by Coach Fah
As the World Turns
A Knicks Soap Opera.
To be a Knicks fan is a wonderful thing in my opinion, but it is not without its hardships. It takes a certain kind of fan to follow the Knicks. Over the last 40 years there have been many ups and downs. There have been reasons for tears of joy, and just... plain... tears. We have been on the precipice of championship honors, and a laughing stock. From fax machines to televised 'decisions', the Knicks Organization has run the gamut of Coney Island and Great Adventures rollercoasters.
Coming off of the tremendous year they had as a squad, It is a good time to remember where this came from, how it was built and why it is more sustainable than in years' past. To do that, it is only fair to go back to the last time the organization had this kind of success. That was 2013.
A Decade of Yuck.
The Knicks had not made the playoffs since 2013, where they exited in the 2nd round with an older squad that I dubbed “The Plantar Fasciitis Crew”. Several of those players retired, including Jason Kidd who went on to be the Milwaukee Bucks Head Coach, and Rasheed Wallace, a true leader, who went to the Detroit coaching Staff. Warrior, Kurt Thomas was also on this team. These 40-year-old men did their best, but the team was not correctly constituted, and Father Time is undefeated.
Steve Mills, then Team President, struggled with roster orchestration, drafting, free agency etc. Knicks fans had rosters like Melo, Jose Calderon, Cleanthony Early, Jimmer Fredette, Kyle O’Quinn and Kevin Seraphin (15-16); Ron Baker, Brandon Jennings, a tuned-out Joakim Noah, Chasson Randle and Lance Thomas (16-17); Michael Beasley, Trey Burke, Courtney Lee, Jarret Jack and Ramon Sessions. Let’s not forget the Alexy Shveds, Enes freedom etc.
The 1st round draft picks starting in 2013 were not necessarily stellar either. Tim Hardaway Jr.
(serviceable player), Kristaps Porzingas (still finding his potential); Frank Ntilikina (bust); Kevin Knox (still finding his way); Getting RJ in 2019 started to trend upward. We already hit on a 2 nd rounder (Mitchell Robinson 2018, but other than KP, we had not hit on a 1st rounder yet. Obi Toppin was our 2020 pick 8th overall. So far, he is serviceable but not a star. Immanuel Quickley was a draft day trade with OKC. IQ has ‘quickly’ become a darling of the team and a 6th man of the year candidate. Things are finally looking up as far as drafting, but there were so many misses.
Winning Time turns into Posse Time.
Then there was the gambit of bad coaches that the Knicks Organization and fanbase had to suffer through. After Mike Woodson took the team as far as he could,
Phil Jackson took over as Team President. The Triangle Offense was the talk of the town, for better or worse… mostly worse.
Derek Fisher was his hire for the 15-16 season, after missing out on Steve Kerr, who replaced Former Knick, Mark Jackson as head coach of Golden State. Derek’s greatest moment as a Knick coach was getting beat up by Matt Barnes. His record was 40-96.
Then comes the Kurt Rambis era in 2016 where he was 9-19. And we move on.
Next was the Jeff
Hornacek era 2017-18. 2 seasons with a gaudy 60-104 record. He had Carmelo and lost him in a trade to OKC. He had KP and Tim Hardaway. KP started breaking down at this time and it just seemed that the triangle hybrid did not work. He was fired promptly.
Next up, David Fizdale.
urFiz was a personable coach from the Spoelstra Miami Tree. He was assistant coach to the championship winning Heat, led by the 1 st Big 3 in NBA history. He was supposed to bring that champion pedigree to the Knicks. His 21-83 record unfortunately did not reflect such a pedigree. He was replaced mid-season 2020 by Mike Miller who had a 17-27 record, but many fans felt like he connected to the team.
The Storm before the Calm
It was the summer of 2020. Covid protocols were in full bloom. It was a different time in American society. And the Knicks were still bad. Julius Randle had arrived the season prior, after watching our draft pick, Kristaps Porzingas go to Dallas in a trade. Randle, was thought not to be the proper replacement, especially when winds were blowing that Kevin Durant was looking to come to New York. ESPN’s Stephen A Smith even made an ass of himself on national television by tossing a Knicks Jersey to the ground in his “feigned” disappointment of the addition.
Though Knick fans were glad to not pay KP $150 mil plus, we were disheartened by the amount of power forwards that came through our doors that year. Noah Vonleh swung by. Bobby Portis was in the building. Julius Randle, coming off of his 1 st 20/10 season, seemed to be the starter from gate. David Fizdale was our coach then, and he did not last the full season. The following year, Marcus Morris of all players, became a mini-star for us and got us a draft pick in a trade that got us Immanuel Quickley. That off-season, we lost Portis to the Bucks. Mo Harkless left. Allonzo Trier flamed out. Wayne Ellington did what Wayne Ellington does. We really even had Arron Afflalo on this team as a legit scorer. Fun times. Once again, Knick fans were staring at the lottery, hoping for a mighty ping pong ball. The mood around Knicklandia was so bad fans started to actually believe the nonsense media pundits like Stephen A Smith (who is NOT a Knick fan) were spouting. If you were a fan of NBA 2K, and of the Knicks, you had to suffer
through more vitriol in the game itself. The bad vibes were everywhere.
