The (No) Good, Bad and Ugly of Life as a Knicks Fan

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Matthew Frankle, Maroon-News Staff

         NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum drew a subtle smile, as he announced that the New York Knicks would be selecting eighth in the 2020 NBA Draft, dropping two picks below their projected sixth slot on Thursday Aug. 20. This was especially devastating given the 2020 draft is considered very thin in top-end talent, but having the opportunity to select a top prospect like LaMelo Ball could have brought some excitement back to Madison Square Garden.

         The best thing that we have going for us right now is hope, but that hope is now more sheer desperation. Our disappointment over not receiving a top pick this year pales in comparison to the offseason before, where we had jersey swaps ready for Zion Williamson, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving ready to take over the Garden.

Last season began the same way this offseason did, with Tatum drawing the same subtle smile when he announced that the Knicks would be picking third, missing out on Williamson and the eventual Rookie of the Year Ja Morant. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, a fellow Knicks fan, said it was “the equivalent of being kidnapped, stored in a basement, being tortured and then they let you out when you have no use to anybody.”

Once Free Agency began, the pain only intensified when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving decided to sign with the Brooklyn Nets, which was the biggest slap in the face possible to Knicks fans. Their decision left us completely empty-handed, while our neighbors, who have a fraction of the fan-base, added two superstars. Just like that, all the edits, all the dreams and all of the rosters with Zion, KD and Kyrie for the Knicks in NBA 2K were gone.

While we have experienced plenty of false hope out of desperation, we have experienced our fair share of poor basketball on the court. The Knicks last made the playoffs in 2013, a playoff drought only exceeded by the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns. Since then, the Knicks have employed seven different head coaches, which is the most in the NBA. In fact, when the Knicks were being blown out last season, which was often, it was so bad that the social media team would not even post the score.

Our exposure to bad basketball goes back much farther, however. Over the course of the last 20 years, the Knicks have the worst win percentage in the NBA, only making the playoffs five times and winning a playoff series only once. Since 2001, the only Knicks to make an All-Star team are David Lee, Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Kristaps Porzingis (I’ll talk about him later), with Melo being the only player to make it more than once. The Knicks have been lacking the superstar power that would fill the Garden every night.

When I mentioned earlier that the Knicks have the worst record since 2000, that is significant because James Dolan took ownership of the team in 1999, and his refusal to accept any criticism from prominent Knicks figures without causing controversy has made an enemy out of New York and national media, as well as Knicks fans. On Feb. 8, 2017, in a game against the Clippers, Dolan ejected Charles Oakley, a prominent and successful Knick from the 90s and critic of Dolan. He then baselessly claimed in a statement that Oakley may have a drug or alcohol problem.

This season, on a night that should have been remembered as a thrilling win (yes, A WIN), against the Houston Rockets, Dolan escalated a controversy with Spike Lee, who is a fixture courtside at games, for refusing to let him in the employee entrance that he usually enters. Instead of apologizing to or quietly moving on with one of their most loyal fans, the Knicks (Dolan) released a statement calling the idea of Lee being a victim “laughable.”

While the pain of life as a Knicks fan starts with James Dolan, it is not limited to him. Steve Mills, who was recently demoted from his role as president of basketball operations, organized a surprise press conference after a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. With the team at 2-8, he said he had expected the team to play better, which is a delusional thought because of the moves he made. Steve Mills will be mostly remembered for trading Kristaps Porzingis, who was supposed to be the Knicks’ future star. With Porzingis’ relationship with the Knicks fractured, he successfully forced a trade with the Dallas Mavericks for two first round picks that likely are not going to have much value because the Mavericks have a bright future, as well as expiring contracts and Dennis Smith Jr., who has busted with the Knicks. The light return the Knicks received for a young all-star talent has left the Knicks with a roster void of talent, and it looks like one of the worst trades in franchise history.

In a league that sets up big-market franchises to succeed, and with a fan-base as hungry for success as Knicks fans are, the last 20 years of failure place the Knicks on a short list of worst franchises in American sports. Star players, who would normally flock to Madison Square Garden, choose Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, Houston and now Brooklyn over the Knicks. R.J. Barrett, who the Knicks drafted after Williamson and Morant, has promise, but he cannot achieve his full potential if he is surrounded with the type of roster they had last season.

Most importantly, Dolan will have to change how he handles criticism and interacts with the media in order to remove the black eye surrounding the franchise. Hopefully, the new front office led by Leon Rose and William Wesley will be responsible for bringing the Knicks back to relevancy, and are not added onto the running list of failed front offices that have brought the Knicks to the bottom of the NBA. Our unconditional loyalty and support for the orange and blue deserves a winner playing in Madison Square Garden.