The New York Knicks are nothing short of awful this season. Then again, nobody expected them to be good, either. There is no disappointment or shame for what’s taking place in the Big Apple these days because it was likely the plan all along, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch.
Let’s face it: the Knicks are tanking the 2018-19 campaign. Not a single person within the organization will ever admit it — from owner James Dolan to general manager Scott Perry to head coach David Fizdale to any of the players — mainly because it’s against the NBA’s rules, both written and unwritten, but it’s happening.
So should it be surprising the organization, which hasn’t made the playoffs for six seasons, is willing to dump leading scorer Tim Hardaway Jr., veteran swingman Courtney Lee, and alleged terrorist Enes Kanter before the trade deadline? Absolutely not.
After all, this is the same team that just saw Houston Rockets guard James Harden pour in a career high 61 points at Madison Square Garden, and nobody seemed to mind.
Heading into the final weekend of January, the Knicks sit on a putrid 10-36 record, have lost seven in a row, and unfathomably hold a 4-16 record at MSG. It takes a special kind of sucking to pull this off and the boys in New York City are making it look like a walk in the park. Only the Cleveland Cavaliers have a worse record, but it should be pretty obvious why that is. Even the hapless Chicago Bulls have a better record and the next door neighbor Brooklyn Nets look to be improving.
So why are they doing this? Well, there are multiple reasons.
First and foremost, losing a bunch of games will give the Knicks better odds for the top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Another star to pair with rookie forward Kevin Knox is needed and everyone is infatuated with Duke’s Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. Heck, even Reggie Miller tabbed Williamson as an NBA All-Star reserve as a Knick, which is downright hilarious.
Then, of course, is the mission to clear cap space. Hardaway is making $17.7 million this season, Kanter is earning $17.5 million on an expiring contract and Lee still gets $12 million for the next two seasons for whatever reason.
The goal is to boost the roster with better players to be able to contend. The Knicks already have a star in the injured Kristaps Porzingis — if they want to keep him around — and had a solid 2018 NBA Draft in picking up Knox, Allonzo Trier and Mitchell Robinson. Even younger players such as Emmanuel Mudiay, Noah Vonleh and Luke Kornet have had some decent bright spots while the organization figures out if guard Frank Ntilikina is worth anything.
But this summer is when the New York Knicks can really hit the reset button. Securing a top draft pick and then landing at least one key free agent would take the franchise to new heights. Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant is hitting free agency. So is Toronto Raptors All-Star Kawhi Leonard, Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving, Philadelphia 76ers forward Jimmy Butler, Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson, and Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker.
Those are game-changing players, obviously, so Knicks fans are drooling at the possibility of future success and coming up with as many trade rumors as possible to dump the roster completely for it to happen.
In the meantime, it’s going to be a mess. It already is. The Knicks have already mastered the art of tanking before the All-Star break and head coach David Fizdale deserves an Academy Award nomination for the job he is doing in his first season to stir the pot. The future was always more important than the present.
It’s a valid point. After all, isn’t this what was supposed to happen?