The State of New York Has Doomed the Knicks in Free Agency
Jan 21, 2014; New York, NY, USA; A general view outside of Madison Square Garden before the start of the game between the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Paul George reportedly would like to join his hometown Lakers. Why don’t New Yorkers want to come home to the Mecca?

The New York Knicks have obviously struggled the past few seasons. However, their struggles stretch far beyond the basketball court. In free agency, the Knicks have struck out on virtually all the big-name free agents to hit the market.

This is common for a struggling team, but the Knicks cannot seem to attract talent that grew up in or around New York.

This is an alarming thing for a city that breathes basketball. 

The Knicks are one of the few big market cities who can not seem to attract state-grown talent. The Lakers seem to be the prime destination for Palmdale native Paul George. Dwyane Wade recently signed a deal with his hometown Bulls.

In recent past, the Knicks missed out on Long Island’s own Danny Green and Jersey’s David West in free agency.

One could say they were able to snag Joakim Noah and Kyle O’Quinn in free agency, but of course, this is an oversimplification. Noah was not a top free agent and the Knicks were one of the only teams in the league to offer him the type of money he received. O’Quinn was a rotation piece in Orlando and was not a highly sought after free agent.

So what gives? Why can’t the biggest market of them all, New York, attract their own high profile stars in free agency.

The Lakers and Bulls both show that even though their records have been subpar the past few seasons they are still able to bring home their own. Records surely matter for free agents looking to join big markets but it is not the end-all-be-all.

The problem is New York simply has not produced the talent it was able to many years ago.

New York used to be the Mecca of basketball, and to many, it still is. The state produced some of the game’s biggest stars. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Bernard King … the list goes on. While California did produce some immensely talented pros like Ray Allen, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd and Reggie Miller these players are not on the same talent level as the aforementioned New York greats.

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The NBA was ruled by New Yorkers up until recently. The game has changed.

It seems that California has taken over the NBA. In the past two seasons, only three New Yorkers have made the NBA All-Star team, Carmelo Anthony, Andre Drummond and Kemba Walker. In comparison, California has produced seven (Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Paul George, DeMar DeRozan, James Harden, Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook). This number does not include Damian Lillard, who has not made the team the past two seasons surprisingly.

The Knicks obviously can not sell a stable culture, let alone a winning one, to free agents. The days of having to play in a big market to gain national attention are over. Ask Russell Westbrook, who plays in one of the smallest markets in the NBA, if Oklahoma City has hurt his national appeal. It hasn’t.

Quite frankly, the Knicks should only appeal to two type of free agents. The free agents who are looking for the biggest payday or the free agents who are looking for a chance to play for the team of their youth.

The Knicks are great at attracting the first type of free agent. They have no problem throwing money at old, out of shape, past their prime veterans. The second free agent, the New Yorker, is simply impossible for the Knicks to attract due to a shortage of talent in the state. The few New Yorkers who can live up to the New York’s storied reputation will not be available in free agency until a few seasons.

Mount Vernon’s Andre Drummond will not hit free agency for another four seasons. Bronx’s Kemba Walker will hit the market in 2019. Meanwhile, the best New Yorker the Knicks can hope to land in this offseason is Rudy Gay. Even the biggest Rudy Gay fan will admit he is not going to make the Knicks much better next season.

New York hoops is stuck in a sad state. For the Knicks’ free agency hopes, this means disaster.

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Charles is a sophomore at Pennsylvania State University from Long Island, New York, majoring in broadcast journalism. As a member of Penn State's CommRadio, the official radio station of the College of Communications, Charles has written various articles covering Penn State football and basketball. In addition to writing, Charles also co-hosts Empire State College, the only New York sports talkshow on campus.