It’s going to be a slow build back to prominence for the New York Knicks, but that doesn’t mean that fans can’t enjoy the ride.
Critics of the NBA will argue that there isn’t enough parity. They will tell you that the regular season and a majority of the postseason are meaningless because only a small handful of teams have a realistic shot at winning a championship in any given year. The New York Knicks are not going to be part of this elite group of teams for at least a few years.
But people still watch the NBA despite knowing that their team may not have much at a chance at contending. Why? They watch because of the storylines, the individual performances, and sometimes the self-loathing that comes with rooting for your favorite team.
Self-loathing aside, Knicks fans are in it for the long haul. Not long ago Knicks fans could take solace in the fact that Kristaps Porzingis was having an All-Star season and he could go off for 30 points and a few monster blocks on any given night. Unfortunately, that bright spot was cut to black after Porzingis’ devastating injury. The Knicks hopes at sneaking into a playoff spot this season went up in flames and next season is in serious doubt already. So without hope for the playoffs, let alone a championship, in the foreseeable future, what is there for Knicks fans to root for?
Take solace in the little things, my friends. It may not be easy at first, but it will be rewarding in the long run. There are no shortcuts to becoming relevant, but the good news is that the Knicks have all the time in the world to figure things out while the cornerstone of the franchise embarks on a long recovery.
Take note of the Knicks young players who are going to shape the future of the franchise. Watching a young player develop into a star is one of the most rewarding feelings you can get without leaving your couch. Think about all the Knicks fans who nearly dislocated their shoulders from patting themselves on the back after Porzingis’ hot start this season. Knicks fans got to watch Porzingis go from a guy that got booed on draft night to an All-Star with the city of New York in the palm of his hand. Unfortunately, Kristaps Porzingises don’t grow on trees, but the Knicks have two young players capable of developing into excellent players. Unfortunately, the losses can demoralize a fanbase, but try not to let it get to you.
Think of the big picture. The Knicks have two young guys with all of the talent in the world. Try and focus on their development and their growth rather than wins and losses. If you’re focusing on the wrong things you’ll drive yourself crazy.
Frank Ntilikina is only 19 years old. Let’s repeat that: Frank Ntilikina is only 19 years old. Any Knicks fan ready to give up on the French Prince must pump the brakes. He’s young, long, and athletic enough to develop into an elite perimeter defender. Today’s game is characterized by fast-paced offenses and a run-and-gun style of play. Having an elite defender who is capable of putting the league’s best in a figurative chokehold can be thrilling to watch. Knicks fans have the opportunity to watch Ntilikina grow and defensively, the sky is the limit.
He definitely has a lot to work on offensively, but he’s shown flashes on that end of the floor as well. His shooting stroke is smooth and he can get to the basket effectively, but he seems to struggle with his decision-making at times. It’s almost as if he decides what he wants to do with the ball before he reads the defense. He needs to do a better job at taking what the defense is giving him, but back to our original point, he’s 19 years old. Watching him grow into a great player will be extremely satisfying for Knicks fans, despite the fact that many were calling for him to get traded at the deadline.
Ntilkina’s future was in doubt when the Knicks picked up Emmanuel Mudiay from the Denver Nuggets. But after watching Sunday’s game against the Indiana Pacers, it’s clear that Mudiay and Ntilikina will be playing alongside one another a lot. The two lengthy guards played a total of 60 minutes, compared to the eight minutes that Trey Burke and Jarrett Jack each played.
Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay played together for 28 minutes on Sunday. The Knicks had a +8.9 net rating in that time (Nitti played 31 total, Mudiay 29).
— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) February 12, 2018
Mudiay is a bit of a reclamation project. After a disappointing tenure in Denver, Mudiay is getting a second chance to shed the “bust” label. New York fans love a good comeback story and they’re going to have a front row seat to Mudiay’s. Granted, Mudiay was dealt for Doug McDermott who was considered a reclamation project in his own right. That being said, it’s clear that the Knicks feel that Mudiay has the talent to become something greater than what they saw in McDermott.
Mudiay impressed in his first game in the orange and blue while recording a double-double with 14 points and 10 assists. Mudiay may never truly live up to the hype that surrounded him as he entered the league, but it’s worth watching him attempt to prove the doubters wrong.
It won’t be easy for Knicks fan to stomach some of the inevitably bad losses, but it’s not all bad. Ntilikina and Mudiay could develop into excellent players and you have a front row seat to watch them with all the ups and downs that are sure to come.
It might be easy to tune out the Knicks for the rest of the season or wallow in self-loathing, but the little things will get you through the rough patches. So don’t be afraid to jump off the couch and cheer when Ntilikina puts Kyrie Irving in a straitjacket or Mudiay finishes a circus layup in a meaningless game. Enjoy the long road back to prominence. Little victories will turn into big victories. Eventually, that could lead to something larger than you ever could have expected.