New York Knicks worth plenty of money but there is little value on the court
If American comedian David Letterman still had his television talk show, he could use an old joke that may be more apt today than it was more than 10 years ago.
“The circus is at Madison Square Garden,” said Letterman. “If I want to see clowns at the Garden, I’ll go to a Knicks game.”
It still may be humorous to neutral observers, but the last couple of weeks for the New York Knicks — one of the NBA’s signature franchises, yet one of its least successful — have been crying time.
On the court, New York are methodically descending out of the play-off picture. After a 14-10 start, the Knicks have gone 9-24 and dropped to 12th place in the Eastern Conference, leading to coach Jeff Hornacek questioning his team’s pride.
Off the court, Knicks President Phil Jackson has been taking calculated shots at star forward Carmelo Anthony, presumably to set the stage for a trade.
In a December interview, Jackson criticised Anthony for holding the ball too long and slowing down the offence.
In a cryptically worded comment on Twitter last week, Jackson appeared to agree with a columnist who wrote that Anthony did not fit in New York anymore.
Most embarrassing of all, former Knicks player Charles Oakley, a vocal critic of Knicks management, got into a verbal dispute with team owner James Dolan during a game.
When security personnel approached Oakley, and the confrontation became physical, he was handcuffed and removed from the arena.
Dolan then banned Oakley from attending Knicks games. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, along with NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, jointly persuaded Dolan to ease up.
Nevertheless, the Oakley-ejection videotape has turned into a much repeated, dramatic visual backdrop for sports television commentary regarding the continuing dysfunction of the franchise.
This week, Golden State Warriors player Draymond Green likened Dolan’s reaction to “slave owner mentality.”
It was just part of the media cacophony, which concluded that the Knicks will have a hard time attracting marquee free agents into such turmoil, no matter how invitingly glamorous New York City may be.
Of course, it’s always been a strange dichotomy. New York, with all its resources, a hotspot of basketball popularity and long-time producer of NBA talent, has had little to cheer.
In 70 NBA seasons, New York have two championships, both won in the 1970s.
Jackson, a one-time Knick who helped win those two lonely banners, was cast as a franchise rescuer when Dolan offered him his first executive position in 2014.
That followed a luminous coaching career that produced 11 championships with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.
Jackson’s first big move was re-signing free agent Anthony to a five-year deal that summer, even though the team had finished 37-45 and missed the post-season.
An injury to Anthony torpedoed the 2014-15 season, the worst in New York history at 17-65. That failure at least produced a high draft pick in June 2015: rising star Kristaps Porzingis.
Not that the team fared much better last year, going 32-50 and missing the post-season again.
Last summer, Jackson acquired guard Derrick Rose from the Bulls, banking on a big comeback from the often-injured former Most Valuable Player.
Optimists saw Anthony-Porzingis-Rose as an era-building collaboration. Instead, the disappointment has grown toxic.
Last week, filmmaker Spike Lee, the New York super fan who sits courtside every home game, railed against the Carmelo trade talk, saying he would rather “pack Phil’s bags.”
Ironically, this week Forbes Magazine ranked the Knicks as the NBA’s most valuable franchise, worth US$3.3 billion (Dh12.1bn).
Not bad for a clown show.
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Updated: February 18, 2017 04:00 AM