Resident draftnik, Knicks maester, and House of the Dragon expert Nick Carannante takes us deep into an MSG-as-Westeros world.
HBO’s Game of Thrones was a cultural phenomenon that reigned over television for nearly a decade. In that time, the Knicks had some ups and downs while being coached by the likes of Mike D’Antonio, Mike Woodson, Derek Fisher, Kurt Rambis, Jeff Hornacek, David Fizdale, and Mike Miller. In the modern era of Knicks basketball, HBO has gone back to the Westerosi well one more time. Similar to the Tom Thibodeau era in Manhattan, Game of Thrones has turned back the clock and went to a bygone time with their hit show: House Of The Dragon.
House of the Dragon takes place over 150 years before the events of Danaerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, and the lot. If you are trying to determine the answer to who has a better story than Bran the Broken, you can look for quite a bit occurring in the Dance of the Dragons.
If it is not clear, this is a crossover of two of my biggest passions on the planet and any chance to crossover between the Knicks and the happenings in Kings’ Landing is something I would jump at. So, suffice it to say I loved this idea when my editor presented it and hope that you will appreciate it just as much. Over the course of this article, we will be discussing what New York Knickerbockers share similarities with the characters of “Hot D”.
Spoiler Alert: We will be discussing events that occur throughout the first season of HBO’s “House of the Dragon”. Events from Fire and Blood that have not been shown on television may be alluded to but will not be discussed: please reach out if you would like to discuss in greater detail!
Tom Thibodeau is Otto Hightower:
There will always be shakers and movers in Westeros, characters who will stop at nothing to get their agenda. In the world that George R.R. Martin built, that may look like starting wars or planning assassinations but when it comes to the National Basketball Association, it looks like playing Evan Fournier or limiting Obi Toppin’s opportunities. He is set in his ways and is never far from putting a self-fulfilling prophecy into action. Whether it is keeping Rhaenyra from the throne, or keeping a young player from getting reps, these two commanders have more in common than many would like to admit. Of course, these men do not act in isolated scenarios and there are always others behind the scenes promoting these agendas and guiding their actions.
Evan Fournier could not and would not have started 87 games for the Knicks if not signed for four years, $78 million by Leon Rose and his front office staff. That pushed the ball down the hill and got it rolling toward what became a nightmare for nearly every living Knicks fan. This is not any different than Lord Hobert Hightower pronouncing Aegon II, the second of his name, on his first name day.
Men like Thibodeau and Otto Hightower are dangerous because they are uncompromising, stubborn, and unwilling to change from what they declare inevitable. The real threat however is the men behind them, pulling their strings and coercing their actions. These are men that are simply not to be trusted, men that act in their own self-interest and nothing more.
Scott Perry is Larys Strong
No story in Westeros is ever complete without a bevy of schemes and plots. Behind every backstabbing kin-slaying move you have the men and women pulling the strings from the shadows. While they may rule the kingdom, they make sure that they can influence those that do.
If you are not thinking about Scott Perry as you read that, I do not know what to tell you. There is not a person involved with the organization in the last decade that would fit in with the backroom dealings that occur in Kings’ Landing more than Perry.
Larys “Clubfoot” as he is not so lovingly called uses his disadvantages to his advantage. As with many of the “cripples, bastards, and broken things” from Martin’s stories, he can turn perceived weaknesses into positions of power by virtue of proximity. Whether it is with the queen regent, the hand of the king, or his own brother, Larys is singularly focused on getting others to act in his best interest.
By doing the bidding of others, the second son of the Strong family is able to garner favor with those in power and maintain influence. In doing this, he remains valuable and useful to those around him and acts in the shadows to maintain secrecy behind his actions.
This is where the similarities are strongest with Scott Perry, somebody who seems to do so little yet has clearly proven himself invaluable to those in charge. No matter what has happened throughout Scott Perry’s tumultuous tenure with the Knickerbockers, he has kept his place in the front office and even at times been given promotions. It is almost like burning down your family home with them in it and becoming the lord of the land because of it.
While the current front office regime of the Knicks is not universally beloved, Scott Perry is somehow without blood on his hands, as he was with the previous regime where he and Steve Mills acquired their positions simultaneously, but only Mills was let go.
