The New York Knicks have struggled mightily, both on and off the court, and their problems may affect their brightest star.
When you think of Madison Square Garden, one phrase comes to mind: The World’s Most Famous Arena.
The home of the New York Knicks, New York Rangers and New York Liberty lived up to the moniker this past week. Unfortunately, it was for all the wrong reasons.
On February 6, the Knicks played host to the Los Angeles Lakers in the battle of two cities that are craving for a basketball winner. Despite losing 12 straight road games, the Lakers came into the Garden and embarrassed the Knicks on their home floor. The final score of 121-107 was bad enough — but it was the words said after the game that made the organization look even worse than their 22-31 record at that time.
For the first time in his brief NBA career, Kristaps Porzings relayed his thoughts on where the team’s underlying issues stemmed from.
“We don’t have that trust. Some games we do, some games we don’t. Some games we have that second effort, some games we don’t, like today,” Porzingis said in the Locker Room after the game. “If we had the answer, I would tell you something. But it’s just not there. It’s kind of everybody for [themselves] a lot of times — both ends of the floor. So I wish I had the answer.”
It was interesting for Porzingis — who is undoubtedly the future of the franchise — to speak out, only because he hasn’t done so thus far.
And who would think that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Bleacher's Ding almost rings the bell, but I learned you don't change the spot on a leopard with Michael Graham in my CBA daze.
— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) February 7, 2017
On the surface, the tweet doesn’t seem like much. But when you look back at Kevin Ding’s Bleacher Report article — one where he says Anthony can’t compare to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant and implies that he’s the reason behind Jackson’s shortcomings as President of the Knicks — it furthered the narrative of Jackson’s inability to treat his star player with an ounce of respect.
So Porzingis calls out the team. Harsh words? Yes, but they were necessary. And even though Jackson stooped to a new low once again, the disrespect towards Anthony is the only constant of the 2016-17 version of the Knicks.
That’s enough for one week, right?
On February 8, the Knicks played host to the Los Angeles Clippers in front of a nationwide audience on ESPN. New York ended up dropping a close game to a team that is leaps and bounds better than they are, which put them 10 games under .500. Despite the loss, their valiant ever should’ve been the story coming from the Knicks’ perspective.
Instead, the organization hit rock bottom.
Knicks enforcer and beloved player, Charles Oakley, got into a heated altercation with Garden security and NYPD officers, which resulted in his arrest. Oakley believed owner James Dolan had his guards purposefully remove him from the arena while Dolan stands by the point that the 19-year big man heckled him from the moment he sat down in his seat.
A horribly-worded tweet, opposing stories, “Cha-rles Oak-ley” chants, and a lifetime ban from Madison Square Garden capped off not-so-arguably the worst week in franchise history — and when it comes to this organization, that’s saying something.
NBA stars like LeBron James, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade have all stood by Oakley. Remember when Reggie Miller used to torch the Knicks during his playing days? Just because he’s retired doesn’t mean that’s stopped.
If you're a FA to be, why would you play for an Owner who treats the past greats like this or a President who stabs star player in the back?
— Reggie Miller (@ReggieMillerTNT) February 9, 2017
Over the span of three days, the Knicks hurt their past with the treatment of Oakley, and hurt their present with their continued disregard for their current star in Anthony.
They better hope Porzingis isn’t paying attention.
Because Dolan and Jackson may be hurting their future, too.
From game one of his rookie season up until today, Knicks fans finally got what they’ve been craving for so long — a legitimate young talent with superstar potential that the organization can build around.
Not since Patrick Ewing did the team have a game-changing, homegrown talent. The 7-foot-3 Latvian burst onto the scene with multiple put-back slams and continued to thrive in New York City with his smooth jumper and shot blocking prowess. Porzingis finished his rookie season averaging 14 points, seven rebounds and added a First Team All-Rookie selection to his resume.
Year two has had its ups and downs, but Porzingis continues to display his transcendent talent. Despite some struggles with conditioning and fatigue, Broadway’s Unicorn has brought his scoring average up to 18 points per game while connecting on nearly 40% of his shots from downtown. He’s become more comfortable in the offense and continues to grow before the Garden Faithful’s very eyes.
If someone is going to bring an NBA Championship back to New York, Porzingis will be one of the biggest reasons behind it. But if he’s been paying attention to the recent events, he may not want to spend his entire career in New York.
What if Porzingis eventually transforms the Knicks into a winner, even if they don’t bring home the Commissioner’s Trophy — how does he know his blood, sweat, and tears won’t be treated the same way that Oakley’s were.
What if Porzingis eventually turns into the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki, an all-star year in and year out — how does he know that Jackson will eventually turn his back on him like he did Anthony.
Speaking of Anthony, Porzingis doesn’t want him gone, which only further divides players and management.
“I think it would make life harder for me on the court (if Anthony was traded),” Porzingis told the Daily News. “He makes stuff easier for me. There’s still a lot more things I want to learn from Melo, So I would love to have him around for a long time. I always love playing with Melo.”
Thus far, Porzingis is accustomed to a losing culture. Since he joined the Knicks, they’re 55-83.
But it’s one thing to try and change the perception on the court. It’s another thing to try and change the mindset of management — one that has been stubborn before and doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.
The Knicks need to be careful.
If they keep this up, that one-time promising star that was supposed to change the course of the franchise may realize it’s not worth it to win here.
He may want out of New York altogether.