Knicks never had a shot at Zion in NBA lottery


Did the Knicks ever have a chance to get the #1 pick in the NBA draft lottery? The answer, or course, is always the wrong one for the league’s most snake-bitten franchise. The answer is no chance.

At least the Knicks won a pair of championships in the 1970s.Since then it’s been mostly misery. That misery has kept the Knicks out of the playoffs – but in the lottery most years, at least when they don’t foolishly trade #1 picks. .

The Knicks won the first draft lottery in 1985 and took Georgetown center Patrick Ewing, who became an iconic Knick, all-time franchise leader in scoring and rebounds. Yet Ewing never won a title.

Since 1985 the Knicks have participated in 10 NBA lotteries….and have never once moved up from their position in the pecking order. That’s right, 0-for-10.

Despite finishing this season with the worst record in the NBA (17-65), the Knicks were third in the lottery, losing a shot at Duke’s Zion Williamson, who is seen by many as a transcendent player. Think Wes Unseld of the Washington Bullets who won both MVP and Rookie of the Year in his rookie season. Only other player to do that is a guy named Wilt Chamberlain, with the Philadelphia Warriors in 1960. That could be Zion.

The Knicks will most likely wind up with either Ja Morant of Murray State or RJ Barrett of Duke. Both are highly rated, but playing in New York can be difficult.

The Knicks have had some horrible picks in the lottery era, players like Kenny Walker, Michael Sweetney, Channing Frye and Jordan Hill, who was taken one pick after Golden State picked Steph Curry.

Kristaps Porzingis at No. 4 was a solid selection in 2015. But the Knick culture and losing ways drove him the ask out, and KP is now with the Dallas Mavericks.

The jury is still out on the most recent selections. Point guard Frank Ntilikina took a step back this year, playing just 43 games. Kentucky’s one-and-done Kevin Knox, the #9 pick in 2018, showed flashes but shot just 37 percent from the field.

Which leads to the next question: Why is Kevin Durant so interested in coming to the Knicks? That’s a subject for another column.

It just happened–for the first time in history: Giants, Jets, Knicks, Rangers won on same day

IMG_0104December 11, 2016 was a landmark day in New York sports history. On that Sunday, the Giants, Jets, Knicks and Rangers all won.

Big deal you say? Well….yes. As a matter of fact, 12/11/16 marked the first and only time all four of those NY teams won on the same day. And that goes back to 1960, the year the Jets took off….as the New York Titans.

Think about that for a minute. 57 seasons of competition. Five Super Bowl championships, two NBA titles and a Stanley Cup. And yet, not once did the Giants, Jets, Knicks and Rangers ever win on the same day. Until December 11.

Oh sure, there were hundreds of instances when the four didn’t play on the same day. The Jets on a Sunday, the Giants on a Monday for instance. Strikes by the NFL, NBA and NHL also came into play several times.

In the entire decade of the 70s (from 1971-80), the Giants and the Jets managed to win on the same day just three times. That’s some lousy football.

On four separate occasions – in 2014, 1988, 1968 and 1962 – the Giants, Jets and Rangers all won on the same day. But the Knicks lost. In 2010 both football teams won along with the Knicks, but the Rangers lost.

Four others times, in 1986, 1971, 1968 and 1962, the football teams both won but the Knicks lost to the Lakers. In each case, the Rangers were idle.

Finally, on Dec. 11 it all clicked. That day the Jets rallied to beat the 49ers 23-17 in overtime on a 19-yard touchdown run by Bilal Powell. On Sunday night, the Giants defeated the Cowboys 10-7 as Odell Beckham caught a 61-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning for the game winner. The Rangers, playing at Madison Square Garden that night, routed the Devils 5-0. behind the shutout goaltending of Antti Raanta. And later that night, on the West Coast, the Knicks beat the Lakers 122-118 as Kristaps Porzingis scored 26 points and Derrick Rose added 25.