Now Leon Rose gets all of the heat and the bright lights of Broadway shine on him with every bad game played by a number of players. While Leon Rose deserves plenty of criticism, it is the role of the general manager to make the moves necessary to build a successful roster, you just wouldn’t know it from Scott Perry’s resume. While he has been suspiciously absent from many of the trade talks from the reports on players such as Donovan Mitchell, the decisions he has been associated with have not been successful.
Julius Randle is Alicent Hightower
If Tom Thibodeau and Leon Rose are the Lord and second son of Oldtown, Julius Randle is the person used to push their agenda. No matter if you are team black or team green, you cannot deny that Alicent is a nuanced character. While at times she presents manipulative, she rarely is shown as malicious. She is someone that is often times thrust into bad scenarios or has them pushed on her by the men influencing her life.
The Queen regent is someone that lost many fans as things went on and her side largely turned against her as she was implicit for the actions and desires of others. As pointed out by “The Queen That Never Was” Alicent “desire[s] not to be free but to make a window in the wall of [her] prison.” Consistently throughout the show, she is shown as capable as anyone of making moves and schemes but never works for anything outside of the men in her life.
Julius Randle is at best, a touchy subject in the Knicks fandom. There was a time when the Most Improved Player was being looked at as an absolute steal and a lock to be re-signed as a core piece of the franchise going forward. Just like Alicent who was once a likable friend to Rhaenyra, Randle was once a shining highlight of the franchise and the front office.
It is not exclusively Randle’s fault that the fanbase turned on him, although he is certainly not innocent either. The contract he received from Leon Rose and the decline in play after that changed a lot of minds. While he had supporters early on, they are far fewer at this point in his tenure with the storied franchise.
You still have people that will support both of these people, but even the most stout defenders will have to question certain things around them. It is a situation that could have gone well but turned wrong in so many ways that only resulted in a war. It is not impossible that it works out for either of them, but it certainly doesn’t look positive at this point.
RJ Barrett is Rhaenyra Targaryen
The counterpoint to Julius Randle’s Alicent Hightower is none other than RJ Barrett. The Maple Mamba was supposed to be the chosen one. Not only was the Duke alumni the highest drafted Knick since Patrick Ewing, he also followed two megastars in the draft with Ja Morant and Zion Willamson. These expectations that were thrust upon him can only be compared to the Lords of the Seven Realms all bending the knee to Rhaenyra Targaryen as Viserys named her the heir to the throne and the Targaryen empire.
Rhaenyra was chosen for a reason, yet for years the idea was rejected by many as they assumed she could not live up to the expectations of the position she was put in. While her own actions at times lost her favor with those within the realm, many hurdles were not of her own design. She had to work harder than anyone else to prove the doubters wrong. Yet, no matter what she did, no matter how big her dragon was, or how peacefully she could resolve issues at a young age, nothing she could do would outweigh the worry of what her rule would look like.
The true irony of the situation is that the worry about her reign and how the realm would react was not based upon any actions of her own, but instead, it was reinforced to make sure that the realm would not accept her. Plans were put into place to usurp the rightful heir well before it was even her time to rule. She was publicly humiliated on more than one occasion, and while some of that was because of her own actions, others were outside her control.
This is where the comparison to RJ Barrett is strongest. He was chosen to lead the realm that is the New York Knicks; it was not a choice that he made but a choice made for him. Some of his play and some of his actions have hurt his reputation, but the expectations were out of this world for the young Canadian wing from the day that the Knicks’ ping-pong ball was pulled.
You have many defenders of RJ Barrett, believers that he can still make a leap and become the player the Knicks have needed him to be. Others are less willing to see the positive or give him a chance to prove the doubters wrong. While he hasn’t taken advantage of all opportunities, the situation has been rigged against RJ Barrett to succeed. Nothing makes that more obvious than looking at the moves made by the front office that is supposed to be promoting the third overall draft pick of the loaded 2019 class.
While coups are commonplace in Westeros, you see them less often in the NBA. As good an example as we are going to see is the reports of the RJ Barrett-centered trade packages the Knicks offered the Utah Jazz for Donovan Mitchell. While that may have been the right move to make, rumor has it that the front office was quick to offer their once-franchise player. RJ Barrett is still young and time will tell what his future holds, but if he has lost the trust of those making the decisions, it is hard to imagine the fanbase continuing to trust him as well.
