Quite possibly the most valuable franchise in U.S. professional sport has to be the New York Knickerbockers. So much history on the country's biggest stage, the Knicks that were the 2nd most dominant team in the East in the 1990's behind MJ and the Bulls but since have become one of the biggest circuses in the NBA an in professional sport. The Knicks being this bad is not only bad for New York, but also for the NBA as a business. David Stern needs the Knicks to be successful. It's similar to the Yankees finishing in last place for 5 straight seasons. Something needs to be done. I'm not a huge Knicks fan. I do miss seeing them every week on the game of the week though. There are many reasons the Knicks are where they are right now. Not all of the problems are easy fixes, but the Knicks could be fixed.
One of the biggest problems the Knicks have is their personnel and their personnel choices. The most succesful team of the past ten years for the Knicks was the 99 team that went to the finals in the lockout shortened season. Of course that team ran into the Tim Duncan and David Robinson in the finals. One of the other big highlights of that seasons was that they did it without Patrick Ewing, the face of the Knicks franchise during the 90's. That team was led by players such as Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell (post choking), and Marcus Camby. The team was second in the league in scoring defense. Jeff Van Gundy looked like he was finally doing things the way he wanted too. Since that season, the Knicks have had two winning seasons since. Not good for any New York franchise. In the coming years, the Knicks traded an aging Ewing to Seattle for Glenn Rice, Luc Longley, and Travis Knight. This is the first WTF transaction made by the Knicks. Although Ewing was aging rapidly at this point, the players they picked up in this trade really make no sense. All the players acquired in this trade are slow. If they were going to make this trade, they should have just kept Ewing and his contract, eventually he would realize he no longer had what it took and he would retire, especially when his minutes got cut, but they didn't and got even less athletic. A team that already had an aging Allan Houston and Larry Johnson added Glenn Rice, and Luc Longley who was only really successful in Phil Jackson's offense and basically dissappeared off the NBA radar following his run with the Bulls.
In 01-02, Van Gundy went to the broadcast booth and the Knicks are now on their fifth coach since. Thomas is only the coach because he has done the brunt of screwing things up in MSG. Owner James Dolan is giving Mr. Thomas the chance to fix his mess and prove the Knicks can win with the players he has acquired. Isiah Thomas came to the Knicks after Larry Bird fired him as the Indiana Pacers coach. Following that, Thomas was hired by the Knicks in December 2003 as President of Basketball Operations. One of his first big moves was releasing Clearance Weatherspoon, then he traded Charlie Ward, Howard Eisley, Antonion McDyess, and two first rounders to Phoenix for Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway(there were others in this deal, but these were the main pieces of the trade.). In his first year on the job, Isiah acquired one of the most selfish players in NBA history. Marbury had proven he was a scorer, but never really proved that he was a player you could build around or go far in the playoffs with. Isiah gave up a lot to get him. The biggest player that many don't realize was involved in this trade was Carmello Anthony or you could even say that Dwayne Wade was involved in this trade. One of the first round picks Thomas gave up ended up being the #2 overall pick in the 2004 draft. That of course was Darko Milicic, but do you think that if the Knicks had this pick they would have selected him? Probably not, they would have selected Carmello Anthony because of the local buzz and support he would have been able to produce from playing @ Syracuse. ESPN classic has that show these are the reasons you shouldn't blame so and so for their problems. Well this trade might be the lone reason to blame Isiah for the Knicks problems. The big issue is, this isn't the only reason to blame Thomas. Not only did he trade for Marbury, he basically gave away Carmello Anthony, then later traded for Steve Francis and Quentin Richardson. Richardson is a decent player and when playing with a point guard such as Steve Nash, he gets his points and his shots per game. The Knicks don't have Nash, nor do they have a "point guard" starting. They have Marbury.
