September 20th, 2000. The day that the Knicks traded “The Franchise” Patrick Ewing. This move effectively ended a 13-year run in which the Knicks were relevant. During this stretch, the Garden was rocking, towels waving, and God forbid any opposing player go into the painted area. To the modern-day Knicks fan, these were our golden years.
But regardless of all of the loose ball chasing; paint protection of Oak-Man, Mase, X-Man; the heart of John Starks; the camaraderie between LJ, Spree, Houston; defense-first philosophy of Riley and Van Gundy. The Knicks still couldn’t bring home the chip. The only thing we have to show for this golden era is two Finals appearances and a bunch of second and third-round exits. Since this time, the Knicks have been the butt of every joke out there. It’s not enough that they have the worst record in the NBA over the last 20 seasons. The organization has also found a way to alienate some of the biggest names in the franchise’s history. Quite frankly, the Knicks have not been the model of a championship organization. Despite these harsh realities, we LOVE our Knicks. Madison Square Garden is sold out every night. The Knicks are still the NBA’s most valuable franchise, according to Forbes.
We often argue about the best way for the franchise to proceed forward in the barbershops and on platforms like NBK. But do we really know what a championship team looks like? Do we know what a winning culture looks like? We are so resigned to the fact that the Knicks will be bad that we have drastically lowered our expectations. Instead of wanting the Knicks to win games, we want a bunch of moral victories. The proverbial “participation trophy.” Coming from a Knick fan, this sounds controversial. But if you compare this to how other fan bases feel about their teams, it really isn’t too far off from reality.
So, where does that leave us now? Now that the 2020 offseason is basically complete, what is the current outlook on the team? The positives: we have another Pres. of Basketball Ops, Head Coach, and a new group of assistant coaches with tremendous “player development” expertise. The roster is much more balanced than last year, and the young players are one year older in their growth. The negatives: the roster still lacks proven scorers, the teams in our division are projected to be way better than us. Pretty much, the Knicks are headed for the lottery for the 5th year in a row. Some Knicks fans are happy about that; I AM NOT!
Yes, we must develop our players. But we also must develop a winning culture. You can do BOTH simultaneously. The great organizations like the Spurs, Lakers, Celtics, Heat, and the Warriors do this exceptionally well. Winning drives development, and development drives winning. If Knick fans don’t have winning expectations, why would anyone in the organization?
Do me a favor, close your eyes, and think about Mike Breen sitting next to Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. Now open them, and read the title of this article.