New York’s best team of the millennium featured forward-thinking NBA coaching with proven veterans sprinkled in with youth. After that, it fell apart. Let’s appreciate the 54-win team and see where the contributors are now.
Choosing the life of a Knicks fan can sometimes feel like choosing a life as a monk, except instead of taking a vow of chastity and renouncing all worldly possessions and entanglements, one must take a vow of mediocrity and renounce all notions of success, or else redefine the word entirely. We flagellate ourselves at the Altar of Ewing, not only when each season inevitably starts to go south, but anytime we start to feel too undiluted a sense of hope, since we’ve been trained like any good Pavlovian pet to understand that feeling is almost always followed by heartbreak and chaos.
And yet, hope always returns, unabated, undiminished by our own nihilistic impulses or “Knicks gonna Knick LOL” jokes from outsiders who will never understand the ebb and flow of our pain, joy, our relationships with the team and players that goes from love to hate and back in the span of a single quarter of meaningless January basketball.
This offseason, however, has been different. This summer has been the most positive, hopeful, and unified I can remember the Knicks community being in the last half-decade. Between the excitement for Mitchell Robinson and Kevin Knox, the lack of pressure to win while Kristaps Porzingis recovers, and the general consensus that the Knicks could be in a position to be a real player in free agency next summer, there’s a sense of contentment that is alien and almost feels gauche coming from such a self-loathing fanbase.
In honor of this Summer of Love—and since we covered the worst team in franchise history—let’s take a look back at the last time the Garden was truly rocking, and see how life has treated the members of the most successful Knicks team since the turn of the millennium.
So without further ado, the members of the 2012–13 54-win Knicks (in reverse order of importance), and where they are now:
To be honest, I forgot Solomon Jones existed until I started writing this article. Jones played about 12+ minutes in the two games (both wins!) once he signed in April, posting totals of 0 points (0-of-1 from the floor), three rebounds, one block, three turnovers, and three fouls. He was waived three days later. The following season, he signed with the Magic and was waived in January. From there, he bounced around the D-League, China, and most recently, lost in the 2017 Sweet 16 of The Basketball Tournament to the eventual champs, Overseas Elite.
One of six (!!!) players on the ’12–’13 roster to have won a ring during their time in the league (none with the Knicks, obviously), Barron was signed by the Knicks after Rasheed Wallace announced his retirement. He bounced around quite a bit after leaving the Garden, signing a couple of 10-day contracts with the Suns, playing for Japan’s Toyama Grouses and Taiwan’s Fubon Braves (where he led the league in scoring and rebounding and won league MVP), before settling down with a job as an assistant coach for the G League Northern Arizona Suns.
The gritty defender is probably best remembered for his funky jumper—the result of a waterslide injury as a kid. He was signed by the Knicks in the summer of 2012 but missed the beginning of the season due to knee surgery, and averaged 3.6 points on 36 percent shooting in 46 games before being traded to OKC for a 2014 second-round pick. In 2015, he was selected in the second round of the G League draft by the Santa Cruz Warriors. This summer, he played for Team Arkansas in The Basketball Tournament, scoring eight points in an elimination-game loss to the Talladega Knights (no comment was available from Ricky Bobby or Cal Naughton Jr.).
Flight White! His one claim to fame was that he could dunk from the free throw line, but when he became the first Knick to participate in the Dunk Contest since Nate Robinson, he choked, either missing completely or taking off a step inside the free throw line. He also showed the world that he literally couldn’t dribble. Terrence Ross won that year, and as a Knicks fan watching alongside a shit-talking friend from Toronto, let me tell you, that sucked. After he was waived in the summer, White played in Italy (where his team won the EuroChallenge Title), Russia, Croatia, and even Iran. Last year he played in the BIG3 on Trilogy with OAKAAK Al Harrington and OAKAAK Kenyon Martin. Of course a team made up of ex-Knicks went undefeated and won the championship. Ironically, James White may have had the most successful career (relative to expectations) of anyone on this roster.
I always liked Cope. A 28-year-old rookie in 2012–13, his first year in the NBA with the Knicks was undoubtedly the most successful of his career. He averaged 8.7 points and 2.1 boards on 42 percent from deep, playing in 56 games (a mark he hasn’t reached since). He used the momentum of his rookie year to land a two-year, $6 million contract with the Pacers, where he suited up for a respectable 91 games over the following two years. He signed with the Bucks after that, but couldn’t stick and was out of the league by 2016. He played in Turkey and Andorra, and most recently has been spotted at the Rico Hines open runs in LA surrounded by the league’s stars, looking exactly like “rapper” Yung Humma.
