Ladies and Gentlemen, after an 18-month hiatus from my motherland, THE SPLEAZE, I am back and better than ever. You might be wondering to yourself what brought me back to my safe space? Is it because of our Commander-in-Tweet and his everlasting antics? Is it the fact that politics is spilling over into sports like an old dog trying to drink water from its bowl? Is it because your social media pages needed another opinion on whether to #kneel or #stand. Fortunately for all of you, the answer to this is none of the above; politics and sports go together like a used diaper and lemonade.
So instead I have elected to use this space to discuss a more pressing, personal matter. One that I believe will touch and unite New Yorkers everywhere; regardless of race, color, gender, religion, creed, etc. As we inch toward October, New Yorkers everywhere can rejoice and band together because THE KNICKS ARE ABOUT TO BE BACK BABY. Ah yes, every New Yorker’s favorite lovable losers are gearing up for what most expect to be another losing season, however, there is already a litany of silver linings heading into the season, things us Knicks fans have to look forward to as the season goes on. With Carmelo Anthony gone and the keys to the Benz officially being handed over to Kristaps Porzingis and co., there is already a reason to believe that this season is going to be different; this season is going to be fun.
Offseason Review Part 1
It was a tale of two offseasons for the Knicks. At its outset the team was still being led by the lucid looney “Netflix and Phil” Jackson and his twisted geometry. Heading into the 2017 NBA Draft Phil made it clear that he was looking for a point guard of the future, somebody that could hold down the triangle like Pythagoras himself.
While many Knicks fans clamored at the possibility of a Malik Monk heat check or Dennis Smith jumping over two people for a dunk, Jackson obviously had a different vision. Jackson, to the dismay of many Knicks fans, selected French Point Guard Frank Ntilikina. Many Jackson apologists are quick to point to his flawless track record of finding gems overseas. In his short tenure as Knicks President Jackson unearthed Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez, and fan-favorite Mindaugas “The Koozie” Kuzminskas, all of whom look ready to play integral roles in the future of the team. But all we saw during the NBA Summer League was the impressive play of both Smith and Monk, while Ntilikina sat out the summer league in its entirety do to injury. Many Knicks fans are already weary of this selection.
The first part of the off-season wrapped up with Jackson’s last move as President of the Knicks, the second-round selection of guard Damyean Dotson. With the draft finished, Jackson hoped that he could continue assembling a roster that would have greater continuity. However, five days after the NBA Draft, Phil had officially alienated himself from his own front office; even James Dolan had had enough of Jackson’s shenanigans.
On June 28th, Dolan officially cleaned house, firing Jackson and immediately removing all of the distractions that accompanied him. New Yorkers universally rejoiced that the madman was gone, and we all wanted to know what was next.
With Jackson officially out of the fold, blossoming star Kristaps Porzingis quickly reaffirmed his love for our city, stating that he never, ever wants to leave. Days earlier Porzingis had been subject to trade rumors, with Jackson dangling his name for a draft pick like fishing bait. Jackson’s attempt to alienate his young star, after he had already alienated his old star, appeared to be the final straw for Dolan.
Knicks brass moved swiftly and stayed in-house to replace the operations side of Jackson’s job, promoting Steve Mills to President of the Knicks. This brought upon further disdain among Knickerbocker fans as Mills was seen by many as a Dolan yes-man. He has been with the team’s front office in some capacity since 2003, surviving numerous shakeups and even the dark ages known as the Isiah Thomas era.
Mills vowed to find a competent basketball guy to assemble his team, and early on the Knicks flirted with recently ousted Cavs General Manager Dave Griffin. However, Griffin lost a preemptive power struggle with Mills over who would have final personnel say and withdrew his name from consideration for the job. Almost coinciding with that news was the news that Mills had personally negotiated a four-year, 71 million dollar contract with ex-Knick Tim Hardaway Jr. Blood was vowed to be drawn all over New York radio waves as us crazy Knicks fans called in to cry for help. During Mills’ initial press release accepting the job, he vowed to make the Knicks younger and faster, and that he would preserve future financial flexibility. However, this contract ate away much of the team’s future cap-space — a contract for a player Jackson had just traded two seasons ago. Many fans, including myself, thought that the team was in utter disarray. We had just drafted a point guard to run an offense we were not going to run anymore, gave a lot of money to a run-of-the-mill player that we previously had, and were being led by a man who literally oversaw in some capacity this entire century of Knicks losing. At this juncture in the offseason, us Knick fans had zero hope for the future; we were stuck with a bad team that had limited cap space, everyone just waiting on the pupu platter we all expected to receive for Carmelo Anthony. At one point it got so bad that the real Knicks diehards began to rationalize Ryan Anderson.
