Keidel: Knicks Are Most Valuable And Most Incompetent Team In NBA

Kristaps Porzingis Another Superstar Who Wants No Part Of Them

Jason Keidel
November 15, 2019 - 1:36 pm

For one night, the Knicks won one basketball game, extended their odd hold over the Dallas Mavericks, and exacted some symbolic revenge over Kristaps Porzingis. 

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But one game can't hide what Porzingis represents - yet another NBA superstar who wants nothing to do with the Knicks. And the fact that the Knicks have two wins against the Mavs doesn't mask that they have just three wins this season, with nine losses, and their familiar, oddly cozy place in last place in the Atlantic Division, and 14th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference. 

Knicks fans were happy to heckle Porzingis for a few hours, remind him of their anger over his mutinous moves that got him dealt to Dallas before he even enters his prime. And for 48 minutes, the Knicks handed the young unicorn an Alka Seltzer game.

But Porzingis was drafted by the Knicks, nurtured by the Knicks, and should have spent his career in New York City after we saw his sublime rookie season, during which he flashed uncanny handle, twitch, and accuracy for a man his size. The Knicks—and their more jaded fans—can blame the big man's brother or the star's diva sensibilities, which grew by the week while he was at MSG. But these things always seem to happen to the Knicks. 

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The Knicks also hired head coach David Fizdale to attract the golden gaggle of free agents on the market this summer—a group that included Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving—not to mention a small army of stars changing teams, from Anthony Davis to Paul George to Russell Westbrook. Yet the best the Knicks could do was Julius Randle. 

Of course, this eyesore of a season doesn't fall on Fizdale, who is a fine coach and basketball man. He's just the latest in a conga line of coaches to turn through the Knicks' turnstile. Indeed, the Knicks have had 12 coaches this young century. (San Antonio has had one.) Even the best coaches need tools to win and are at the mercy of management. 

In so many ways the Knicks are an anomaly. Not only do they continue to find fresh new ways to fail, but the Big Apple refuses to give up on them. Every major American city fancies itself as the most enlightened and intelligent, and New Yorkers almost have a patent on this brand of hubris. Yet the Knicks still own basketball's bold ink, a curious place in your hearts, and Madison Square Garden continues to mushroom with customers every time. 

Forget the courtside seats, which double as the NBA's red carpet, eye candy for the TV viewers. They will bask in Broadway's glow no matter the score or state of the team. But regular, blue-collar basketball fans still believe in the Knicks, still pay egregious prices for tickets, and speed dial sports talk radio shows to voice their vociferous takes. 

You wonder if this is a special case of loyalty or masochism.  In life, we leave partners who treat us poorly. We quit jobs that have no future. Yet some sports teams are insulated from the grim realities of poor performance. The Knicks are, at least. Fans are gloating over giving Porzingis the business, and a rare night when the Knicks outscored their opponent. 

Maybe you forget a few years ago, Porzingis was the face of the future, a basketball wunderkind, snagged from the streets of Latvia. He was the only beacon from the dark age under Phil Jackson.  Porzingis was branded a unicorn for his singular skillset, and Al Dukes even crafted a Christmas carol in his honor.

Porzingis is gone, as is the song. No big-ticket free agent seriously considered the Knicks. They couldn't even elbow their way to the top pick in the Zion Williamson lottery. The Knicks will win a few more games this year, and Boomer & Gio will wonder how long Fizdale keeps his job. But the bigger job of building the Knicks into a contender still looms over the Knicks, a club that has lost 337 games since 2013-14 season, most in the league. 

And it extends the paradox that the Knicks are the most valuable, and most incompetent, franchise in the NBA. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel