Constantly in the media, we hear projections in the summer involving a handful of teams trying to guess where free agents will sign. The Knicks have been one of those teams all season long, especially after their trade of Kristaps Porzingis that opened up enough cap space for 2 max spots.
A large portion of the media, as well as anonymous GM surveys, have the Knicks landing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as a package deal this summer. However, it’s not hard to notice, that some people seem to love rooting for New York to not get anyone and will go as far as to discredit some of those sources to paint a picture of chaos for the Knicks franchise.
It’s funny to a degree that people think teams like Brooklyn and the Clippers have more appealing franchises than the Knicks and Lakers in those same exact markets. One season doesn’t make you a better situation, unfortunately. A lot of these factors are largely overblown. Let’s be honest here, if the Knicks land Kevin Durant, they automatically become a better basketball situation than the Nets ever were. And when you think about superstars choosing their next franchise, it’s unlikely they would leave for a small market team. We’ve only recently seen that with players who were traded to those small market teams during the previous season, like Paul George.
Contrary to what some in the media want you to believe, the Knicks do have a very appealing situation for players this summer. Let’s break down these factors and why free agents going to a big market team like the Knicks scare the NBA.
Before you retort something negative in your mind as you read this about James Dolan, let’s break down the rest of the team first. Beginning with Scott Perry and Steve Mills, it’s fair to say that they’ve done a very good job to this point. In particular, Scott Perry, who has now officially put his imprint on the franchise. Perry has overseen a complete reset, from horrible contracts to additional cap clearing moves to set up the Knicks for a summer of success. Mills to this point has served as a solid teammate for Perry, but this is Perry’s ship to sail at the moment. Overall, those two have been net positives for the franchise.
Next is Coach Fizdale. He’s universally beloved in the league, nobody has anything bad to say about him. Even after his flameout with the Grizzlies, those former players gave him credit for making them better players (Marc Gasol) and appreciated their time with him. He’s been in the league for a long time, working his way up from a video assistant, to being a part of championship titles with the Heat. He relates to players better than most, if not all coaches. Many will point to the Knicks record this year as a reflection of his coaching, which is completely unfair. There were no expectations this season with a roster bereft of talent. The Knicks are in a position to have a top 3 pick along with the two max salary spaces this summer. Fizdale has been steering the rebuilding ship just fine and will serve as an excellent recruiting piece this summer as a coach players want to play for.
Lastly, James Dolan. He gets a lot of flack as the owner of the Knicks and some of it is fair. What we do know is that he has stepped back and doesn’t meddle in basketball affairs anymore. His run-ins with fans might not be the best look, but these aren’t things that affect how the franchise is run day to day. It’s really easy when you want to talk down on the Knicks to try and bring up Dolan as a reason nobody wants to come to NYC. It simply isn’t true and in fact, free agents probably don’t care about the owner much. Dolan wants to oversee a winner and unlike other owners, he has no problem providing the necessary money to make the Knicks a winner again.
Madison Square Garden
There is no more famous arena. Not in America, not in the entire world. Despite experiencing decades of losing, the aura of playing in New York and The Garden remains strong. Almost every visiting player ranks it as their top arena to perform in and you’d be hard pressed to find basketball players in general that wouldn’t love to play in The Garden. The Knicks own the worst record in the league but sit in the top 10 in attendance. That should tell you something about how the city feels about the team and the unwavering support that basketball fans have for this squad no matter what.
Now take that and imagine a team that is winning and the support the Knicks would get throughout the city. There would be nothing like it. Despite the success of the Yankees in New York, there is nothing better than when the Knicks are good in New York City.
Winning a championship in New York is unlike winning anywhere else. When you factor in the fact that the Knicks haven’t won a championship since 1973, you realize how starved the fans are. For someone like Kevin Durant, bringing a championship to NYC would top the one LeBron won for Cleveland or any of the likely 3 rings he’s going to capture with the Warriors. No other basketball situation this summer offers him the opportunity to cement and elevate his legacy like the Knicks do. If you want to leave the Warriors and prove that you can do this as the alpha dog on a team, the Knicks give you the best opportunity to prove that.
Why Others Are Scared
The Knicks being good again is great for the NBA. Ratings in the largest market in America would shoot through the roof and provide excitement across the league. Now while it’s great for the NBA as a business, small market teams won’t be a fan if the Knicks bring in a haul of stars this summer. This would go against everything the small market teams have worked towards, getting an equal chance at landing the superstar free agents. That’s why you notice the amount of negative attention some try to throw on the Knicks, although they’ve been operating as a responsible franchise as of late.
There is no chaos at MSG and with a clear cut plan moving forward with an excellent chance at landing a superstar or two, some teams are worried. The narrative that secondary teams in large markets like the Nets could hold their own recruiting would fall apart, thus bringing back the allure of being at a premier franchise.
At the end of the day, we will see the truth this summer. All signs point towards the Knicks making big-time moves and creating a team worthy of competing next season. There’s a lot of time left until the summer, so for now, it’s waiting and see.