• John Aiello

What Happened to the Mecca?


*Photo via EPA

There was a time when Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks were the ultimate for basketball players. There was something about playing basketball at the highest level on the game’s biggest stage that gave players a certain rush.

The Garden was Broadway for basketball stars, now it emits the smell of trash and garbage that much of the Big Apple emanates. What happened? How did the monument of basketball tumble into rubble?

I’m here to cite what caused the Knicks to spiral downward into the laughing stock of the league, why players don’t want to play there anymore, and what can be done to re-establish the Knicks as a prime basketball destination for elite players.

Jim Dolan: The Head of the Knicks’ Circus

Jim Dolan, owner of the Knicks, among other notable New York sports teams, inherited the team in 1999. Since then, the Knicks have been an overall atrocious NBA team.

*Photo via USA Today

The creation of conferences occurred during the 1970-71 season. During this time however there were 8, 10 then 12 teams allowed until finally the playoffs expanded to 16 in 1986.

So during the time before the modern playoff format of 16 teams, the Knicks had just seven seasons where they missed out on the playoffs. Keep in mind, the Knicks only two NBA titles in franchise history occurred during this time frame.

From 1986 to the pre-Dolan era, the Knicks made the playoffs EVERY FREAKING YEAR besides 1986-87, and since the 2000-2001 season, the Knicks have had THREE winning seasons. This is not a mere coincidence.

That’s not all; in that timeframe, they’ve posted NINE seasons where they’ve been at least the 10th worst team in the Eastern Conference.

It’s safe to say Jim Dolan is literally pulling his pants down and crapping all over the glory of the Knicks yesteryears.

Why is Dolan the reason behind this? Well, since 1999, the Knicks have had NINE different coaches. When the Ewing era was over, the Knicks were compelled to rebuild, and that takes time. Coaches need time to redirect the ship, it doesn’t happen overnight. Firing guys like Lenny Wilkens after two seasons or Larry Brown after one season shows how tragically impatient Dolan is.

Further, consistently trading away draft picks for immediate help is another perfect example of this. Here’s an example of a trade the Knicks made in 2002: The Knicks acquired Antonio McDyess among other crappy players for Marcus Camby, Marc Jackson and the rights to Nene. Yay Knicks! A full list of the trades the Knicks made from the post-Ewing era to 2012 is available here.

If I keep talking about James Dolan I’m gonna throw up.

Nobody Wants to Play With Me!

*Photo via NYPost

I can’t stand when writers say, “the Knicks failed this offseason because they didn’t land a star”. You fail when you don’t meet expectations, and anyone with a realistic and functioning brain knows that the Knicks didn’t have a legitimate chance at nabbing a superstar like, “The DeAndre Jordan’s or LaMarcus Aldridge’s of the world” (Stephen A. Smith voice).

So why aren’t the Knicks getting superstars in free agency? Well, it’s a couple of reasons.

For one, the Knicks suck.

When you’re in a major market like New York, the public eye is constantly scrutinizing you. The ever-fragile egos of today’s generation don’t want any part of that.

Another reason is Carmelo Anthony is the team’s best player and he doesn’t exactly have the reputation of being a selfless player. It’s tough to steal star players from good teams when you’re trying to pair scorers with another scorer (someone has to pass!).

Look at the Lakers of the past decade. Nobody wanted to play with Kobe. The only way they acquired key players was through the NBA Draft (Andrew Bynum) or trades (Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom). Okay they signed Ron Metta World Panda Bear, I’ll give you that one.

Obviously Kobe is an extreme personality, but the point I’m trying to make is that if the Knicks had a distributor-first star as opposed to a scorer, things might be different.

Old Knicks Excelling On New Teams

To add insult to injury, a bunch of former Knicks are on new teams and performing well. Pablo Prigioni, a player the Knicks got two second round picks for (how the hell did that happen?), made it to the Western Conference Finals apart of the Houston Rockets.

Fan favorite (sarcasm) J.R. Smith played surprisingly well with the Cleveland Cavaliers. I’m sure being away from the New York nightlife and Cleveland’s low-quality weed supply could’ve attributed to that.

His Cavs teammate Iman Shumpert had an up and down tenure with the Knicks filled with injuries and haircuts. After being shipped to the Cavs, he played well in different roles and just received an absurd payday for his efforts.

*Photo via NYPost

David Lee, an actual fan favorite with the Knicks from many years ago, won a championship with the Golden State Warriors this year.

Hey, if the Knicks can’t win, at least they send their guys to good teams so that they can experience success. Gosh, what a generous organization!

What Can Right the Ship?

What will make the Knicks an attractive destination once again? Winning… and global warming (That New York weather sucks!).

Players still have that desire to play at MSG and in a major market, but they don’t want to do it on a crappy team. A couple years of continued success or at least showing competence (which is what President Phil Jackson showed this summer), should propel the franchise towards success.

I’m a huge Knicks fan, so I guess ranting about how bad we’ve been recently gives me some sort of therapeutic relief. The Knicks actually winning would probably help too.

NBA playoff history and courtesy of cbslocal.com

History of the Knicks records courtesy of landofbasketball.com

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