Overtime: Don’t Sweat the Technique

The Knicks traded away Kristaps Porzingis on Thursday, but is there hope for the scuffling franchise? (Adam Hunger/USA Today)

The Knicks traded away Kristaps Porzingis on Thursday, but is there hope for the scuffling franchise? (Adam Hunger/USA Today)

By Andrew Posadas

The New York Knicks have been the worst run NBA franchise for nearly 20 years. There, I said it.

Trust me, that is not a hot take. A majority of Knicks fans feel imprisoned in what has essentially been the NBA version of purgatory following the turn of the century.

Two NBA finals appearances in the 1990’s (’94, ’99) seem like a distant memory. Knicks supporters may not even acknowledge those two years given the Knicks lost each time. You see, New York Knicks fans are only interested in one thing: championships.

Fortunately, the Knicks have given their fans two NBA titles to celebrate down Seventh Avenue with. However, I would be remiss if I did not mention 45 years have passed since the Knicks last brought a championship back home.

The team currently has the worst record in the league at 10-42. It also traded its best young player, Kristaps Porzingis, for basically salary cap relief. Sounds depressing, huh? No worries Knicks fans, I’ll elaborate further.

Building a title contender in the NBA requires taking major risks in hopes of astronomical rewards. It’s safe to say Knicks owner James Dolan is not the biggest gambler around. Besides their blockbuster trade of Carmelo Anthony in 2011, Dolan has done little to nothing to build a championship caliber team.

Dolan took over as Knicks chairman in 1999. At the time, New York had made the playoffs 12 years in a row. Despite not having an NBA title to show for it, the Knicks were competitive year in and year out. Players like Patrick Ewing and John Starks kept Madison Square Garden rocking with excitement.

Now, the Knicks have made four playoff appearances in 18 years. Knicks fans have experienced the six stages of grief through bad contract signings, horrible draft choices and questionable trade moves. They’ve been through seven team presidents and 12 head coaches. Don’t even get me started on Phil Jackson’s tenure as the team’s president.

For Knicks fans who have been trapped in the grief stage of acceptance, even the trade of Kristaps Porzingis caught them off-guard. Sure, they want the Knicks to have as much salary cap space as possible with this year’s stacked free agent class. The problem is that fans were hoping Porzingis would remain a core piece in turning the franchise around.

Here’s why Porzingis being traded to the Dallas Mavericks is actually a good thing. The Knicks also traded away guards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee. Both were grossly overpaid by New York in free agency. With their departures, the Knicks are projected to have the most salary cap space this summer with about 73 million dollars.

Facilitating a deal to get that much cap space ultimately required putting Porzingis in trade talks. Fans may have been reluctant to let him go, but let’s be honest, Porzingis had no desire to be in New York. After a meeting last Thursday, Knicks President Steve Mills said Porzingis “no longer wanted to be a part of our group.”

Coming off of an ACL injury, New York understood teams were not going to mortgage their entire futures for Porzingis.

Ultimately, the Knicks received guards Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews and center DeAndre Jordan. The Mavericks are also giving New York two future first round picks. Initially, one could surmise the Knicks were swindled in the deal.

I beg to differ. I understand the Knicks could have drafted Smith Jr. last year but instead, chose to take Frenchman Frank Ntilikina. Now on the same team, both will be hungry to prove he is better than the other. Best case scenario, both Smith Jr. and Ntilikina show out on the court, giving the Knicks potential key trade assets in the future.

Moving on to Matthews and Jordan, both are battle-tested veterans who undoubtedly want no part of a team in “rebuild mode.”

With the trade deadline on Thursday afternoon, teams in the playoff hunt will be flocking to pick up either Matthews or Jordan. Finding ideal trade partners for them could open up even more money for the Knicks to use in free agency this summer.

As constructed, a championship contender in New York seems eons away from becoming a reality. But if the Knicks are going to make New York relevant in basketball again, this is the only way to do so.

That’s where optimism comes in. The Knicks may end up with the first overall pick in the draft. Losing Porzingis would be ancient history if Adam Silver announces that with the first pick, the Knicks draft Zion Williamson from Duke University. Porzingis may be the “Unicorn,” but with every SportsCenter highlight dunk he throws down, Williamson is a bonafide freak of nature.

Big picture, all of these moves by New York seem directed towards a certain player who will be the biggest free agent come this summer: Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant.

Signs and posters of Durant in a Knicks Jersey are all around Manhattan. Fans have not been silent in their attempts to woo KD to the east coast. With the projected cap space, the Knicks could literally tell Durant, “We have enough money for you and whoever you want to play with.”

Is that enough for Durant to sign with New York this summer? That is the 73 million dollar question. Regardless, the Knicks have put themselves in prime position for a big summer. A trio of Durant, possibly Kyrie Irving and Williamson is the perfect scenario for the Big Apple.

If this is what has to occur in order to attain those players, Knicks fans everywhere should take some advice from legendary New York rapper Rakim: “Don’t sweat the technique.”