RJ Barrett’s play can best be described as inconsistent and when the expectations are as high as they are, that is simply not enough. The Maple Mamba has been put under a microscope since his rookie year in MSG, and now that he has signed his extension, that microscope has grown exponentially. If you are on Knicks Twitter you will see debates on every side of the equation with each and every performance that Barrett gives. It is hard to imagine RJ ever doing enough to live up to the expectations that were asked of him, and even though it is not his fault, it does drive the narrative of Barrett’s time with this franchise.
When Rhaenyra was backed into a corner, she did everything she could to keep it cordial. She tried to keep the peace and was willing to compromise more than most would in her situation. However noble Rhaenyra’s attempts may have been, the impending war was likely unavoidable. We can only hope that the end result for RJ Barrett results in less death.
Evan Fournier is Aegon Targaryen II
If Julius Randle is the Alicent Hightower of this Knicks’ regime, there is only one choice for Otto Hightower’s chosen heir. Unlike Alicent who had positive moments and those that believe in her goodness, Aegon II is universally reviled. Whether it is pleasuring himself outside of a window or running away and hiding at children’s fighting pits, there is no defending “the conqueror babe”.
Luckily nobody in this franchise is as repugnant of a person as Aegon: Second of his Name, there are basketball reasons for why Evan Fournier is looked upon with such disgust. Much like how Aegon did not choose to be the usurper to Rhaenyra’s throne, the 6′ 7 Frenchman is not at fault for being given a 78 million dollar contract, but there is no looking past it.
Calling Evan Fournier’s contract an albatross is offensive to albatrosses everywhere. Even when Fournier was shooting well and setting franchise records, he was still having a negative impact on the team due to his atrocious defense and lack of playmaking. Now that Fournier is shooting career-lows in both volume and accuracy from the three-point line, there is no reason for him to ever be on the court.
While things are starting to turn around and the end of the Evan Fournier tenure seems near, this experiment was a colossal failure. Fournier was constantly given opportunities he did not deserve, and whether they came from his contract, the theoretical idea of him as a shooting playmaker, or Tom Thibodeau’s stubbornness, we will never know. Game after game last year, he was given playing time over younger players far more deserving of it, and nearly never relinquished his position in the starting lineup.
Aegon II was similarly thrust into positions that he did not deserve or even want. Whether it was those loyal to Rhaenyra or even his own brother acknowledging the king’s shortcomings, very few people saw Aeg as a good fit for the iron throne. In the end, none of that mattered and he wore the conqueror’s crown in front of thousands and the realm was forced to deal with the consequences.
Likewise, the Knicks made their bed with the Evan Fournier contract and all Tom Thibodeau did was add mattresses made of nails for the Knicks to sleep on. It remains to be seen if the Knicks will find a team that will take on Fournier’s contract in a trade and if so, what they have to attach to it. All I know is that the realm does not want Aegon II, and the Knicks do not want Evan Fournier, but here we are.
Jalen Brunson is Daemon Targaryen
Jalen Brunson was never destined to be the chosen one, he was a second son if there ever was one. While he was an NBA legacy, the three-year Villanova starter won nearly every accolade you could acquire in college only to watch two of his teammates get drafted before him. The 2018 second-round pick appears to have a chip on his shoulder and plays like it every game. Whether it is just his nature or compensation for his smaller stature by NBA standards, Brunson works as hard as anybody out there.
He was the second fiddle in Dallas, coming off the bench to supplement the offense when Luka Doncic was off the court. Whether he was ever going to be happy with that role or not, it is easy to see why it would be additional motivation to the 26-year-old guard. Likewise, if the reports are to be trusted, Brunson and his camp felt spurned by the Mavericks, who refused to sign him to an extension before the deadline.
He acted upon this perceived frustration by betting himself, dominating in the absence of Dallas’ Slovenian superstar and propelling the Mavs to a Western Conference Finals. He followed this up by paying out on his self-indulged bet and getting paid by the New York Knicks handsomely. In the time since Brunson signed his $104 million contract, he has done nothing but prove that he is worth every single penny.
