The New York Knicks and What it Means to be Mediocre

If you live under a rock, perpetually avoid any news outlets that might mention anything basketball related, or plain just don’t care about sports, let me break down the 2016-2017 New York Knicks for you: garbage. And not just regular garbage. This garbage is used-diaper-filled with Indian food, vomit, and sewage, thrown in a dumpster behind a factory that manufactures burnt hair and rotten eggs and then lighting a match and throwing it in that same dumpster, effectively creating the smelliest, grossest, nausea-inducing dumpster fire the world has ever known.

I’m going to save everyone the drama and pain that isn’t related to the play on the court. The Charles Oakley-James Dolan saga, Phil Jackson doing everything in his power to get rid of Carmelo Anthony and also IS STILL TRYING TO TEACH THE TRIANGLE OFFENSE(!!!), Jackson’s “posse” comments directed at LeBron James’ group of close friends, none of it will be mentioned from this point on.

These Knicks came into the year puffing their chests about being the newest “Super Team” led by Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, and Joakim Noah. Seriously. That might be a super team in 2011, but looks more like a team destined for mediocrity in 2017. Throw in the signings of Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings and these fools actually thought they could challenge the Cavaliers. Never had a chance. Now, they are looking at finishing with anywhere from the fifth to the tenth worst record in the league.

Those signings that they were bloviating about before the season started are cut down by 2/3 also. Joakim Noah is out for the season after under-going arthroscopic knee surgery, Brandon Jennings asked to be waived so he could play for a contender, and Phil tried hard to trade Derrick Rose at the trade deadline. All of this has led to a miserable season for the Knicks and their fans, but it could also lead to better things on the horizon.

I’ve had this argument with some of my friends who also partake in the self-loathing misery of rooting for the Knicks and in my opinion there really isn’t an argument for their side. In the NBA today, there are probably three or four teams that could make the Finals: the Warriors, Cavaliers, Spurs and maybe the Rockets. Every expert has said since game seven of last year’s epic Finals showdown that we were probably going to see a round three of Warriors-Cavs. Once the Warriors added Kevin Durant, it seemed like a lock. KD has since gotten hurt, but he should return before the playoffs start. Regardless, it seems like these few teams are the only ones with a realistic shot at reaching the Finals.

That brings up my point. If you aren’t one of these teams or you aren’t one guy away, like if the Clippers had gotten Carmelo (still probably wouldn’t have beaten the Warriors), why go gung ho towards certain failure? Everyone got on the Celtics for not trading one of Brooklyn’s picks to nab a true star, but they see the bigger picture. They realize they have the second or third best team in the East right now and they will have two really high picks in the next two drafts as well. Sure they could trade one or both of those picks for Paul George or Jimmy Butler, and they still might in the offseason, and go all out for the Finals. But just adding a star doesn’t get you there because of a certain King James who resides in the Ohio area. The Celtics are just fine with competing really hard now and having their best days ahead of them when they draft young guys who could be the stars of the future.

How this relates to this Knicks is simple. They signed Noah, Jennings, and Lee and traded for Rose in hopes of competing for a top four seed in the East. My problem with this strategy is that this team was never going to really challenge for an NBA Finals appearance, which every decision made should lead to. There is no point in the Knicks trying to get there as long as LeBron continues his reign in the East. They will not defeat him, so why continue trying and just reside in the worst place to be if you are a sports franchise: mediocrity.  My friend, who shall remain nameless as to save him from ridicule, wants to see the Knicks fight for an eighth seed so Carmelo can be in the playoffs and they have something to play for. I want to see the Knicks lose every game we can so we get a better draft pick and have a chance to draft someone to be a long term partner for Kristaps Porzingis. He doesn’t want to see us tank because that’s what the Philadelphia 76ers did for so long and it was so ugly to watch. I’m not advocating a full on tank job like the Sixers did, even though the Knicks are doing a pretty good job of losing while they try to win, but just look at the Sixers now: Embiid looks great when he is playing (huge caveat, I know), Ben Simmons will be playing next season, Dario Saric looks good, and they have a ton of picks to add even more young talent to this roster. They will be a real force in five years at most.

That’s where I lose some people and I get why. No one wants to go through a long rebuilding process to become a winner, especially if you’ve tasted a little bit of the glory of the playoffs. I would rather be a team that looks terrible for 5 years but then is a really good, competitive team for ten to fifteen years, than be a team that sways from pretty good, but not good enough to really compete for a championship, and pretty bad, but not bad enough to get a top five pick and draft a difference-maker. I don’t see the argument there.

That’s why I hated the offseason moves the Knicks made. I equated it to polishing a turd. Trading Jerian Grant and Robin Lopez for Derrick Rose never made sense to me. Grant might not have been the answer at point guard for us, but I’d rather watch a young guy who could be a key piece of our team in the future develop and grow than watch a guy play here for just a season and then sign elsewhere and Lopez looked really good in his time with the Knicks. Signing Noah to a three year, 72 million dollar deal never made sense because this is a guy who has battled injuries for the past few years (so has Rose) and no one else was knocking on his door so if we really wanted him, he probably could have been had for much less. Jennings made a little more sense because it was just a flier on a backup point guard, which was a need. Courtney Lee’s deal would have been fine if we were a team that was actually going to compete since he fits that 3 and D role that every team is always looking for. The irony here is these moves were supposed to help us fight for an ill-fated playoff run, yet there helping us more in the fight for top five draft pick.

The moves the Knicks made in the offseason were more fitting of a team looking for one last hurrah while Carmelo is still an elite scorer. Too bad this team is more built like a team that should be focused on building around Kristaps and the future. Thankfully, Phil is terrible at his job and managed to fail while trying to win.

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