The offseason is critical for the Knicks, as they search for premier talent to build the franchise back up to relevance. It’s not all sunshines and rainbows, however.
There’s a recent investment trend among America’s super-rich that has nothing to do with stocks or bonds or sweatshops staffed by malnourished children (though I’m sure they’re still very much in favor of all those things). The last few years have seen a boom in the industry of doomsday bunkers and survivalist bootcamps for the one percent.
These demigods of unfettered capitalism see the world rapidly approaching a crossroads and the potential, should things go sideways, for the end of days—and have responded by buying up huge swaths of New Zealand in order to survive what they see as the coming storm.
You know who else is at a crossroads? The New York Knicks. Scott Perry and Steve Mills can spin it however they want, but after allowing the team’s relationship with presumed franchise player Kristaps Porzingis to disintegrate and using him in a massive salary dump, there is a ridiculous amount of pressure coming into this summer. Add in an underwhelming pair of recent lottery picks, the worst chance for a bottom seed to get the number one draft pick in years, and a historically bad 2020 free agency class, and you have all the makings of a classic Knicks disaster summer.
Now, before we get all doom and gloom, I should say, it’s possible that everything works out exactly as fans want; that Zion Williamson and some combination of Kevin Durant/Kyrie Irving/Kawhi Leonard/Klay Thompson are on their way to make the Knicks championship contenders for the first time in 20 years.
But it’s equally possible, probably more so, that after so many years of inching towards the precipice, this is the summer the Knicks slip over the edge, falling into total and utter damnation. It’s possible that this is the summer of the Knickpocalypse.
When confronted with the end of the world as you know it, it’s important to be well prepared. So with that in mind, here’s a brief, non-comprehensive list of items to have on hand in order to survive the Long Night ahead:
- One brown paper bag;
- Three years worth of canned food;
- One downloaded YouTube video of Cam Reddish high school highlights and a framed copy of the article where scouts compare him to Paul George;
- One printout of Celtics Twitter’s revolt against Kyrie Irving following Game 4 of this year’s Bucks matchup;
- This 40-minute Mitchell Robinson highlight reel made up entirely of blocks and dunks;
- One DVD of the 1998–99 Knicks playoffs run
Got all that? Great. Now you’re ready to face the offseason.
Let’s flash forward.
It’s a dark and stormy Tuesday night. The date is May 14, 2019. New York City is on the edge of its collective seat, filled with a sense of giddiness and hope couched in many layers of cynicism. Years of Knicks fandom has left the city immune to heartbreak—or so it thinks.
Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum steps to the podium for the 10th time of the night. The hairs on the back of your neck tingle. Something’s not right, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.
The tension builds inside you until it feels like a hive of bees buzzing in your chest. Luckily, you’ve prepared for this. You’ve got your go-bag handy. Reach in and grab that brown paper bag. Put it to your mouth and take several deep breaths. Try to control the rising sense of dread.
Tatum starts speaking: “The fifth pick in the NBA draft will belong to the New York Knicks.”
You sit there in silent shock, wondering how it all came to this—why anyone thought this fucking rule change would make things better, why Adam Silver wouldn’t rig the lottery like your now-hero David Stern, why bad things always seem to happen to good people, or at least mediocre people who sometimes convince themselves they’re good in moments of extreme self-pity. You can’t even bring yourself to move until you hear those fateful words: “The first pick in the 2019 draft belongs to the Dallas Mavericks.”
Flash forward again.
It’s a hot, humid day in mid-June. The NBA Finals have just ended, but you haven’t been paying attention. You’ve been too busy arguing with strangers on Twitter about why De’Andre Hunter is the prototypical wing for the era. Look at how he dominated Jarrett Culver in the championship game, you say. He’s NBA ready. He’ll fit beside KD like a glove. Look at the wingspan, the jump shot, the switchability.
Sometimes you take a break to tweet about how Darius Garland is this year’s Jamal Murray, but even you know you’re basing that more on archetype than any real knowledge of Garland’s game.