You may be asking yourself how the calm, cool and collected Brunson can be compared to the hot-headed Daemon Targaryen, but the answer is simple: validation. Daemon Targaryen was never truly considered the heir to his brother’s throne, even when many thought there was no viable option. He was chastised as being reckless, a danger to the realm and those in it, and was largely untrusted. While Brunson has done nothing but prove himself trustworthy on and off the court, he was never trusted to be more than a 6th man, a second-round pick, and so on and so forth.
Daemon had this unrelenting desire to prove himself as worthy, regardless of what anybody said. It never really appears as if Daemon wants the positions of power that he sits so close to, he just wanted to be validated as worthy of them. From early on in the show, it is obvious that Daemon just wanted to be accepted by his brother, the king. While his own actions at times pushed Viserys away instead of unifying them, the intent was always clear. I would say that Daemon has a chip on his shoulder, but if he did, he would have likely chopped it off with Dark Sister.
Jalen Brunson has an unrelenting fearlessness, and whether it is driven by this need to prove himself or not, he is scared of nobody. He attacks mismatches violently and will go at any defender thrown at him. His ability to maneuver through difficult situations and use his footwork to create opportunities for himself is almost unparalleled. Likewise, Daemon has an unprecedented skill with his blade, a skill that far outweighs his physical prowess. While JB attacks the basket, Baelon Targaryen’s second son attacks his enemies. There is no question who wants the ball at the end of games now, and whether it is successful or not, Brunson will always do what needs to be done.
Mitchell Robinson is Corlys Velaryon
The “Sea Snake” is the richest man in Westeros, and he did it on his own. While others inherited their fortunes or came equipped with legacy and dragon at birth, Corlys built everything he had on his own hard work. As the heir to being the Lord of the Tides, Corlys traveled further than any man in Westeros knew possible. With those travels, he was able to secure riches that even the likes of the Lannisters had never seen.
While Corlys had to work to build his empire, the sailors sang his praises saying they had never seen such a natural talent. He had all the natural gifts but he did not rest on his laurels or ever get complacent. He doubled down on his travels going on Nine Great Voyages and increasing his wealth with each trip. Corlys not only created wealth for him and his family, but he literally created a seat at the table, building the High Tide after he became the Lord of the Tides. He turned Driftmark into a trade hub with all the spices he accumulated and made his family as powerful as any in the realm.
Mitchell Robinson is as natural talent as there is on the roster, and he has improved as much as anyone. There have always been concerns about Robinson, whether his health, his free throws, or his shooting. The 36th pick of the draft brought more questions after not ever playing a second of college basketball. The Western Kentucky recruit left under complicated circumstances and had a bumpy road to get to the NBA.
The Mcdonald’s All-American was always capable of being this good, he just took the longest path to get there. It was never a question about talent, but it was about how hard he would work and if he would be able to improve. Throughout his career with the Knicks, Robinson has answered most questions and been an impact player on the court. While he has missed time with injuries, there is no doubting what he has built in New York. He earned a 60 million dollar contract extension over four years because he accepts his role and maximizes what he is asked to do.
Similarly, the Sea Snake was a valuable player and put himself in roles where he could be most successful. The Master of Ships was a useful ally to the throne and could always be counted on for sage counsel to those in need. While he is not always available and had his own issues with injury and absence due to the never-ending war with the triarchy, he was always a valuable asset to the throne when available.
Derek Rose is Viserys Targaryen I
Viserys the Peaceful was the fifth king in the Targaryen dynasty and someone whose weight was hefty at the height of his reign. Viserys had the nearly impossible task of following Jahaerys the Conciliator and did so on the back of a succession controversy with the Great Council of 101.
Throughout season one of House of Dragon, we saw Viserys quite literally fall apart. Whether you believe that his physical decaying came from him being unworthy to sit on the Iron Throne or not, there was no denying what he became. The once great king saw his face melt off, losing his eye, his cheeks, and most of his physical self. He could cover his disfiguration with a mask all he wanted, but there was nothing that could hide his disintegration.
There is no denying the similarity between Viserys’ downfall and that of the 2011 MVP. The once-great point guard’s age finally caught up with him. After adjusting to his loss of athleticism post-injury, Rose reinvented his career and gave it a second life in New York. Long after his super team tenure with the Knicks, D Rose was able to revitalize himself. It looked like D Rose would never die, he was able to still have big moments, thriving off the bench. The 6th Man of the Year finalist brought a different energy and embraced his role as a veteran with the Knicks. He gave them something they did not have otherwise and carried a sense of leadership and respect that they desperately needed.