Now many people may consider giving up Carmello Anthony a big blunder. It's much like debating that the Trailblazers should have drafted Michael Jordan. In today's NBA, draft picks are very crucial, especially with the salary cap. It allows you to get good, possibly great players and have lower contracts for their rookie contracts. Even in late 2003 early 2004, everyone knew Lebron was coming out of high school and was coming to the NBA. The Cavs knew, that's why they tried to lose. Isiah knew that too, why didn't he do the same? The Knicks could have had the #1 pick in that draft. Marbury had proven that he was not a good team player. He couldn't even play with Kevin Garnett he was so selfish. Add to the selfish, me first mentality, Marbury had a HUGE contract that Knicks had to take on. Something they would not have to do with the upcoming draft pick. Soplayer personnel is a huge part of the mistakes the Knicks have made. They got Isiah and he in turn traded away draft picks for bloated salaries and non-team players like Richardson, Marbury, and Francis.
The other HUGE mistake Isiah Thomas made was that hired Larry Brown. Many disagree with this statement and feel Larry Brown is a great NBA coach. I'm not denying that, he is great. His resume proves that. What his resume also proves is that he has an ego and is pretty selfish himself. He left Philadelphia because he became tired of trying to tame Allen Iverson. Allen Iverson was a headache, but Larry Brown was still under the impression he was still a college coach. What do I mean by that you may ask? Well college coaches and NBA coaches are greatly different. In college, the coach makes the team. A good college coach is successful because he can convince those players whether its role player or McDonald's All-Americans that his system and his coaching style can help that player succeed and possibly go to the next level. It's greatly different in the NBA. Coaches have limited control of their teams an especially of their susperstars. Superstars make the NBA money, not coaches. Larry Brown couldn't except that. That's why he left Philadelphia. He was successful in Detroit, but still didnt have enough power and felt he was underpaid. Then Isiah offers him $10-$12 million per season. No matter what the situation, lets be honest would you turn down that kind of money, especially for a coach. To quote AI with different words, a coach, a coach, you're going to give a coach that kind of money?????? WTF! Larry Brown may be somewhat selfish and may have a rather big ego, but he isn't stupid and he definetly wasn't born yesterday. All he is going to say is where do I sign. Is anyone really surprised that the Larry Brown era in NY didn't work??? They could do an MTV celebrity death match with Isiah, Brown, and some of the players on the Knicks squad.
The problems don't just end there, Isiah continues to take on big contracts and players that are more about I then the team. Jalen Rose, Eddy Curry, Jamal Crawford and Jarred Jefferies. The only semi-solid draft choices for the Knicks have been Channing Frye out of Arizona, David Lee out of Florida, and Nate Robinson out of Washington. All seem like solid players but how much playing time can they actually get on this Knicks team? So owner James Dolanhas some decisions to make. Some big decisions. Well this is where I come in to attempt to dish out an assist.
How to Make the Knicks in to the Most Valuable NBA Franchise
#1. Management and coaching overhaul!
The Knicks have some big mistakes in the past few years. One of the biggest mistakes was hiring Isiah Thomas and letting him have pretty much free reign over the Knicks roster and salaries. Mr. Dolan for the NBA and for the Knicks fans please fire Isiah Thomas. Consider what he has done in the 4 years since you gave him great opportunity. He was a great NBA player, but would an actual GM with years of experience still be working for the Knicks? I don't think so. He needs to go. He HAS to go. What needs to be done is something so drastic that a New York team has never seen what I am about to reccomend. In the next few years, the Knicks need to lose. And when I say lose, I mean they need to lose badly. Hire a new GM and a new coach that you can be patient with. You need a coach that realizes that the success will happen in years to come, not right now. Rome wasn't built in a day, and the Knicks won't be built in a season. Colangelo is a great GM. Look what he has done for the Suns and look what he is doing for the Raptors now. Instead of investing $20 million in a coach, why not use a portion of that money and hire a proven GM and not another player wannabe GM? Get a GM that knows the ins and outs of the cap. Next get a solid NBA assistant that has tons of upside and tons of potential to be the next coach. Look who is winning now and realize that many of there assistants have these qualities. Make a committment and stick with it. Offer a five year deal and stick with them for the entire five seasons.
#2. Get rid of Bad Apples in the Big Apple no matter the cost!
