It seems every year the talk in New York is about what marquee free agent the Knicks will get to put them into the conversation with the best teams in the East. And it seems every year, Knicks fans from all over the world are disappointed. Well, brace yourselves Knicks fans, the disappointment is about to continue.
I am a true die-hard Knicks fan and I won’t deny it. But there is absolutely no biased here. Ask friends and family around me and they will tell you, I may be one of their biggest fans, but I am also one of their biggest critics. Because like a parent or a mentor or a drill sergeant, I expect a lot from this team. And maybe it would be smart for me to put that aside and really just accept the New York Knicks for what they are. A complete, utter disappointment waiting to happen. I remember being at work when the news was announced that Phil Jackson was being named President of the New York Knicks. It was like a breath of fresh air. The most successful coach in history and one of the greatest minds this sport has ever seen, was coming to run the team that I love. It’s like a dream come true right? Wrong.
That was in 2014. Now, heading into the summer of 2016, things have not gotten any better. As a matter of fact, things have gotten worse. The Knicks are 49-115 in the two full seasons with Jackson running the show. Let me say that again, 49-115. Granted, they had an awful team in ’14-’15 and they did have a fifteen win improvement from last year to this one. So I guess it’s a step in the right direction. But then you look at the roster. The Knicks often went to battle with a starting five of Jose Calderon, Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Robin Lopez. Other than having the worst starting point guard in the NBA in Jose Calderon (go ahead, look at every other team, Calderon is the worst STARTER in the NBA), that team should have been around .500 this year in my opinion. Instead, they were 18 games under .500. They fired coach Derek Fisher in February and replaced him with interim head coach, Kurt Rambis. I repeat, INTERIM. And that’s all he should be. But now (here comes the disappointment part) the Knicks are looking to remove the interim tag from Rambis and keep him on as the full time guy. Scratch that, Phil Jackson is looking to remove the interim tag from Rambis and keep him on full time. Because I believe if it was up to the players and if James Dolan felt like stepping in, there would have been a big push for former Chicago Bulls coach and now Minnesota Timberwolves head coach and President of Basketball Operations, Tom Thibodeau. But to Dolan’s credit, he has maintained his laissez faire approach toward the basketball decisions. Which, ironically, Knicks fans have been waiting for for years. But now as we stare in the face of what’s to come with Kurt Rambis as our next head coach, we wish good ol’ Dolan would step in just one more time.
Kurt Rambis as a head coach in the NBA has a record of 41-151 (that includes his 9-19 record as Knicks interim head coach). The teams he coached in Minnesota were about as bad as you could imagine, granted. Put it this way, if you’ve ever played NBA 2k, those Minnesota teams were about the equivalent of doing a fantasy draft and picking all the worst players available. You’re not going to win many games in the NBA with Johnny Flynn as your starting point guard. But still, with Carmelo Anthony on the downside of his career, Kristaps Porzingis on the rise and the rest of the roster kind of in limbo, does hiring Kurt Rambis full time really help this team? Phil Jackson wants to keep him so he can get more involved in teaching the triangle and use those “Zen” type approaches toward team activities. My biggest issue here is, in Phil Jackson’s mind, Kurt Rambis is not only the best candidate, he’s the only candidate. So what are we waiting for? Let’s keep in mind that a coaching staff is not just a head coach. It’s the head coach, the trainers, the assistant coaches and more. Kurt Rambis isn’t the only one effected by this decision. He’s going to be back with the team either way. But the assistants need to be filled in around him as well. So let’s end the charade of pretending to consider other candidates and just hire the guy who’s going to end up getting hired anyway. I don’t believe there is any real interest in former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach, David Blatt. Phil needs to stop messing around, hire his guy and get the rest of the coaching staff in place to complete phase one of the offseason.
Since the Knicks don’t have a draft pick in this year’s draft, they will once again have to try and attract free agents to come to New York. They have been unsuccessful at this other than bringing in Amar’e Stoudemire in 2012 and retaining Carmelo in the summer of 2014. The question here is, what free agent can you bring in? Who is out there this summer that can catapult this team into contention in the Eastern Conference? Sure there are guys like Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard, but what are the odds that the Knicks get any of those guys? I’d say slim to none. First off, contrary to popular belief, the Knicks don’t have the cap space to go after any of those 3 players. Even if Arron Afflalo 0pts out of his contract this summer, the Knicks will have an estimated $24 million in cap space. Kevin Durant’s starting salary under the projected new salary cap and given his nine years in the league will be over $25 million. Howard and LeBron’s starting salary given their 10+ years in the league will be around $30 million. Now I’m no mathematician but it seems to me that the Knicks won’t be able to afford any of those players. So now you go to the second tier of free agents and look at guys like Mike Conley and Al Horford. Still guys who are going to be in the $25 million range but also raise the question, do they put this team over the top? Does adding Mike Conley or Al Horford really make the Knicks a contender? In all reality, the only players who can make this team a true contender would be either LeBron or Durant and I just don’t see a scenario where either of those guys come to New York. So now the question must be raised, has Carmelo Anthony played his last game for the New York Knicks?
It seems with the way the chips are stacked, it would behoove not only the Knicks but Carmelo as well, for them to go their separate ways. It’s the best solution for both sides. Carmelo can go chase his ring on a team like Miami or the Clippers and the Knicks can truly dive into their rebuild. If he goes to a team like Miami, the Knicks may be able to bring back some young talent like the N0. 10 pick in last years draft, Justise Winslow. A trade to the Clippers might be a tad more complicated. The idea of a Carmelo for Blake Griffin swap doesn’t seem as plausible as it once did so it would likely take a third team for that deal to happen. I don’t see a scenario where Carmelo ends up in Cleveland like it was rumored to be during the All-Star break. Carmelo is a business man off the floor and his wife, LaLa Anthony, is in the entertainment industry. The only market that speaks to Carmelo is a big one which Cleveland is most definitely not.
At the end of the day, with Kurt Rambis looking more and more like the Knicks next head coach, with the salary cap situation this summer and the lack of a draft pick this year, the best move the Knicks could make would be to trade Carmelo to a contender. There are little to no options on the free agent market that can turn this team around next year. And with Carmelo getting older and the Knicks seemingly getting younger, it seems as though they are on two very different paths. To Carmelo’s credit, he has stood by his words and stuck with this team through more than enough grief and aggravation. The Knicks owe it to Carmelo to let him get a shot at a title. But that shot won’t come in New York.
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