Last season the Knicks won 54 games, the Atlantic Division, and a playoff series. The only major personnel losses were Jason Kidd and the cult of Steve Novak, while they added promising rookie Tim Hardaway, Jr. and traded for a former number one overall pick in Andrea Bargnani. The wisdom of the Bargs trade (or more accurately the utter lack thereof) aside, there was no reason to think the Knicks would be anything other than a top-four team in the East as long as Carmelo stayed healthy.
Winning 50 games again seemed not only possible, but probable. Before the season began Vegas had the Knicks pegged for 49.5 wins, and at the time it sure looked like a visit to www.gambling.com was in order to place a bet on the over. Instead, the Knicks experienced the largest negative difference between projected and actual wins, currently sitting 14.5 games under that 49.5 win total with a pair of meaningless games left to play. Even the lowly Bucks are closer to their expected win total, just 13.5 off. The Bucks!
So what happened? Well, a lot happened to this team. Chemistry issues, poor defense. injuries to big men like Bargnani and Tyson Chandler, JR Smith doing JR Smith things (to be fair, that won them a game or two as well). A number of close games, winnable games, also went against the team despite the frequent heroic efforts of Carmelo Anthony.
So where do the Knicks go from here? What’s the plan now that Phil Jackson is in charge? Well it seems to be remarkably similar to the old plan, just with the added cache of Jackson at the helm. General manager Steve Mills had planned on dangling the prospect of New York’s immense cap space in 2015 as a carrot to get Carmelo to re-sign, grinding through next season, and making a splash or two in the loaded 2015 free agent market. Without a first round pick, it was a solid plan before Jackson came aboard that sounds even better with Phil’s ring-laden hands on the controls. Knicks fans should feel free to become cautiously optimistic about the prospect of stars such as Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo, or even-dare to dream-LeBron James pulling on the orange and blue in a few years.
That plan will most likely result in a 2014/15 season much like this year’s debacle, one where the most exciting things for fans to look forward to will be all the times JR Smith decides to go for the single-game three pointer record and the countdown to the expiring contracts of Amar’e Stoudemire, Chandler, and Bargnani. And that will be difficult, even painful at times, to watch. But fans should remember, there is hope, there is a future. The first step was bringing in Phil, the second is re-signing Carmelo, after that patience and faith will be required.
It doesn’t sound ideal, but what is being a Knicks fan about if not patience and faith.