Phil Jackson–Zen Master to Then Master

This is no laughing matter Phil Jackson. Will the New York Knicks ever win another championship? Fans have to wonder, what with serious questions about the front office and how they are attempting to build this team.

Hopes were high when owner James Dolan, head of the Isiah Thomas fan club, brought in the former Knick and 11-time championship coach Jackson took two years ago. But so far, after another 50-loss season, the former Zen Master is looking more and more like a Then Master. From zen to now.

Jackson is living in the past if he thinks his antiquated triangle offense can succeed in today’s NBA. Any offense is going to look good with Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, and Jackson won multiple championships with those players and superstar supporting casts. But the Knicks don’t have that kind of talent. Not even close. Great coaches mold their teams to fit around available talent….rather than insist they learn a particular system.

Actually, the bigger issue is that two years into the program the Knicks still don’t understand the triangle. “I don’t think it was expressed to us as players clearly from Day One,” Carmelo Anthony told the New York Times recently. “I thought it was kind of different messages that was being sent to the players about the actual triangle.”

Nice to know. A big piece of the blame for the communication breakdown falls upon the coaches hand-picked by Jackson. Derrick Fisher was lost from the start, and fired after a 40-96 record in a little over a year and a half. Fisher was apparently more interested in chasing skirts than communicating the triangle.

The Knicks then selected Kurt Rambis, another Jackson disciple, as interim coach. The same Rambis who previously failed at Minnesota (32-132) and went 9-19 down the stretch with the Knicks. Yet Jackson has given every indication that he will either bring back Rambis…or someone he knows….rather than consider strong candidates, like former Bulls coach Tim Thibodeau.

“That’s why I was brought here – to install a system,” Jackson told the New York Post. “That’s all part of the package. Who are these people? Do they have 11 championships to talk about?”

There’s no reason to be condescending Phil. The Knicks have reached the playoffs just four times since 2001, and have won exactly one series in that time. They last won a championship in 1973. The suffering goes on.

Rangers are up, Knicks are down

Who are these guys? The Knicks. For starters, perhaps the worst team in NBA history.

It’s like night and day for the two main tenants at Madison Square Garden these days. The Rangers are soaring, having won 12 of their last 13 games, their hottest streak since the Stanley Cup season of 1993-94. And the Knicks. Unwatchable.

When Phil Jackson took over last year, Knick fans were hoping that their team might finally reach the championship heights last seen in 1973. At the very least, they were hoping for a competitive team. After all, just two seasons ago the Knicks won 54 games and finished second in the NBA Eastern Conference.

Instead, we’ve been sold a bill of goods with yet another rebuilding program, another wait-until-next-year approach. Listen up Zen Doctor, 40 years of mostly lousy basketball is long enough.

The Knicks are currently on a 14-game losing streak, the longest in their star-crossed history. They’ve lost 24 of their last 25 games, and at 5-34 stand last in the league, behind even the lowly Philadelphia 76ers, who lost their first 17 games. At this pace, they could finish with the worst single-season record in NBA history, behind the 9-73 76ers of 1972-73.

The worst record in team history belongs to the 1963-63 Knicks, who were 21-59, a .263 winning percentage. At least that team had some exciting players in future Hall of Famers Tom Gola and Richie Guerin, along with Johnny Green and Willie Naulls. And they were just a couple of years away from drafting players like Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, and yes, Phil Jackson, who would lead the Knicks to their only two NBA titles.

Here’s a challenge. Name three players on the today’s Knicks other than Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, who never play anyway.

At least there’s hope with the Rangers, who made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last year before losing to the Los Angeles Kings. The Blueshirts are currently the hottest team in the NHL, light years away from their worst team. That would be the 6-39-5 club of 1943-44.

With goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash on a goal-scoring tear and a corps of young defensemen, the Rangers are poised for another playoff run. The Knicks. They’ll be on the sidelines, waiting and watching.

