s been a part of. Maxim summed up several reports that say Durant was unhappy playing with Steph Curry! Durant and Kyrie are never happy. Can they be happy together? Not to mention, according to the NY Post: ““Kyrie has been plagued by bouts of knee soreness and pain dating to the 2015 playoffs. He missed the 2018 playoffs and required a pair of surgeries after the screws in his left knee had caused an infection””. Before it was announced that Durant chose Brooklyn, I tweeted this: “The worst might be: Knicks sign Durant, who is never quite the same dominant player age 32-36 after the achiles. Golden State signs Greek Freak in 2 yrs .”
- Still not sold on Fizdale as a coach. He seems to be a good Developmental coach but not a good head coach who can institute a defensive system and give the team an identity. If Miller is his secret sauce this year, the Knicks management (Scott Perry) will need to assess how much of it was Fizdale, & how much of it was the secret sauce. Knick fans wouldn’t want to lose another great assistant coach. Look what Toronto did w Nick Nurse.
- Steve Mills — have never liked or trusted this guy, based on his public interviews and personna. He’s the one who hired that disaster of a marketing VP Anuka Brown Sanders, and then botched her firing. He was the one who signed Tim Hardaway Jr before he had a GM in place, causing David Griffin to turn around at the airport. Steve Mills may be the one turning the free agents off. If James Dolan can be faulted as an owner — it is his decisions to keep people around the organization that may not be the best person for the job.
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