And sure, you’ve seen the rumors floated by Marc Berman and Stefan Bondy about the Knicks’ growing fascination with Cam Reddish, but you don’t believe them. It’s a smokescreen, you think to yourself.
Even when Adam Silver says the words “With the fifth pick in the NBA draft, the New York Knicks select…Cam Reddish, out of Duke University,” even as he hugs his family and daps up his friends and crosses the stage in the blue-and-orange hat you love so dearly, you think it can’t be true. You take out your computer and go to Woj’s Twitter feed. You refresh the page, waiting for the inevitable tweet declaring the Knicks having traded the pick, but when a new tweet appears, it’s only to announce that the Chicago Bulls have taken Jarrett Culver with the fourth pick. A single tear rolls down your cheek.
A few days pass, and you finally bring yourself to get out of bed. This is fine, you think. After all, Reddish was a top-three prospect coming out of high school for a reason. If Anthony Bennett with an Instagram presence and Canadian Josh Jackson hadn’t spent the year freezing him out, he would have shown the T-Mac 2.0 potential everyone talked about coming into the year. This is fine.
Wait a minute, you have that Cam Reddish high school highlight reel on your computer! The next 10 days go by in a blur of pull-up jump shots and impressive-for-high-school dunks.
You finally re-emerge, bleary-eyed, surrounded by empty pizza boxes and beer cans, at 11:59 pm on June 29th. Queued up on your computer are all the tweets you’ve ever sent calling Kevin Durant a snake. You’re ready to delete them all the second Woj or Shams send out the tweet you feel you’ve been waiting for your entire life.
But it never comes. Instead, an article is published on The Athletic explaining why KD feels he has “unfinished business” with the Warriors and will be re-signing on a long-term deal.
What about that time Rich Kleiman liked one of your tweets begging KD to come to NY? What kind of god would let this happen?
Part of you still holds out hope, but you know Kyrie’s just slipped through your fingers. Soon Kawhi heads to the Clippers and Klay to the Lakers. Your fingernails have been bitten down to the quick.
Knicks Twitter is now a bloodstained battlefield between the “roll the cap space over” contingent and the “Hey, Khris Middleton’s still a top-__ two-way player” contingent. None of it matters when Middleton decides to stay on the championship-contending Bucks instead of coming to the worst-in-the-league Knicks, for some inexplicable reason.
When the Knicks sign Jimmy Butler and DeMarcus Cousins to slightly less-than-max deals, you make a few “best Knicks team since ’99” quips, but by now you’re just going through the motions. Desperate for something, anything that brings joy, or at least that doesn’t bring pain, you find the 40-minute Mitchell Robinson rookie year highlight reel, but you have to turn it off after just 20 minutes of dunks because you find yourself weeping uncontrollably after realizing that Boogie has come for The BlockNess Monster’s minutes.
Halfway through their first year together, Jimmy Butler bullies Frank Ntilikina so mercilessly that Frankie Smokes goes back to France and turns to a life of beekeeping in the French Alps.
You no longer leave the house, subsisting solely on the three-year supply of canned food you stocked for just this occasion. By year two, Kevin Knox looks more unsure of himself than Ben Simmons in a three-point contest. Boogie has played 25 out of 130 possible games. People already call the contract worse than Amar’e’s and Joakim Noah’s put together. Jimmy Butler is traded for a protected first-round pick and the rights to an international player who will never come over.
The Knicks finish the year 31-51 and once again get a late-lottery pick. Bradley Beal and others are on the market, but because of Kevin Knox’s extension and Cousin’s lingering contract, the team only has enough money for 32-year-old Nicolas Batum.
With nothing left keeping you tethered to the present, you re-watch your DVD of the 1998–99 Knicks playoff run until your eyes bleed, babbling in a barely-intelligible mutter about being “one Ewing injury away” from a championship. You know that this is the end of your journey—that the rest of your life will be you and this DVD, in it to win it, from now ’til the end of time.
This is how you survive the Knickpocalypse.