Pa-Knick sets in at Madison Square Garden

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.

A short championship history of the New York Knicks

Gimme a break: Knicks full of excuses

Will these Knicks have the 1973 knack?

The 1973 Knicks….and Spike Lee….were reunited recently at Madison Square Garden.

Through the years, New York sports fans have been spoiled by success. The Yankees have won more championships than any other professional team in North America. The Giants have won a pair of Super Bowls since 2008, both stirring wins over the favored new England Patriots. The Mets and the Jets have experienced miracle moments. Even the Rangers ended a 54-year drought to win the 1994 Stanley Cup.

And then there are the New York Knicks, Gotham’s answer to the Chicago Cubs, who for all their failures throughout the years might as well be stationed in Cleveland.

The Knicks enter the playoffs as second seed in the East, a team with high expectations but also a team with the weight of the world on its shoulders.

It’s been 40 years since the Knicks, one of the NBA’s two remaining charter franchises (the Boston Celtics are the other), last won a title. Back in 1973. Watergate was percolating, gasoline cost 40 centers a gallon, and George Steinbrenner was buying the Yankees from CBS for $12 million.

Things were different on the court too. For the most part, the game was played below the rim. The players wore tight shorts and funny sneakers and had long hair. And there was no three-point line.

Some refer to the 1973 Knicks as the forgotten champions. New York had won its first NBA title three years earlier, a championship ingrained in basketball lore when injured center Willis Reed walked on the Madison Square Garden court to spark his teammates to a Game 7 victory.

After losing the  Lakers in five games in the NBA Finals in 1972, the Knicks realized their window of opportunity was closing fast. But with a Hall of Fame starting five — Reed was joined by forwards Dave DeBusschere and Bill Bradley and guards Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe — the Knicks beat Boston in seven games in the Eastern finals, then took Los Angeles in five games for the championship.

Every Knick team since then has been unfavorably compared to those two championship squads of the early 70s.

Until recently, no known footage of that 1973 championship clincher existed. Proving that perhaps you can go back, the MSG Network recently unearthed a copy of that Game 5 win.

There’s Never Been a Hoop/Hockey Double

The New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994, but the Knicks couldn’t complete the double as they fell to the Houston Rockets in seven games.

With the NHL and NBA playoffs just getting started, five cities have the opportunity to accomplish something that’s never been done before — win hockey and basketball championships in the same year.

Only Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and Phoenix remain in the race to win the elusive double rings.

Since the NBA was founded in 1946, eight cities have had teams in both the NBA and NHL finals in the same year. But none of those cities was able to win both a Stanley Cup and an NBA championship.

In both 1957 and 1958, the Celtics and Bruins played for championships for the city of Boston. In 1957, the Celtics won their NBA championship when they beat the St. Louis Hawks in seven games.The following year the Celtics lost to St. Louis in six games.

The Bruins meanwhile, lost both Stanley Cup finals to the Montreal Canadiens, in five games in 1957 and six games in 1958. The Canadiens were in the midst of a five-year championship run.

In 1972, both the Knicks and Rangers made their respective finals. That year the Lakers defeated in the Knicks in five games for the NBA crown, and Boston defeated New York in six games for the Stanley Cup.

Two years later, in 1974, the Celtics, led by center Dave Cowens, left, beat the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games, but the Philadelphia Flyers surprised the Bruins in six games to win their first Stanley Cup.

The City of Brotherly Love was a two-time loser in 1980 — the 76ers lost to rookie point guard Magic Johnson and the Lakers in six games while the New York Islanders took the Flyers in six games for the first of four straight  Stanley Cups.

In 1992, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls beat Portland in six games, but the Blackhawks were swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup finals.

New York came closest to the double rings in 1994. That year the Rangers beat Vancouver in seven games to win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years. But the Knicks fell to the Houston Rockets in another seven-game series.

Finally, in 2003, the New Jersey Devils beat the Anaheim Ducks in seven games to win the Stanley Cup, while the Nets lost to the San Antonio Spurs in six games.