When Q was signed in April of 2013, it marked his second stint in a Knicks uniform (one of four former Knicks who returned to the Garden that year, weirdly enough), and he played only one regular season game, tallying five points and 11 rebounds. He played 14 total playoff minutes and hit two threes, his only points of the postseason. The following summer, he was included in the most disgusting trade of all time (outside of Brooklyn), the infamous Bargnani deal. In January, he wrote an incredibly moving piece in The Players Tribune that detailed much of his experiences in New York. It’s been a mixed bag for Q of late: his Orlando restaurant East Coast Wings has struggled and is in danger of being evicted from its location, but he recently won the BIG3 Championship playing alongside Big Baby Davis and not-so-OAKAAK Cuttino Mobley, and Dwyane Wade recently penned a touching Instagram post detailing his childhood admiration for Richardson.
When the Knicks brought Kurt Thomas back, he was 40-years-old, the oldest player in the league (Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace were third, fifth, and sixth oldest respectively). No one expected him to actually fill a real role. But when Rasheed and Kenyon Martin’s bodies broke down and the team started going into a tailspin, Thomas hobbled up and helped snap the season-worst four-game losing streak during a brutal road trip, the momentum of which led to a 12-game winning streak to close the season (he didn’t play in any of those games save for the first, but his emotional impact was undeniable). This summer, he was inducted into the TCU Hall of Fame.
Novakaine! The two years Novak spent with the Knicks were without question the high-water marks of his career. Over those two years (2011–13), he averaged 7.5 points in almost 20 minutes a game while shooting 44.5 percent from three, and participated in the NBA Three-Point Contest (Kyrie Irving won). He stole Aaron Rodgers’ signature discount double check and made it his so effective that Nate Robinson mocked him with it in just about the most hilarious way ever when they faced off against the Bulls. Novak has played for the Raptors, Jazz, Thunder, and most recently Bucks since leaving the Knicks, but never found the same lightning-in-a-bottle energy he caught in the Garden. After a very respectable and somewhat surprising 467 games played in the NBA, he now works as a pre- and post-game analyst for the Bucks and Fox Sports Wisconsin.
One of the stranger aspects of the 2012-2013 was the combination of excitement for the present and nostalgia for the past. This was best displayed by the return of Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas, two guys I had cut my teeth as a Knicks fan watching, as they both returned home to the Garden for one final season before retiring. This would be by far the least productive of the 18 seasons Camby played, with eight points as a season-high and only one game with double-digit rebounds, but his presence was felt every time he took the floor, unfurling those long reptilian arms for a clunky, over-the-head jump shot from the top of the key. Camby went back to UMass last year and got his degree, although it hasn’t been all rosy for the former DPOY, as tragedy struck in 2016 when his autistic nine-year-old nephew drowned in Camby’s pool. His cousin (the boy’s father) is currently suing Camby for the death, claiming he and other family members were drinking and smoking weed when the tragic accident occurred, while Camby claims that the boy’s mother and caretakers didn’t supervise him closely enough. Just an absolutely horrible situation all around.
Kenyon Martin came to the Knicks at a time when Tyson Chandler was injured, and the three-headed monster of Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace, and Marcus Camby was struggling to keep their bodies from falling apart. And honestly, it was glorious. I’d always loved watching Martin on the Nets, and he did just what he was supposed to do: add grit, hustle, and dunk on some fools, even going for 19 and 11 in a win against the Raptors. In addition to his success in the BIG3 (at one point his mom ran onto the floor to fight Nate Robinson), Martin has recently been mistaken for Joe Budden in a New Jersey mall, said that 85 percent of the league smoked marijuana (including coaches and GMs), and participated in a panel to promote LeBron’s “The Shop.”
While age limited ‘Sheed during his lone season in New York, he was shockingly productive when he was on the floor, averaging 17.8 points, 10 rebounds, and a hilarious 8.4 three point attempts (on 31 percent shooting) per-36. He was also kicked out of a game for yelling “Ball don’t lie” too loudly, which is really all I ever wanted from him. His body broke down midway through December, leading to his retirement, but for two months it was amazing. The following year he worked as an assistant coach for the Pistons, and this summer he has been seen training with Miami’s Bam Adebayo (save that energy for Mitchell Robinson, Sheed!) and selling his massive, as-seen-on-MTV Cribs mansion in Oregon. He also got his own signature “Ball Don’t Lie” shoe from Nike, which is just the best.
