I have been a passionate and dedicated fan of the New York Knicks for over 30 years. I have been to hundreds of games at Madison Square Garden, dozens of games outside of New York and met many legends and current/former players (Steve Novak would fall under the category of legends right?). But during my 30 years of fandom, I have been mostly miserable.
I am more excited about this 2019-20 season than any season over the past decade.
This team should be more exciting and bring more optimism than the years with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. Yes, those teams were actually good. They actually had winning potential. They actually made the playoffs! But those teams also always had a ceiling, with Lebron James as an obstacle, so the potential for success was limited.
This year’s team definitely won’t be as good as those teams. Actually, they probably won’t be good, period. They don’t have Kevin Durant. They don’t have Kyrie Irving. And they don’t have Zion Williamson.
So what in the world makes me so excited?
For the first time in 10 years, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I see the potential. I see the ability for growth and development. I see young, hungry, homegrown players who want to be in New York, who want to rebuild the Knicks and be part of a winning team.
For the first time in 10 years, there are no overpriced, over-hyped players. There is no controversies. No off-the-court issues. For once, I am optimistic about the future, because the roster resembles glimpses of hope for a bright future, something no roster from the last 10 years has shown.
What Knicks Don’t Have
Let’s start with the three guys already mentioned and describe what the Knicks don’t have entering this season.
They don’t have a guy with a torn achilles who will not play in 2019-20. Yes, Kevin Durant will play again and having him on the roster would provide hope, but would also provide a cloud of pessissism. What if he never makes it back? What if he’s never the same? Then, it would simply be the same old Knicks.
They don’t have a guy with past locker room issues. Kyrie Irving ruined the young guys in Boston, and the Knicks are full of young guys. You saw regression from Jaylen Brown, Jason Tatum and Terry Rozier last season. Not to say he will in Brooklyn, or would have in New York, but on a roster full of young players who the Knicks need to develop, is he really the best type of mentor?
They don’t have a guy whose projected to be a “generational talent”, but will now miss 6-8 weeks due to a knee injury. I love Zion Williamson and have hardly anything negative to say about him. But simply put, I am excited for RJ Barrett. I think he will be a star. As good as Zion? We’ll see. But if RJ becomes his own star, who cares about Zion.
Face of the Franchise
On the subject of Barrett, he replaces Kristaps Porzingis as the face of the franchise. Porzingis as the face, never really set in. It was always Carmelo’s team, until 2017-18 when Porzingis was officially anointed as “the man”. Unfortunately, that lasted 48 games as Porzingis tore his ACL in early February 2018 and hasn’t played a game since and was traded last year to Dallas.
The face of the franchise is supposed to be loved and idolized. He was hated on day 1, booed almost unanimously by Knicks fans on draft night. He eventually earned their trust with his play, but later alienated them with his attitude.
Contrarily, RJ Barrett was immediately embraced as the savior of the Knicks. And he, in return, embraced New York, the history of the Knicks, and the fans.
And fans immediately embraced him as the face of the Knicks.
When was the last time, Knicks fans were united in admiring a young star? Correction, outside of Porzingis, when was the last time the Knicks had a young star, period?
99% of the Knicks all-time draft picks have been booed. Barrett received a monster ovation on draft night.
Those Carmelo and Amare teams were fun. But they didn’t have the young talent that this Knicks team has. The pre-Melo teams had young talent like Danilo Gallinari, Landry Fields, Wilson Chandler. You could see potential in those teams.
This team has a handful of players with the potential to be very good and it will be fun to monitor those guys’ development throughout the year.
- Dennis Smith was the centerpiece of the Porzingis deal last year. As a result, Knicks will certainly give him every chance to succeed.
- Frank Ntilikina was the #8 pick in 2017 Draft and was a star for France during this summer’s World Cup. Is he ready to finally break out?
- Mitchell Robinson finished third in the league in blocks (2.4 bpg) and made NBA All-Rookie Second Team, after being a second round pick in 2018.
- Kevin Knox has shown great improvement this summer after being the 9th pick in 2018 and could be in for a break through season.
- Allonzo Trier was undrafted in 2018 and averaged 10.9 ppg, playing a big role for the Knicks last year.
No one is saying these guys will be All Stars. But the simple fact that the Knicks have half a dozen young players with this much talent and potential, is exciting. If I’m going to spend hundreds of dollars going to MSG, I’d rather see Frank and Knox play over Tim Hardaway Jr, Mario Hezonja and Courtney Lee. If I’m going to spend my Saturday night at home watching the Knicks, let’s see what Smith is capable of doing at PG, as opposed to Trey Burke or Emmanuel Mudiay.
Free Agency Success
The “media”, you know, the talking heads on ESPN, the guys that sit behind a computer and write articles and tweet out all sorts of nonsense? Those guys will have you believe “LOL KNICKS” in regards to their offseason. I feel really strongly that this off-season was a success for the Knicks.
But to see the success, that requires you to look at the moves made in isolation and not the moves they didn’t make. They didn’t get any bonafide All Stars, but they got quality, professional, winning basketball players. And while that sounds “LOL KNICKS”, it’s something this team has lacked for many years.
The centerpiece of the Knicks summer spending was former top 10 pick Julius Randle. Knicks fans had much higher hopes and the media talked up the Knicks as an option for guys like Kyrie, Durant, Kawhi, Kemba. But the Knicks “settled” for Randle. “Settled” for a guy who averaged 21.4 ppg and 8.7 rpg last season and has averaged 15 ppg/9 rpg for his career. Give me his production, his athleticism, and his everything over a guy like Enes Kanter.
The Knicks signed 5 other free agents – Elfrid Payton, Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington. These guys aren’t the greatest, but like I said, these are real life professional basketball players. All of them are better than Emmanuel Mudiay, Ron Baker, Willy Hernangomez, and Luke Kornet.
No one on the 2018-19 Knicks projects to be as frustrating to watch as Tim Hardaway Jr (yet) or as defensively-challenged as Enes Kanter. The Knicks teams of the past were filled with over-priced, over-hyped veterans. These vets are on 1-2 year contracts and will be motivated by success so that they can get a bigger contract elsewhere in the near future. They will be trying hard to win.
Decade of Misery
It’s hard being a Knicks fan. It really is. It’s been 6 years since the Knicks last made the playoffs (in 2013). Since that season, here are the Knicks win totals – 37, 17, 32, 31, 29, 17. No bueno.
But that’s why I am excited! Maybe the Knicks won’t reach the 37 wins from 2014, but I guarantee they win more than 17! There’s no doubt the Knicks will be actively trying to win this season, a nice change of pace from fans rooting for losses and a high draft pick.
And maybe the Knicks still will end up with a high draft pick. The Pelicans won 37 games last season and won the lottery. Maybe that can happen to the Knicks? With the new lottery system, it’s certainly possible the Knicks win enough games to not completely suck and then get lucky in the lottery.
The Knicks already have several lottery tickets on their roster, with coach David Fizdale looking to maximize the talent on his roster and develop a few stars. Among the vets signed in free agency, several will likely be traded before February, fetching a young player or draft pick in return. The Knicks will continue to pile assets throughout this season and it will be another rebuilding season, with an eye towards the future. But if you put your eyes on the present, you can watch the process unfold.
All I have ever wanted is a team that epitomizes New York City – work hard, show toughness, and be successful. That last point remains to be seen, but this team will compete every night. And this team will win games.
Go New York, Go New York, GO!