While James Dolan and Phil Jackson laugh, the Knicks burn
1. James Dolan — Born silver spoon in hand as heir to a Cablevision fortune, he has run the Knicks into the ground with a rash of poor personnel decisions. A recent Sports Illustrated poll named Dolan the worst owner in the NBA. The Knicks problems start at the top.
2. Phil Jackson — He won 11 rings as a coach and two more (ironically with the Knicks) as a player, but he’s been a dismal flop as president of the Knicks. Instead of stepping up as a leader and addressing the situation, Jackson left coach Jeff Hornacek to clean up the Derrick Rose mess. And the list goes on, from the hiring of ill-equipped coach Derrick Fisher, to his insistence on running the old-fashioned triangle offense to his signing of injury-prone Yannick Noah to a four-year, $72 million contract. Jackson has tarnished his legend.
3. Leadership — It starts at the top. See No. 1 James Dolan, No. 2 Phil Jackson and No. 5 Carmelo Anthony. What leadership?
4. Accountability — Without leadership, there is no accountability. Derrick Rose goes AWOL, leaves the team in limbo, and then returns to a slap on the wrist. Heck, he’d didn’t even get suspended. In fact, he’s still starting.
5. Carmelo Anthony — Leaders make those around them better players. Not the case with Carmelo, the so-called face of the Knicks. Carmelo is a great scorer, but he’s all about Carmelo.
6. Derrick Rose — Work Rule #1. If you’re not gonna be there, if you can’t make it to work that day, tell the boss. Derrick Rose had time to run off and catch a flight to Chicago, but didn’t have time to call or text the Knicks to tell them he would miss the New Orleans game. See No. 4, accountability.
7. Teaching –He’s the crown jewel of the franchise. Knick fans are pinning their hopes on Kristaps Porzingis. And yet, how’s he going to become a better basketball player if the follows the tone of the current Knicks. Who’s going to teach him low-post presence and how to play defense. There are no mentors in sight.
8. Culture — There’s a toxic atmosphere in the Knicks front office. Who can forget Isiah Thomas and the sexual harassment suit the Knicks settled out of court. The poor decisions, like multiple lottery picks for Eddy Curry. Being hosed by Denver in the Carmelo Anthony trade. See No. 1 James Dolan.
9. MSG — Playing in the world’s most famous arena actually hurts the Knicks. There’s a long list of players who seem to up their game whenever they visit New York. Michael Jordan, Kobie Bryant and Steph Curry are just a few examples. Even average players play better at Madison Square Garden.
10. History — It’s been 44 years since the Knicks won their last championship. I was in college when the Knicks last won. Now I’m on Medicare. And it ain’t happening this year either. A charter member of the NBA, the Knickerbockers have won just two titles in their history.
Owner James Dolan, perturbed by his team’s poor play, has shut down the Knicks City Dancers. Less dancing, more winning. Yeah right.
Four games into the NBA season, and already panic has set in at Madison Square Garden.
Coming off their best season in nearly 20 years, the Knicks have stumbled out of the gate, with inexcusable home losses to the T-Wolves and Bobcats.
As always, the problems start at the top. MSG chairman James Dolan must be the only person in world who thinks the Knicks are a championship-caliber team.
Get a clue Jimmy D. Carmelo Anthony may be a superstar, but he doesn’t make the guys around him better players. Amar’e Stoudemire may not be the worst player in the league, but he’s the most overpaid. And newly-acquired Andrea Bargnani is softer than the Pillsbury Doughboy.
Losing Tyson Chandler, their best defensive player, to a broken leg isn’t helping matters.
Dolan is so out of touch that he’s banned the Knicks City Dancers from performing some of their routines. As if that’s going to make a difference.
Melo and the Knicks are missing the point – they’re heading the wrong way.
Several weeks back, shortly after the Carmelo Anthony trade, Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said he’d be satisfied if the Knicks won half their remaining games.
Way to set the bar high, coach. You’ve got two superstars on your team, two of the five top scorers in the NBA in Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, and your goal is mediocrity. Sadly, the way the Knicks are playing right now, they’d settle for playing .500 ball.
The playoffs, which seemed like a lock a few weeks back, are no sure thing anymore. The Knicks are in a free fall, having lost five straight and eight of their last nine. It would take a historic collapse for the Knicks to miss the post-season in the NBA’s weak Eastern Conference, but after losing to the likes of the Bucks, Pacers, Pistons and Cavs, the playoffs are no longer automatic.
Here’s a typical Knick game: Come out flat and fall way behind in the first quarter, play catch-up ball in the second and third, then fail to execute in the fourth and go down to defeat. Again and again, the pattern repeats.
“It’s going to take a while,” D’Antoni said several weeks ago. “I don’t think we’ll get it as well as we want this week or next week. But at the end of the year we should have it real good. In the meantime we have to get in the playoffs — whatever seed it is and prepare for that team.”
