This keeps happening: I watch the Knicks lose, then I switch the channel and marvel at an ex-Knick leading his team.
It happened again Monday night, when New York was losing to Dallas on Dirk Nowitzki’s lucky bounce at the buzzer, and one click of the remote control brought me to Clippers-Pelicans, where Jamal Crawford was burying another seven 3-pointers.
Crawford was once a Knick. So was David Lee. And Zach Randolph. And Channing Frye.
Any of those guys might make a nice second option for New York behind Carmelo Anthony, whose epic scoring nights are going for naught as the season slips away from the Knicks amid a flurry of off-the-court action – from Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih getting bought out to Raymond Felton getting arrested for having a semi-automatic firearm to ‘Melo uttering another blast of venom that must be put through an interpreter to decide whether it was a red flag that he plans to leave.
All of those other players mentioned above were once the property of the Knicks, and all were jettisoned in bad deals to facilitate the roster-gutting that brought Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire to New York. It has been four, five, six or even seven years since each of them was traded, and the Knicks are now at a point where they would gladly swap Stoudemire for any one of them if they had the opportunity.
Stoudemire and Felton are the embodiments of dead money, and the Knicks will have both on their cap next year in what could be yet another lost season. This one keeps slipping away from them, as nine losses in their last 11 games have dropped them 5 1/2 games back of the final playoff spot in the Leastern Conference.
It is really a shame that the Knicks have fallen this far. And if you want to place blame, you cannot single out Mike Woodson. Equally culpable are Glen Grunwald, Donnie Walsh, Scott Layden and even Ernie Grunfeld for establishing a culture of impatience that has failed to produce dividends other than a second-round ouster in the playoffs last season against the Pacers.
Back in the 1990s, Grunfeld was in charge of the roster. I distinctly remember him emphasizing that New Yorkers do not have the patience for a long rebuilding process. In a city where you can tell who the locals are by watching how fast they move on the sidewalks, impatience is considered a virtue.
But when it comes to basketball, that same dynamic is the worst vice imaginable.
To facilitate their pipe dream of getting LeBron James as a free agent in 2010, the Knicks dealt Crawford to Golden State for Al Harrington just a couple weeks into the 2008-09 season. Randolph was shipped to the Clippers for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley on the same day- Nov. 21, 2008. Lee stuck around through the end of the 2009-10 season – but only because he was viewed as asset because he had an expiring contract. When he became a free agent that summer, his biggest suitors were Golden State and the LA Clippers. At the time, the Knicks were thrilled to replace him with Stoudemire.
Bad trade, bad trade, bad decision.
And all these years later, the Knicks are still haunted by those moves. Chances are they will miss the playoffs this season as the NBA’s most disappointing team. It has now been 41 years since they won a championship, meaning their fan base old enough to remember those glory days is now nearing or past retirement age.
Anthony, who keeps dropping 40-point games, could choose to exit as a free agent this summer, leaving the Knicks with nothing to show for Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and the first-round pick in the lottery this June that they won’ get to select. The No. 1 pick in 2016 is gone, too, as are all of the Knicks’ second round picks – highly valuable assets in the supertax era – for the next four drafts. New York will be paying the price for impatience for the forseeable future, which is something it never forethought back when it was making what hindsight has shown to be dumb deals.
Come April, my home city will become a baseball city again, with the focus turning squarely to Derek Jeter’s farewell tour. The Knicks will be irrelevant once again in the spring months, as they have been for a dozen of the last 14 springs. That is a shame, but that is what happens when impatience is seen as a virtue rather than a vice.
Yes, it is thrilling to see ‘Melo pile up the points. But does he occupy a spot in the Top 10 MVP candidates listed below? Of course not.
Not when his team is 15 games below .500.
Makes you shake your head, eh?
But enough about Gotham. There are players whose seasons will last a lot longer than Melo’s who merit the rest of this discussion. So we turn to them with the latest edition of the ranks.