Kristaps Porzingis, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

“New York Knicks disappointment” has very little to do with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Instead, it’s about everything else.

Robby Sabo

It wasn’t enough to kill ’em softly. Adrian Wojnarowski couldn’t have reported Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets the day prior or even possible interest the week before.

Of course, not. That’s just not the way these sort of things go down for New York Knicks fans. Instead, clinging to desperate Sunday hope served as the day’s motto. Praying that the in-season reports of Durant’s New York interest came to fruition meant everything to such a large contingent of tortured souls.

And then … boom. A Woj bomb surfaced that put a shot into the heart of Knicks fandom everywhere. KD to Brooklyn.

But remember, it’s never that easy. The crippling blow came when KD confirmed the Brooklyn move by way of a Biggie-inspired Instagram post.

From this blow, many Knicks fans—especially those who grew up with the hardened 1990s squads—will never recover.

The Notorious B.I.G., a diehard Knickerbockers fan, was used to deliver the devastating news. The legend who so appropriately incorporated Knicks-related lyrics not only helped KD destroy the soul of an entire fan base, but is now somehow part of the Nets allure.

Welcome to Knicks misery. But while you’re here, truly understand the nuance of the bomb dropped on the basketball-playing and loving boroughs.

Knicks disappointment has very little to do with KD and Kyrie Irving. The true agony is realized elsewhere.

Durant, 30, isn’t a young man. Turning 31 in September, the two-time NBA Finals MVP will essentially be 32 by the time he kicks off his first Nets campaign.

The Achilles is one thing; he’s also dealt with chronic foot issues. Durant dressed for just 27 games during the 2014-15 season, and at his height, there’s no sure bet he’ll be the same dude come 2020-21.

Also remember, the Durant we think of now is inflated as opposed to the guy who played in Oklahoma City. It’s a common occurrence with athletes (i.e. Giancarlo Stanton‘s unusual 2017 season). Playing with an ungodly amount of talent, KD’s statistical output entered fairytale land in Golden State.

Irving, 27, is no doubt an elite scoring point guard whose finishing game is the best at the position. But he, too, has dealt with an even worse injury history. Only three times in his eight seasons has the Duke product played more than 67 games. Three times he’s played fewer than 59 contests.

Let’s also not forget how he took an up-and-coming Boston Celtics team and reversed the mojo to an arguable degree. How it’s even possible for such a situation to transpire (if he’s a bonafide stud from every angle) is tough to digest.

New York Knicks

No. Knicks disappointment isn’t about KD and Kyrie, the two sensitive fellas who hopped on a Brooklyn wave so closely tied with Live Nation, Jay-Z, Biggie and the rest of popular culture.

The stuff that stings is how the Knicks arrived at this point. The genuine hurt surrounds two max free agents actually choosing the Barclays Center over Madison Square Garden when financial matters were flawlessly set up.

Players talk. The days of mystery and conventional sense are long gone. Consider Phil Jackson‘s very public dispute with Carmelo Anthony. Whether or not re-signing Melo was the proper move is irrelevant. Even if Jax was correct in attempting to move Anthony, the fashion for which it went public quite possibly scarred organizational perception.

Now sprinkle Kristaps Porzingis into the equation. It doesn’t matter if KP turned out as anything but one of nature’s noblemen. His inarguable unhappiness with the Knicks permeates throughout the Association to a degree that perception becomes obvious to other players: the Knicks don’t have their act together.

In both cases, the team could be 100 percent right yet so wrong as it relates to marketability. This is the era of the millennial, the softer athlete who looks for coddling.

Then comes the messaging aspect of it all. The very moment the Porzingis news hit the world, James Dolan took his predictable media tour. On ESPN Radio’s “The Michael Kay Show,” Dolan drove the point home that free agents want the Mecca.

“No, look, New York is the mecca of basketball,” Dolan said. “We hear from people all the time, from players, representatives. It’s about who wants to come. We can’t respond because of the NBA rules, but that doesn’t stop them from telling us and they do.

