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.
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.
1. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: January has been a rough month for musical artists, highlighted by the passing of David Bowie,who graced the cover of TIME magazine. Other notables have included Glenn Frey of the Eagles, Dale Griffin of Mott the Hoople and the unforgettable Natalie Cole. The talent may be gone, but the music will always be with us.
2. Bonus cantos: Fans at Madison Square Garden are certainly getting their money’s worth this week, with feature events the last three days all going into overtime. The Knicks held off the 76ers in a double overtime win Monday afternoon, then stopped the Jazz in overtime last night. The Rangers edged the Canucks in overtime on Tuesday.
3. There’s a first time for everything: When the Panthers host the Cardinals this weekend in the NFC Championship game, it will mark the first time in NFL history that Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks meet head-to-head in the playoffs. Carolina’s Cam Newton won the Heisman at Auburn in 2010, and Arizona’s Carson Palmer took college football’s highest honor at USC in 2002. That’s similar to what happened in last year’s World Series, when the Royals and the Mets staged the first Fall Classic encounter between two baseball expansion teams.
4. A Cespedes for the rest of us: Can’t fathom why the Mets don’t bite the bullet and at least try and retain Yoenis Cespedes. Without Cespedes, the Mets would not have made the playoffs last year. Be a shame to waste all that young pitching for lack of a big bopper in the middle of the lineup. And it will be tough for Met fans to swallow if Cespedes goes to the Nationals as rumored.
5. The people’s choice: Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis, tabbed a precocious neophyte by New York’s legendary guard and broadcaster Walt Frazier, is a popular guy. Already sales of KP’s #6 jersey rank fourth in the NBA, behind only Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and ahead of Kevin Durant. Porzingis is now a favorite of Knick fans, who booed his selection on NBA draft night and now cheer his every move.