A Gleam of Light
On March 2, 2020, Leon Rose was hired, and the rumors of the CAA players that the Knicks would land started swirling. Hope nervously crawled into the rafters at Madison Square Garden aka “The Mecca of Basketball”.
Enter Thom Thibodeau (125-111), former Knick assistant coach under the mighty Jeff Van Gundy. Through his disciplinary tactics and staunch defensive mindset, it seemed the Knicks may very well have the coach that could change the culture of this decade bad professional basketball team.
The Big Fifteen
2020 introduced us to the term “The Big Fifteen”. It was Reggie bullock who coined the term. It meant that this was a team, and all 15 members had their role. It was in response to a Big 3 question. And though this Big 15 had serious flaws including poor point guard play, young players still developing, Nerlens Noel was our starting center, and Theo Pinson was our resident cheerleader and emotional support. They still believed in their coach’s defensive mindset and “dog” mentality. This Big 15 finished the regular season 41-31, the first winning season in several years. They made the ill-fated 4th seed and was set to face Atlanta in the 1 st round. That 1 st round ended in disaster, as Atlanta took advantage of our poor point guard play and single-handed offense led by Julius Randle. The Knicks lost the series 4-1. BUT there was now a glimmer of hope at Madison Square Garden. Thibs was named Coach of the Year.
Julius Randle was named Most Improved, was an NBA All Star for the 1st time and made an All NBA Team.
All the Knicks needed now was a point guard, and the youth movement to develop some more.
Unfortunately, the guard issue was not resolved. Veteran and New Yorker,
Kemba Walker was brought in to right the ship. It was a risky move, as Kemba was recovering from a myriad of injuries that made his time in Boston less successful. Knick fans were hesitant but happy. Kemba was a New York point guard. His push to the NCAA tournament the year he won was phenomenal, and nostalgic. Nostalgia turned tragic just a few weeks in. Kemba was benched for poor performance. Knick fans blamed Thibs. It was a mess. Julius Randle did not handle the poor season well. He became more sullen and moody, and argued with fans. Kemba physically broke down and pretty much the only thing fans had to hold onto was Evan Fournier breaking John Starks 3-point record. Fans found distrust in the front office for bringing Kemba and ‘overpaying’ for Evan Fournier. Fans wanted Randle traded. Fans wanted Thibs gone. The vibes were weird again.
Then came the summer of 2022.
Donovan Mitchell became a trade conversation that lasted months. While that was happening, the Knicks brought in Jalen Brunson, a Villanova Wildcat 2 x champion, who formerly played with the Dallas Mavericks and coming off of a stellar playoff performance. Some fans were thrilled. Some fans thought we overpaid. As the season rolled on, fans became cantankerous over Cam Reddish’s inconsistent effort and inconsistent minutes. Then, just as the season seemed in trouble, Thibs went to a 9-man roster. No more Reddish, No Rose, No Fournier, save for injuries). He was categorically panned for this decision, but the Knicks started winning more games. Soon, the addition of Jalen Brunson’s bestie from College, Josh Hart arrived via trade with Portland for Cam Reddish.
While Stephen A Smith yelled and screamed like a banshee with Tourette’s about how the Knicks need to do everything they can to get Donovan Mitchell, the Knicks quietly put together another great season at 47-35. They were the 5th seed this time, and ironically had to face Donovan Mitchell and his new Cavs team as they were the 4 seed.
The Knicks got out of the 1st round for the 1st time since 2013 with Melo and Plantar Crew.
Unfortunately, they lost in the second round to a Miami Heat team that beat the Former Champion Bucks in 5. They beat the Knicks in 6. Though it was a loss, this has been the most successful season in a long time and unlike the Plantar Fasciitis Crew, these are not 40-year-olds and Melo. This is a young team, full of growth and potential.
Julius Randle was named an NBA All Star that season and named to another All NBA team (3rd team). Jalen Brunson garnered Most Improved Player votes. Immanuel Quickley received 6th man of the Year votes.
This is not the same old Knicks.
There is an expectation for RJ Barrett to potentially become an All-Star in 2023-24. Jalen Brunson should get consideration for All Star and perhaps more based on last season’s performance. This Knick Team seems primed to be in the playoffs for the next few seasons to come and dare this writer to dream…. Perhaps even a championship in the future. As long as they keep to the culture Thibs and company laid down, and injuries don’t plague them, this could be the start of something big!