The Knicks are slowly headed in the right direction due to better roster moves and more stable management yet still widely mocked. How can they shake the negative narrative?

The media — encompassing print, television, streaming and social — is and will continue to be of the most powerful, influential entities in the world. Unless you live under a rock, it is almost impossible to not be exposed to some sort of media on a daily basis. More specifically, sports media has grown infinitely in the last couple of decades, with a countless number of additional people gaining platforms to express opinions, sports betting agendas, and increased access and communication with certain teams, players and more.

The New York Knicks have always been one of the most scrutinized and widely discussed NBA teams for a variety of reasons. Largely dysfunctional and marred with some embarrassing moments this century, the Knicks have been an easy target and low-hanging fruit for talking heads and now people on Twitter. Couple that with the fact that the New York City dwellers play in one of the most hopping media markets in the country and world and it’s clear why their operations and performance have been and always will be amplified more than teams that call smaller American cities home.

The Knicks have earned their largely poor perception in the media because they’ve cycled through coaches, missed out/passed on immensely talented players in favor of worse ones, endured scandals and haven’t made the Conference Finals since the 1999-2000 season.

Lazy Narratives

To this day, you still see the term “same old Knicks” thrown around. This is despite the fact they are currently in a position to make the postseason for the second time in three years and finally have a solid foundation of young players and stars instead of going into the season thinking about the lottery and starting guys like Alexy Shved and Lou Amundson. I mean, how could you not poke fun at that?

Nowadays, the Knicks have upgraded from starting scrubs and consistently drafting busts to being good at identifying late first-round and second-round talent with guys like Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes and Mitchell Robinson and developing them into important core players around a pair of stars. The Jalen Brunson “overpay” is now viewed as a steal and the extension for Julius Randle, who was named to his second All-Star team in three seasons, suddenly looks like a wise move now that he is having a career year. Yeah, of course, you still have the draft whiffs of choosing Frank Ntlikina over Donovan Mitchell and Kevin Knox over Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (which do still sting) but that isn’t the norm. The Knicks have moved off of these mistakes and rebounded decently.

Another recent criticism that leaves the Knicks in a no-win situation from a media standpoint is the Donovan Mitchell trade saga. If the Knicks gave up what Danny Ainge wanted for Mitchell, there would be plenty of folks foolishly comparing it to the Carmelo Anthony trade and labeling it as the Knicks mortgaging their future for a shooting guard who is not a number one option. Now that the Knicks didn’t make the move and the Cavs have Mitchell, the narrative was that the Knicks missed out on another star and are going nowhere.

I am in the camp that really wanted Mitchell and of course, the Knicks’ failure to deliver on acquiring a superstar in a superstar-driven league is frustrating and worth valid criticism. However, I think it is unfair to frame it as a lose-lose for the Knicks, with either decision they could have made with regard to Mitchell an opportunity to mock. Again, the Knicks remain an easy target for media members and people on social to get clicks and to self-promote.

By no means are Leon Rose, Tom Thibodeau and company absolved of any criticism, as there is plenty to improve upon and both should be feeling a little bit of heat at this point. But a lot of the discussions about the overall functionality of the Knicks are often misinformed and play off of a narrative that they still operate like they did from pre-2012-2013 and then from that year to 2018-2019. Oftentimes, narratives are impossible to change and sports opinions from some aren’t fluid, but it would be nice to see the Knicks be able to shake the stigma of the last two decades.

Shifting the Perception

Most younger Knicks fans, myself included, only know mostly bad Knicks basketball and were too young/not around for the 90’s New York basketball renaissance. Knowing only losing and chaos allows these fans to enjoy improvement and be happy with the way the Knicks are playing now, despite not being a championship-contending team.

A lot of people, though — especially the loud, older Knicks fans on TV — tend to enjoy harkening back to the good old days of the 90’s Knicks and desperately want to replicate that style of play in 2023, although that’s not possible with the shift in the game and how teams are constructed and games are officiated. Unfortunately, a lot of fans cannot let that time period go and cannot appreciate the new way of the Association and how you can’t win with toughness alone, you need skill and shooting.

In the skill and shooting department, the Knicks still have work to do and I don’t think the Knicks will be respected fully until they bring in a superstar, which would put them back in the championship conversation. I agree 100% that superstar power is missing from the current puzzle, but just because the Knicks aren’t in the class of the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics or Milwaukee Bucks doesn’t mean they should still be ridiculed and talked about like a bottom-feeding team.

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