However, sometime around mid-July the Knicks, like the flip of a switch, decided to become fun again.
Offseason Part 2
On July 14th the Knicks entered into what I refer to as phase two of their offseason. This coincided with the hiring of my guy freckles, also known as Scott Perry. Perry is a very credible basketball guy with a pretty good pedigree. He oversaw the assembly of the greatest team this century has seen so far, the ’04 Pistons, and had stops in many other front offices along the way. Perry, like Mills, is also known for his ability to maintain a good personal relationship and communicate well among his peers. In a sense this new front office was the polar opposite of the one it had just replaced.
With his hiring, Perry began a campaign of summer-long rhetoric that Knicks fans have been dying to hear for quite some time. Perry preached he was building a younger, faster, more defensively active club. Furthermore, and most importantly, Perry had a vision for what he wanted to do this season. He made it clear that he wanted to begin to develop a nucleus of players that could grow together. He wanted to look for younger, higher-upside players who still had time to further develop due to their young age. The core of Porzingis, Ntilikina, Hernangomez, and Hardaway Jr. were plastered all over Knicks promotional ads all summer.
While this core was not exactly the second-coming of the Golden State Warriors, it was a start for Knicks fans. Knicks fans that have endured the same plan of finding big name players and then attempting to make them work together regardless of how impossible the fit is (see Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis, Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry, Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo, etc.) ever since the Dolan ownership began.
For the first time in the Dolan era, Knicks fans were told to be patient, and you know what? It was pretty fucking refreshing. Just as their neighbors the New York Jets realized, if you are going to be bad you might as well be fucking horrible. Especially when you factor in that the NBA operates under a draft system that incentivizes bad teams to be even worse than they already are. Enough with just being good enough to miss out on a top-5 pick — that’s where the high-end talent is in the draft and where 90 percent of the franchise players get drafted. With Perry preaching patience and the Knicks fans on board with the entire gig, the only thing left to do was to find a suitable trade partner for Carmelo Anthony.
The Carmelo Anthony Dilemma
The final months of the Jackson presidency were marred by Anthony-related distractions. Whether it was via pot-shots through the media, sub-tweets, or his little puppet journalist Charley Rosen, Jackson did whatever he had to do to burn Melo’s trade value down to the ground. When Mills took over, immediately he started trying to extinguish the god-damn forest fire that Jackson had created over Melo’s trade value. Teams believed that they could simply pick him up off the streets if they waited long enough for Carmelo Royale to secure a buyout.
The Knicks, however, pivoted — stating they would not trade Carmelo simply to boot him off the team. Perry realized that having Carmelo was more worthwhile than not having him, or forcing a trade just for the sake of trading him. So when Houston tried to swoon the new front office into taking Ryan Anderson and his albatross contract (which pays more and is longer than Carmelo’s) Knick fans were delighted to hear the front office tell Daryl Morey to buzz off. Eventually — this past week — the Knicks settled on a medium sized pupu platter, not the worst trade they could have made, probably the best one in fact, but still nowhere near the value of a still top-30 player in the NBA.
The Carmelo Anthony Trade
So what did the Knicks get for Anthony? An intriguing low-post option who just turned 25 and is a former No. 3 pick in the draft, Enes Kanter. A sharp-shooter who will always be a better college player than pro in Doug McDermott and a high second-round pick (bank on the Bulls to be awful, whom the pick belongs to). Kanter is obviously the centerpiece, a player the Knicks believe can continue to develop as he ages and one the front office believes can be a part of this under-25 core going forward. Considering the returns for players who were markedly better than Carmelo Anthony and got traded (I am looking at you Gar Foreman and Kevin Pritchard), this Carmelo Anthony deal is not such a tough pill to swallow. When considering the Victor Oladipo and Domanatas Sabonis for Paul George or Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and Lauri Markkanen for Jimmy Butler deals made earlier this summer the optics of the Anthony trade do not look nearly as bad. Additionally, many surrounding the Knicks believe that the Anthony trade could prove to be a little addition by subtraction. With Anthony gone, and the team being younger, perhaps more willing to listen, maybe we will finally start to see the genius of Jeff Hornacek’s offense as the shackles of the triangle are finally removed from his wrists. While I am sad that Anthony never even came close to fulfilling his potential — he only won one playoff series as a Knick — it was the proper time to cut the chord. The front office knew that it needed to use this season to develop its nucleus, and unfortunately at this point Carmelo’s presence hindered that development.
