Once again the calendar has turned all the way over and we find ourselves in the first month of a new year. This specific month has been a turning point in the past few seasons for the New York Knicks; and not a turn for the better.
In Derek Fisher’s first season the team got off to a lukewarm start before bottoming out, which forced then-President Phil Jackson to strip down every asset he team had, in one of the most disappointing fire-sales in NBA history. Consider this: the combination of Tyson Chandler, JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Amar’e Stoudemire (released) netted a lasting-combo of…Lance Thomas. The only player the Knicks got of value from gutting a roster that won 50 games, was Lance Thomas; and I am being VERY generous calling him a player of value…
That season would end with a 17-65 record and follow with the drafting of Kristaps Porzingis.
The following season they were 22-20 before a BRUTAL 1-11 stretch after the turn of the new year lead to dismissal of then-Head Coach Derek Fisher. Kurt Rambis would finish the season as interim Head Coach but ultimately a 9-19 record down the stretch, with constant rotation changes and lack of late-game execution, would not give Knicks’ brass the confidence they needed to remove the interim tag, and hire Rambis as Head Coach.
The team would finish with a final record of 32-50, leading to the hiring of Head Coach Jeff Hornaceck in the offseason.
Hornacek’s first season at the helm was more of the same, leading false hope with the smoke-and-mirrors of a 14-11 start, allowing many at ESPN to say the following words: “Phil Jackson has built a contender in New York.”
I was directly offended by this. I am talking directly to you, Stephen A. Smith. Anyone who has bought into these charades the past few seasons needs a heat-check; at no point during the past three seasons have the Knicks assembled a roster better than winning 37 games and this season is no different.
My preseason prediction was, at best, 39-40 wins if everything went ‘as well as it could have’ and the team decided to be ‘buyers’ at the deadline. This team cannot play enough defense to sustain a string of success and we have seen it all season, all decade, and honestly since the turn of the millennium: the Knicks don’t play sound defense.
Ultimately we have reached January, and again the boat is starting to take on some water, having gone through stretches where they lose seven of nine, and fall in double-OT to teams like the Bulls who have a far inferior record.
Many Knicks fans expect the team to win games like these but I cannot give them the vote of confidence ‘expecting’ a win; I loaded up on Chicago +5 on the road at MSG.
Despite the positivity and noticeable culture change, they are in need of a few more improvements on the roster, and a culture that believes in defense. Until they build that, they will routinely find themselves stuck in the 30 to 38-win bubble.