Just like Viserys’ final moment standing up for his daughter against her enemies showed the power he could still wield just for less time. The same was true with D. Rose with the Knicks; he was a calming presence, he still had “it,” there was just less of it. That has become less true as we start the third year of Rose’s second run with the Knicks. After playing only 61 games in the first two years and battling various injuries, it has finally caught up to him.
This Derrick Rose is not the one we once knew, but that does not change his legacy. His numbers are down in truly every statistical category and he carries less weight with his offensive impact. It is something that was inevitable and every player must face, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Rose’s minutes are being cut down and he is being called to be replaced by the likes of Deuce McBride. Just like Viserys, he gave all he had, but his body gave up before his mind.
Immanuel Quickley is Aemond Targaryen
Aemond Targaryen is a lot of things, but above all he is dangerous. “Aemond One-Eye” is known as a kin-slayer for what he did to his nephew Luccerys in the “Fight above Shipbreaker Bay”.
Alicent’s second-born son was hell-bent on revenge from a young age. He was singularly focused on becoming the best warrior he could and putting himself on the level of his uncle Daemon. That intensity he brought followed him everywhere he went. Whether he was in the training yard or at the dinner table, Aemond struck fear into all of those around him.
It was fear that he wanted, fear that he had earned. He had trained to become the person that others noticed when they walked into a room. He made sure he would no longer be mocked or made fun of for not having a dragon after he secured himself Vhagar, the biggest dragon alive. He was willing to sacrifice an eye to secure that power, to be taken that seriously.
Immanuel Quickley has done the same exact thing for this Knicks team. He was not the player many fans wanted to draft but became better than most of the others that they did want. He proved that he was not just a shooter, he added weapons to his offensive and came to become a more complete offensive player. He proved that he was not just an offensive threat but become a legitimate defensive presence.
The growth Quickley has made is noticeable on both sides of the ball, but offensively he is just as dangerous as ever. The shifty guard is lightning-quick at getting to his spots with an arsenal of weapons including a deadly floater.
There is no better equivalent to Aemond Targaryen’s quick trigger to fight than IQ’s instant offense. Aemond has shown an increase in confidence along with his six-inch growth spurt in the back half of the season and was quick to stand up to just about anyone. No longer would Aemond be pushed around, instead he would taunt and goad those around him just hoping that they would give him a fight. Quickley brings the same exact presence to a basketball court, an irrational confidence that makes sense.
Obi Toppin is Rhaenys Velaryon
“The Queen That Never Was” is a nickname that is somehow both demeaning and complimentary. While it reminds all of those around her that she was never given the opportunity she truly deserved because of her gender, it also acknowledges that the privilege was rightfully hers.
Nobody on this show does more with less than Rhaenys Valeryon, who steals nearly every scene she is in. One can only wonder what she would have done with more. While Viserys worked hard to keep the peace, he did little else during his reign on the throne. Given Rhaenys’ natural understanding of power dynamics and ability to connect emotionally, one would imagine she would make an ideal ruler.
It is always difficult to see someone be given less than they deserve regardless of their ability level. Rhaenys is never given a chance, she is put in a position to fail and that never changes in her time in Westeros. Viserys was always going to be in front of her and her pathway to power died with that choice in the Great Council of 101. Even if she was the best person for the job, she would never get a chance to find out.
It is almost as if a former college basketball player of the year who was a lottery pick that has gotten better in nearly every conceivable way would see only marginal improvements in opportunities and minutes due to a stubborn coach and a clunky fit on the roster. Not that that would ever happen in real life…
Obi Toppin for the Knicks is still:
1st — Catch & Shooting %
2nd — 3P%
2nd — Defensive Rating
2nd — Net Rating
2nd — +/- Total
2nd — Pace
Even with the recent shooting struggles. pic.twitter.com/e3nDd2L250
— ObiMuse (@ObiMuse) November 26, 2022
Obi Toppin has never been given a real opportunity and therefore cannot succeed. The Dayton Flyer has been a beacon of efficiency on offense in the opportunities he has had and has made marked improvements in his offensive game. A major critique of Toppin’s game has always been his shooting, something he has worked on to remedy over the years. In his third year with the Knicks, Toppin has doubled his three-point attempts while still improving his accuracy dramatically both from the free throw line and beyond the arc. With those improvements, he increased his playing time by a whopping .7 minutes per game.