“I know everybody’s anxious. I’m anxious, the players are anxious. There’s no way you can throw four-to-six new guys into a rotation and all be on the same page. Some teams exploit things we haven’t gone over.”
The Knickerbockers are good on one thing — excuses. Peter Vecsey outlined a few of those excuses in his always entertaining Hoop du Jour in the New York Post.
Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
“Everybody has them and goes to ’em nightly. You all know the drill by heart — trade adjustments; readjustments to Billups returning from a thigh bruise, though the team was 4-1 without him; rough March schedule; rough upbringing; rough surf; the dog ate my home-court advantage; James Dolan spending too much time getting Radio City ready for Charlie Sheen.”
D’Antoni is part of the problem. More than one Knick fan has suggested he remove the “D” from his name — since his team doesn’t play any.
Earlier this week, the Knicks decided not to practice on an off-day — although it’s obvious they need the work. “If nothing else,” one player said, “we need a break from each other.”
Gimme me a break. Which of course Cablevision brat James Dolan didn’t give Madison Square Garden fans when he raised ticket prices by an average of 49 percent.
Nearly 40 years ago, the New York Knicks made one of the biggest trades in their history when they acquired Hall of Fame guard Earl Monroe from the Baltimore Bullets for Mike Riordan, Dave Stallworth and cash.
The Pearl teamed with Walt Frazier to give the Knicks one of the best backcourts in NBA history, and helped lead to New York to its second NBA title in 1973. They haven’t won one since.
This week the Knicks made another reach for that elusive ring when they acquired four-time NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets. In a blockbuster deal, the Knicks traded away nearly half their roster, plus draft picks, in order to bring Melo to New York.
Anthony will join Amar’e Stoudemire to give the Knicks two superstars on the roster for the first time since….well since they last won a championship. Not suggesting New York is going to the NBA Finals this year, but they are heading in the right direction.
Lord knows the Knicks have tried to build a winner in the two decades since their title runs. Tried and failed. Repeatedly.
McAdoo in 1976
For example, in December of 1976, the Knicks sent John Gianelli and cash to the Buffalo Braves for Bob McAdoo — a three-time NBA scoring leader and MVP in 1975 — and Tom McMillen. The feeling was that McAdoo would join four regulars from the championship days — Monroe, Frazier, Bill Bradley and Phil Jackson — along with newcomer Spencer Haywood to bring another winner to Madison Square Garden.
Well not quite. These Knicks never advanced past the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1978. McAdoo was sent to the Celtics during the 1978-79 season for three number one draft picks, one of whom was center Bill Cartwright.
Three years later, the Knicks acquired Bernard King from the Golden State Warriors for Micheal Ray Richardson and a 1984 fifth round pick. King had a spectacular but brief career in New York, and in 1984-85 became the only Knick in history to lead the NBA in scoring, at 32.9 points per game. Unfortunately he blew out his knee that season and later signed as a free agent with the Washington Wizards.
With King leading the charge, the Knicks advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals in both 1983 and 1984 before losing to the eventual NBA champion 76ers and Celtics respectively.
It seemed like Knicks were bound for more championships after they won the 1986 NBA draft lottery and drafted center Patrick Ewing of Georgetown. But despite repeated efforts to firm up the roster, the Knicks failed to bring in a second superstar to help Ewing.
In 1988, seeking help on the boards, the Knicks traded Cartwright and first and third round picks to the Chicago Bills for Charles Oakley and a first-round pick. Oakley was the NBA’s top rebounder in both 1987 and 1988, but it was Cartwright who won three championships with Michael Jordan and the Bulls while the Knicks were shut out
The Knicks kept on trying, and although the deals highlighted below made them competitive, they could never quite get over that championship hump.
Ewing Era Deals
1990 — Knicks sign free agent John Starks, left, released by Golden State
1992 — As part of a three-team trade with the Los Angeles Clippers and Orlando Magic, Knicks acquire forward Charles Smith
1994 — New York gets guard Derek Harper from Dallas for Tony Campbell and a first- round draft pick
1996 — On Bastille Day the Knicks make two moves, signing free agent guard Allan Houston from Detroit and acquiring Larry Johnson from Charlotte in a deal for Brad Lohaus and Anthony Mason.
1998 — Knicks trade Oakley and Sean Marks to Toronto Raptors for center/forward Marcus Camby.
1999 — In a mid-season deal, Knicks trade Starks, Terry Cummings and Chris Mills to Golden State for Latrell Sprewell.
The Knicks were competitive throughout the Ewing era. They advanced to the NBA Finals twice, losing to the Houston Rockets in a seven-game series in 1994 and the San Antonio Spurs in five games in 1999.
In the past 10 seasons, the Knicks have made the playoffs just once, where they were promptly swept by their cross-river rivals the New Jersey Nets in 2004.
Are the Knicks on the championship track at last? Only time will tell, but the pieces are starting to fall into place. And the electricity is back at Madison Square Garden.