It’s easy to see why The Maestro was such a fan favorite during his two and a half seasons in New York. His selfless style of play, charming interviews, and propensity for sneaking in and stealing inbounds passes all made him a beloved figure at the Garden and helped unlock the two-point guard lineups that made the team so successful. In 2017, Pablo became the head coach of his former team, Saski Baskonia in Spain, but stepped down after a poor start out of the gate. He currently works as an assistant coach for the much-hated Brooklyn Nets. You can’t wear purple, man!
During the summer before the 54-win season, the Knicks traded Jared Jeffries and various flotsam to the Blazers for the rights to two former Knicks, Lil Duck and Kurt Thomas. Felton had a solid 2012–13, averaging 13.9 points and 5.5 assists per game while shooting 36 percent from three and thriving in Woodson’s two-guard lineups. The following year, Felton struggled, got arrested on a gun charge, and was eventually included in the Tyson Chandler (more on him in a bit) trade to the Mavericks. Since then, he’s turned himself into a surprisingly valuable backup/third-string point guard, especially on the Mavericks (another team using two-point guard lineups), where he improbably recorded the team’s first triple-double since Jason Kidd in 2015, and on last year’s Thunder squad, where he was basically the only player capable of creating a shot on the OKC bench. He re-signed with the Thunder on a one-year deal, although the addition of Dennis Schröder means his role will be considerably reduced this season.
Shump came back from his rookie ACL injury in January of his second season, and while he didn’t take the step forward most were hoping from him, he still showed flashes of high-level two-way play, as well as providing the Knicks with an anthem for the year. He never became the Paul George–lite some initially thought he could be, but he won a ring with the Cavs and is currently in Sacramento, (I assume) hoping to be traded as fast as humanly possible.
In Kidd’s last year playing in the league, he provided a stability from the guard position that was sorely missing, right up until he completely forgot how to shoot threes in the final third of the season. After a playoff run where he scored in just two of 12 games, he hung up his sneakers in favor of a clipboard. He coached the Nets, then power-played his way to Milwaukee, where he coached up until last season. He’s currently living in Phoenix and waiting for his next coaching opportunity.
From a pure production standpoint, this was the best season of J.R.’s career. He averaged a career-high in minutes (33.5), points (18.1), rebounds (5.3), VORP, WS/48, Defensive Win Shares, and Offensive Win Shares. Everything was going great until the playoffs, where in classic J.R. Smith fashion, his brain seemed to melt down as he delivered an unnecessary elbow to the shiny dome of Jason Terry while up 20 in the fourth quarter. He never looked the same as a Knick after that, and soon after, they shipped him to Cleveland where he won a ring and eventually committed perhaps the worst mental mistake in NBA history
Amar’e only managed 29 games during the 2012–13 season, and at the time, it marked his least productive season since his rookie year. In the playoffs, he averaged 3.8 points and 2.3 rebounds on 38 percent shooting in just eight minutes a game. It was pretty sad to watch. Since he left the Knicks, he’s played for the Mavs, the Heat, Hapoel Jerusalem, and the BIG3, and recently declared that he’s ready for a return to the NBA, which, I mean, come on, STAT. I get it, but let’s be realistic here. He also was recently stumping for Andrew Gillum’s Florida gubernatorial run, which is cool.
Oh, Tyson Chandler, NBA Champion, how I loved you when you were locking down the paint for the ‘Bockers. In 2011–12, Chandler became the team’s first ever Defensive Player of the Year, but it was the 54-win season that earned him his first (and only) All-Star berth. The Knicks shipped him and Raymond Felton to Dallas in the summer of 2014 for Shane Larkin’s tiny hands, Wayne Ellington (before teams realized he was good), Samuel Dalembert (well after teams realized he was bad), the allegedly untradeable Jose Calderon contract, and two second-round picks that became Cleanthony Early and Baby Antetokoumpbro. Chandler then signed a four-year contract with Phoenix, which is in its final year this season, giving him valuable time to mentor DeAndre Ayton.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (which, given New York City housing prices, is understandable), you know what’s up with our boy #StayMe7o. Traded from the Knicks to the Thunder (thanks for Mitchell Robinson, ‘Melo!), the Thunder to the Hawks for Dennis Schroeder, then bought out and signed by Houston, ‘Melo will be trying to prove he still remembers how to play winning basketball. This should be his first year since 2013 on a 50+ win team. He’s got plenty of skeptics to prove wrong, but luckily he loves playing the underdog.