Similar to Rhaenys, it does not matter what Obi does, because of the situation he is in. Rhaenys was never able to get around the misogyny that kept her from the throne, so she accepted her role in a loving marriage with Corlys. Obi Toppin has similarly accepted the role he has been given and never said a bad word about his minutes or opportunities, even if he has every right to do so. Viserys was in Rhaenys’ way and that was upheld by centuries of sexism and societal norms. Julius Randle is in Obi Toppin’s way and that was upheld by decades of Tom Thibodeau being Tom Thibodeau.
Quentin Grimes is Jacaerys Velaryon
Throughout the Donovan Mitchell trade conversation, it appeared as if Quentin Grimes was valued over any other piece in the franchise, including RJ Barrett. Even though the 22-year-old wing only played 46 games his rookie year due to injury, he was still believed to have more potential than the more proven prospects on the team.
Whether you agree with that evaluation or not, the former Houston Cougar has shown more than one reason for him to be believed in. The small sample size he has given in the NBA has projected him to be a lethal two-way player. Even if he has struggled this year, the shooting stroke is undeniable and he is a valuable defender, even so young into his career.
Some people just have the makeup that you can believe in, even if they have not yet shown you why. Jacaerys Velaryon and Quentin Grimes share that quality in the respect they demand and are given at such a young age.
Grimes has a whole world of improvement still possible, but the front office has shown a commitment to him as a core piece of the future. These opportunities are equally represented by young Jace, the heir to his mother’s rightful throne. He is treated with respect and dignity amongst “team black” and Rhaenyra acknowledges that he needs to be given more responsibility. When she is unavailable to hold her council due to her stillborn pregnancy, it is Jace that who asks to make sure nothing is done until she is available. It is easy to see why this front office believed him as an important piece of the future, as with Jace, the future is in good hands.
Cam Reddish is Ser Cristen Cole
Ser Criston Cole is a complicated man, one that does many bad things but never without the best of intentions. This righteous indignation gives Cole a belief that he can do bad things for good reasons. There is nothing that is off limits for the Kings Guard loyalist as he proves with multiple murders with immediate reactions. The quick trigger temper is one of the defining traits of “The Kingmaker” along with being arguably the most skilled swordsman in all of the seven realms.
Rhaenyra gives him a chance early due to his real-world war experiences and he shows her undying loyalty (until he doesn’t), and he does the same to Alicent after she gives him a second chance. While Criston Cole is potentially certifiable, it is clear that he is grateful for the opportunities given to him by those around him. Cole was always going to be valuable to those around him, a dangerous weapon that would give his all no matter what was asked of him. It is clear that Cole struggled at times and was overwhelmed with anger but when he was able to attach himself to Alicent he was given purpose.
While Cam Reddish may not have been fighting wars in Dorne, he was starting wars on the timeline. Cam has been one of the most debated players on the Knicks since they acquired him from Atlanta at the last trade deadline. Not only was he one of the most argued-about Knicks players, but he was one of the most argued-about Hawks players before that, and Duke before that.
The argument with Reddish is simple, the talent has never matched the output. There is zero denying the raw potency, the Duke Bluedevil is one of the most talented players on the roster. It is about finding the opportunity and putting him in a position to succeed. This is not something that happened in Atlanta, nor was it something that happened as he rode the bench for Tom Thibodeau after getting traded to the Knicks last year.
It remains to be seen if the true potential of Cam Reddish will ever be unlocked, but he is being given more opportunities this year and making the most of them. Before being hurt, he was introduced to the starting lineup and showed what he is capable of. Tom Thibodeau is not known for giving young players chances, and players like Obi Toppin have remained sideline because of that. Cam Reddish and his overwhelming level of talent were somehow able to bypass that in his second season with the Knicks and be given a chance.
Similarly to Criston Cole, Reddish is dangerous, you just need to figure out how to unleash him. For the realm, that is easy, you make Cole the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and have him kill anybody that protests Aegon II’s reign as king. For Cam Reddish, it is a little trickier than that. The potential that made him the 10th overall pick of the 2019 draft is still inside him and we can only hope that we see more of it as he continues to be given chances.