“I can tell you from what we’ve heard I think we’re going to have a very successful offseason when it comes to free agents. The thing about the team now is that it’s very young. It’s the youngest team in the NBA. You take a look at some of the players that we have and they won’t be the centerpiece of the team, but as complements to the centerpiece of the team, we’re developing them right now.”

The post-KP narrative was dominated by the talk of two max free agents, particularly fueled by Dolan’s words. But more alarming than speaking about potential free agent snags is what’s leaked out since the free agency bomb was dropped.

Shortly after Durant announced, ESPN’s Ramona Shelbourne reported that the Knicks weren’t prepared to offer him a max deal due to concerns over the Achilles.

It’s hard to believe. The old “let me break up with you before you do with me” theory has been bandied about. To not accept the pairing of KD and Kyrie that’d not only provide respectability on the court, but marketability within the league is a far-fetched notion for the majority of onlookers.

Again, messaging.

Even if it’s granted as fact, what purpose does it solve by dishing out the information? What possible gain could be had by revealing such a strategy? For a franchise looking to rehabilitate its image—in the minds of potential free agent studs—it only serves to add more harm.

DeAndre Jordan was the third of the trio to join Brooklyn—the very same veteran big who played for the Knicks a year ago. He’s the very same guy who expressed unhappiness with the fact younger kids got the nod down the stretch. Much like the Melo and KP situation, it doesn’t matter if the Knicks are “right.” Perception within the inner-circle of these new-age ballers builds momentum that’s tough to halt.

The very nature of this social-media and free-agency land that LeBron James helped catapult in 2010 with “The Decision” means basketball strategy isn’t the only worry. Playing the game within the game is an essential factor when attracting big-time free agents.

Sean Marks did it for his franchise. Acquiring the right young pieces, qualifying for the playoffs and using the likes of Live Nation, Biggie and Jay-Z placed the Nets in the upper-stratosphere of salesmanship the Knicks simply can’t touch at the moment. This is the “everything else” that contributes to current Knicks disappointment.

The Nets acquisitions of KD and Kyrie are no slam-dunk. Serious questions come with the package that drags a plethora of injury and sensitivity issues with it. From an individualistic regard, it doesn’t hurt the Knicks and their fans as much.

From an entirety of the situation scenario, it’s pure misery.

Two max free agents wanted New York. They chose Brooklyn, the borough that boasted the NBA’s worst attendance a year ago. They chose the Nets, the little brothers in the city. They chose to play off-Broadway rather than soak up the spotlight of the big time.

Overall messaging and a keen understanding of the new social media-driven millennial free-agent world doomed the orange and blue. It turns out Durant is a follower. His latest public battle involves Stephen A. Smith’s claim that he looked Russell Westbrook in the eye and lied to the man. We’re even seeing reports that he felt the Warriors didn’t “respect him enough.”

For once, the league thought he’d take on the greatest challenge in the world, despite outside influences. The league was wrong. It turned out he and Kyrie were a package deal and that Irving choosing the Nets really influenced his decision. For the Knicks not to get in on that mindset and heavily pursue Irving isn’t playing within this new-age inner-circle game.

Then again, nobody ever knows with these guys. Irving could have been so incredibly gung-ho about the Nets (connecting his boyhood fandom dots) that Dolan and the Knicks didn’t have a shot. KD could have simply faced a choice: the Knicks solo or the Nets with Irving. We don’t truly know.

A nucleus of RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Dennis Smith Jr. is alright. It’s a great start that really puts the pressure on the No. 3 overall choice. But a disconnect between the Knicks front office and the upper-echelon of talent within the league remains, and it’s a situation that needs remedying.

It’s forgivable to miss out on question-ladened players such as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. It’s unforgivable to not have the option to say at least say no to each. It’s criminal to lose out to the little brothers who rank 30th in attendance.

For that end result that’s come from a combination of not playing the salesmanship game and poor messaging throughout the years, New York Knicks disappointment reigns supreme.

Elite Access