A New York Hat Trick: All in One Day

It would have been a tight squeeze, but with a little ingenuity fans could have seen the Knicks, Giants and Rangers on the same day.

The enterprising New York could have caught three originals franchises in action today – the Knicks, Giants and Rangers.

  • The Knicks in a noon matinee against the Nets at the Garden
  • The Giants in a 4:15 kick against the Cowboys in the Meadowlands
  • And the Rangers in a 7 pm face against the Red Wings at MSG

Sure, it’s probably happened before. And it would have taken some hop-scotch back and forth across or under the Hudson to make it happen again.

But if anyone out there did it, send me a post card.

You are my hero.

Top 10: New York State of Mind


The SportsLifer couldn’t get through the year without one more top 10 list.

So here they are, the top 10 moments in New York sports, 2008.

1. Catch XLII: Sparked by the unbelievable Eli Manning to David Tyree pass play, the Giants rally to defeat the previously unbeaten Patriots in the Super Bowl.

2. Yankee Money: Failing to make the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, Yankees sign free agents C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Texiera.

3. House Cleaning: The Knicks finally manage to get rid of Isiah Thomas, and new coach Mike D’Antoni puts Stephon Marbury out to pasture.

4. Collapse: For the second year in a row, the Mets fall apart in a September swoon and allow the Phillies to steal the NL East championship.

5. Collapse Redux: Brett Favre and the Jets lose four of their final five games and miss the playoffs, forcing the removal of coach Eric Mangini.

6. Final Farewell: Many of the greats return as the Yankees play the final game in the House that Ruth Built and the Mets close Shea Stadium.

7. Giants Among Men: Despite the distraction of the Plaxico Burress shooting, the Giants earn top seed in the NFC heading into the playoffs.

8. He Said, He Said: Disgraced Roger Clemens tries to clear his name of steroid allegations by trainer Brian McNamee.

9. Domination on Ice: The Rangers continue their sudden mastery of the cross-river rival Devils, taking round one of the Stanley Cup playoffs 4 games to 1.

10. Smart Sign: The Mets pull a huge off-season deal, acquiring left-handed pitcher Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins to fortify their pitching staff.

Matty and the Jinx

My friend Matty and I have known one another since the ’60s. We’ve gone to some great sports events together, including the Super Bowl, World Series and the Olympics.

For the most part , we cheer for the same New York teams. We’ve seen a few wins, but more often than not, we’ve seen the ugly side of New York sports.

We came to call it simply The Jinx. When Matt and I go to games together, bad things happen to our teams.

Take for instance December 27, 1997. We went to the Garden for a matinee game, which the Knicks lost, 97-94, to the Toronto Raptors on a buzzer-beater by Doug Christie.

Meanwhile, at the same time, on the TV in the suite at MSG, the  Giants are frittering away a 19-3 halftime lead and losing to the Minnesota Vikings, 23-22, in a playoff game at Giants Stadium.

That day clearly demonstrated the power of The Jinx.

The Jinx Top 10

  1. Super Bowl XXV, Tampa, Ravens crush Giants, 34-7, 2001
  2. Red Sox shut out Yankees 1-0, 6-0 at Shea Stadium, 1975
  3. Red Sox beat Yankees 2-1, 1-0, Fourth of  July, 1973
  4. Knicks lose to Raptors on buzzer-beater at MSG while…
  5. Giants blow 19-3 lead, lose playoff game to Vikings, 1997
  6. Giants lose to Cowboys, 30-29, on missed extra point, 1985
  7. Mets lose playoff game to Houston, 3-1, Shea Stadium, 1986
  8. A’s blow out Yankees early, 13-5, Yankee Stadium, 1987
  9. Red Sox beat Yankees, 8-3, on 50th birthday party, 2001
  10. Iona Prep loses, 60-6, to St. Francis, 1966