Isaiah Hartenstein is Harwin Strong
The German seven-footer is new to the Knicks this year and he fills a role that he is asked. The story with him is simple, he plays 20 minutes a game and backs up Mitchell Robinson in case of injury or foul trouble. At only 24 years old, he fits the timeline of the team and is a valuable piece off the bench. You know what you are getting with Hartenstein, and that is not always a bad thing.
That is where he is similar to “Ser Breakbones” Harwin Strong, who is the polar opposite of his brother in every way. Where Larys is a manipulative schemer that works from the shadows and pushes his agendas no matter what happens, Harwin just protects those around him.
Lionel Strong’s eldest son Harwin was made a captain in the gold cloaks of King’s Landing. The commander of the city watch went on to become the sworn shield to the heir to the throne: Rhaenyra Targaryen. Whether he is or is not the father of Rhaenyra’s three children is irrelevant, what is clear is his undying loyalty to them. Even though it likely led to his ultimate demise, he showed love and care to Rhaenyra and her kids even if it was a shameful act.
He filled that role dutifully and did so until it killed him. Hartenstein is far from the star of this team, nor is he even a star from the bench unit. He is not even the center that most fans want to see backup Mitchell Robinson. Hartenstein is not flashy, and you may not like him, but he is always going to grind out there. Even amidst the rumors, the German big man has shown that he will work hard at all times on the court and give you the effort you need. Nothing more, nothing less, but sometimes a protective big man is a necessary role.
Deuce McBride and Jericho Sims are Baela and Rhaena Targaryen
Fans complaining about young players not getting enough minutes is a tale as old as time, especially when that coach is Tom Thibodeau. The same can be said about characters in television shows, especially sprawling high fantasy stories like House of the Dragon. The same complaints occurred on Game of Thrones, not every character and storyline can be done justice on TV. George RR Martin wrote magnificent stories with vivid detail going into the history and characters of each great house and location, but not all of it can be shown.
Baela and Rhaena Targaryen were the textbook example of that in Season One of “Hot D”. The twin girls are the daughters of Daemon Targaryen and his second wife Laena Valeryon and are given little more character beyond that. We know that Baela has a dragon and a loving relationship with her father who is teaching her high Valyrian, and we know that Rhaena has none of those things but wants all of them. We see the girls in Essos with their parents, and again when they are betrothed to the Velaryon boys. We almost got to see them talk with their father and learn of their mother’s passing, but at least saw them be included in the black council. Whether they are given bigger roles in the future seasons remains to be seen, but they are characters that fans clamor for on a regular basis.
Take out the bits about betrothal, dragons, and war and nearly every word can be said the same about Deuce McBride and Jericho Sims. Well, at least the parts about fans clamoring for more of them and desperately wanting to see them be given bigger roles. The pair of 2021 second-round picks are fan favorites that have garnered massive support in the little amount of time they have been on the court.
Even though both players have bounced between successful stints in Westchester and opportunities to ride the bench in the big leagues, fans have taken a liking to them both. There is an infectious energy and effort that both players bring every time they step on the floor. They are both defensive-minded players that give 110% effort at all times along with bringing highlight plays. McBride is a show-stopping defender that pesters opponents with unrelenting pressure, while Sims is just a pure showstopper that seemingly jumps out of the gym connecting at alley-oops around the top of the backboard.
Similarly to the Targaryen twin girls, fans will not stop until they see more of Sims and McBride. Who is to know if that will make a difference, but it is safe to say that they deserve a chance.
George RR Martin created a beautiful expansive world filled with history and nuance, it is something that fans like myself have been able to dive head-first into due to massive lore and magnificent world building. While the Knicks have never been built as beautifully as anything from Martin’s genius mind, it is fun to think about what it would look like if the two worlds were to collide.
If you are like me and spend far too much time thinking about this franchise and this fictional universe, I hope you were able to enjoy this fun little thought experiment. Feel free to reach out and share what you agree and disagree with, keep reading and keep watching. And please remember that “what is dead may never die” applies to the Knicks’ playoff chances just as much as it does to anything on the Iron Islands.