Will the New York Knicks’ Latest Strategy Succeed After So Many Failures?

Updated: February 10, 2019
Knicks Fizdale Pic

At the turn of the century, the New York Knicks were an Eastern Conference power.

Despite not having won a title since 1973, the Knicks were one of the league’s marquee teams and were staples in the playoffs – two NBA Finals appearances in the 1990s, and a decade-long streak (from 1991-2000) of advancing at least to the second round of the playoffs.

Then came the fall from grace.

Now, nearly 20 years later, and the Knicks remain a team lost in the weeds.

The downfall began in December 2001, when head coach Jeff Van Gundy unexpectedly resigned (a decision Van Gundy has since said that he regrets). Two years later, Isiah Thomas was hired as team president – a move that led to zero playoff wins in five sub-.500 seasons with the ex-Pistons star as president and, for three of those seasons, head coach.

Many big names that followed came and went over the next ten years, with very little to show for it: Mike D’Antoni, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Joakim Noah, Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher. The only thing the Knicks have to show for that time period is a 54-win season, along with a first-round playoff series win, in 2012-13.

Now, under new general manager Scott Perry and head coach David Fizdale, add Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway, Jr. to the list above.

Two of the team’s veteran stars, along with Trey Burke, were shipped to Dallas last week for Dennis Smith, Jr., DeAndre Jordan, and Wesley Matthews.

It’s led to a new strategy for New York – after nearly two decades of losing, it’s suspected that the Knicks are now losing on purpose.

The Knicks are in the midst of a 14-game losing streak and have just 10 wins this season. They are in a three-way race for the league’s worst record – Phoenix and Cleveland both have 11 wins.

The grand prize in the 2019 NBA Draft is clear – Duke phenom Zion Williamson. It’s fair to say the Knicks, Suns, and Cavs are tanking to get the top spot in June.

The moves to unload Porzingis and Hardaway, Jr.’s contracts to the Mavericks also free up salary cap space this summer. It’s not a coincidence that Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, and Klay Thompson are in the upcoming free agent pool. Durant, for one, is already fed up with all the rumors and reports that he’s bound for Broadway.

The big question is, will this latest plan in a long line of attempts to turnaround the Knicks’ fortunes work?

There’s hope for optimism for Knicks fans. Perry and Fizdale were brought on board by James Dolan with basketball in mind. Thomas and Jackson were big-splash hires that backfired, as both men were over their heads in the roles they were put in. Rookie Kevin Knox is also poised to play a large role in the team’s future, especially now that he will get lots of playing time and experience during the rest of this campaign.

However, this has been a franchise that can’t get out of its own way for almost 20 years. Will the allure of the bright lights of New York and Madison Square Garden be enough to lure big-time free agents to the Big Apple, when similar efforts have failed in the past? And will the ping-pong balls bounce the Knicks’ way in the draft lottery?

Once we have answers to these questions, it will be easy to predict if the Knicks will once again become a force in the wide-open Eastern Conference, or if they will continue to look back on glory years that are getting further and further away in the rear-view mirror.

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