So, what can we expect from the 2017-18 New York Knicks?
Offense, a lot of offense. The Knicks will be able to score 100-110 points consistently; however, they also will regularly give up 110-120 points. Expect Kristaps Porzingis to have his ups and his downs, but overall expect great improvement out of the third-year Latvian this season. ‘Staps has let the media know of his desire to be an All Star this season. He spent all summer posting cheesy “work or get out-worked” Instagram videos in the gym and on the court, and he looks awesome. However, for the first time in his career he is going to be the main focus of the opposing teams’ defensive game plan. All-star players can make adjustments to these game plans on a night-by-night basis, so it will be really telling if Kristaps is ready to carry this burden. While playing for Latvia in this past summer’s Euro Cup tournament, ‘Staps was the team’s go-to guy and averaged 23.5 points per game. He will need to replicate that production this season if he has all-star aspirations.
Additionally, expect Frank Ntilikina to become a fan favorite early in the season. His shot might be disgusting, his point guard play might be unpolished, but this dude is a fucking hound dog on defense. His combination of size, speed, length, and athleticism will garner him at least one highlight reel play per week; he is going to be electric in his own way. At 19 years old we should not expect much outta Frankie Knicks except that he will bring the intensity on a nightly basis.
The proper👌 celebration is 🔑
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) September 24, 2017
Finally, Knick fans can expect this team to be a lot of fun. The personalities of this group feature a ton of spunk, Kristaps is a unicorn and always a pleasure to watch, Frankie Knicks is going to be unlike any player we have seen before. Willy Hernangomez also makes watching basketball fun. Michael Beasley is liable to score 30 points in a half and then claim it was because he smoked an oil pen as he walked out of the tunnel and onto the court! Yes expect this Knick team to be bad, very bad, but also expect them to be fun to watch, the darlings of the NBA League Pass this upcoming season.
Worst Case Scenario
With the heavier load on his shoulders due to Anthony’s absence, Kristaps flounders due to an increase in opposition game planning on his behalf and proves that he just is not good enough to be a franchise player. Furthermore, Ntilikina looks even more unpolished then initially anticipated and sometime in January Michael Beasley decides that he is the captain now. To throw salt in the wound, Tim Hardaway Jr. returns to New York and immediately forgets everything he learned about defense in Atlanta and Knicks fans are even more irked by their 71 million dollar streak-shooter. Finally, with all of this misfortune, sometime by mid-March both Michael Beasley and Joakim Noah will undoubtedly be suspended by the team for getting into a physical altercation on the team plane over which player had better weed for the flight.
— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) September 26, 2017
Ok, I may or may not be joking about that last part.. moving on.
Best Case Scenario
Kristaps emerges as the prodigal son of New York and becomes an All Star. Additionally, the inside-outside combination that his sidekick Enes Kanter could provide actually creates a tangible, fluid and semi-dangerous offense. Kanter plays effectively in the post, Kristaps plays well all over the floor (#unicorn), and whatever shooters on the floor (Dougy McBuckets, Courtney Lee, Hardaway Jr.) all have good years from 3-point land, and suddenly maybe things are not so bad for the Knicks. Moreover, perhaps the Eastern Conference will be even worse than initially predicted (if that is possible), and suddenly this young and energized Knicks team is scrapping its way into an eight seed.
Knicks Fans’ Predictions
Kristaps has his ups and down in Year 1 as the franchise player, but in the end does just enough to leave Knicks fans thinking that he really is the guy. Tim Hardaway Jr. does not live up to his contract, but he does remove some of the salty taste from Knicks fans mouths with a decent year. Additionally, I believe Enes Kanter will prove to be an even more viable scoring threat off the bench. In the end, the Knicks will be a fun yet bad team to watch. Fun on offense, really, really horrible on defense, with just enough hope, sprinkled in along the way to get us into next season.
Predicted Record: 23-59
And now, Carmelo Anthony’s wish list..