When I say bad apples I am referring to Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, and Quentin Richardson. These players are getting paid much over their value right now. These players are eating the Knicks financially an internally. One of these players is probably acceptable, but the other two need to go. If you have to trade them, trade them. Just make sure its for contracts that are going to expire. If you have to pay portions of their salary, do it. It may not seem worth it, but in five years you will be glad you did. Just quit giving up draft picks. That's the key. The lack of quality draft picks is what is hurting the Knicks.
#3. More Emphasis on Team and Role Players
The Knicks already have some solid young talent. Frye, Robinson, Lee, and Jefferies still have a ton of upside. The Knicks have some talent they just need playing time and experience to take it to the next level. Another reason why the other players need to go. The Knicks have a great market to play in. Free Agents will come there if there's an upside to the situation and right now there isn't one. Look at the West. Teams like Dallas, Phoenix and Utah are successful because of an emphasis on team. The Knicks haven't worked for years, its time to start looking at what does work. Get back to the roots. Knick teams used to pride themselves on solid defense. This team with these young players will need to find their own identity, but defense usually works. Paying attention to little details is very important. Brawls like what happened earlier this year in MSG should not happen with a good cohesive team. Team unity is going to be important for a young team that is going to lose in the next few years.
#4. Tank Tank Tank
When I say tank I do not mean purposely lose. No team or franchise should throw games at any point. It's not right. I mean look the Cavaliers basically did it, they got Lebron James out of the deal. Look what is in college right now, Durant and Oden. It's sort of like the saying that for all the rich people there has to be some poor people too. Well even though tanking is not right, New York is one place you can get away with it. No matter how bad the Knicks are, people will still come to MSG. So tank and get some good high draft choices that you don't have to waste all the salary cap on right away. I am not saying throw games. I am saying play young players, chances are it will take a couple years to win consistently. Adding a player like Oden or Durant can just forward the Knicks progress. Tanking is respectable when the stakes are so high. If you don't like the word tank, use the phrase "Building for the Future". That's what it is. I think New York fans could accept 2 or 3 more seasons of losing if the future was promising. Right now it's not!
#5. Do Everything Else Better
Someone once told me if you have a weakness, the best thing you can do is make it a strength. Well the Knicks have quite a few weaknesses. They don't play well as a team, they haven't been drafting well, and there transactions in the past five seasons have been horrible. Coaching and player personnel can help chance the first. The drafting comes with experience and sometimes luck. Good GM's usually consistently draft well. Once an awhile they get a bad egg, but they also have the experience to deal with the situation. Finally, the trades and acquisitions have been horrible. Stop trading away future first rounders and stop taking on huge salaries of players who haven't been consistent winners their careers. There's always going to be quality free agents each summer. Determine which ones are the best fit for the Knicks. Also factor in the teams age in your decisions. Older teams can only make it so far anymore. There is a great emphasis on athleticism in the NBA now. The NBA isn't like MLB where you can just go buy the best players every year. Ask the Yankees, the best players in the lineup doesn't usually work anyway. Teams win championships. Franchises that spend the most time working on all the little things usually do better in the end.
I am not a diehard Knicks fan, although I will admit there was something about the 1999 team that I connected with. I have seen what Thomas has done to the Knicks and if I were a diehard Knicks fan I would be outraged. Thomas has made the Knicks one of the laughing stocks of the NBA and its embarrassing for the fans, New York City, and the NBA. I'm not saying all my ideas will work, the bloated salaries are a HUGE problem for the Knicks. I do feel that some of my ideas have some major credibility, and can work. James Dolan has spent so much money in the past five years trying to succeed, when nothing in NBA history has ever reflected that spending the most money wins championships. James Dolan needs to surround himself with better people. Isiah Thomas, like I said before was a great player. In Indiana, he even showed signs of being a very good coach, but he did not create those teams. Another GM did. He created this Knick team and now has to attempt to win with them. I'm not going to say that its an impossible feet, but has backed himself in to a corner, and he has limited options for a way out. He will eventually go will take the fall for all of his bad trades and deals. All I am saying is if I were Jame Dolan, why even play this hand out. Fold now before the flop. Cause Isiah has flopped this team enough.