clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The 95 Theses for keeping your faith in the Knicks' rebuild

There are a million reasons to be down on the Knicks. Here are 95 reasons for optimism.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed in the comment board, under the Presidency of Seth Who Is Not (Wink Wink) Actually All The Writers At P&T, Master of FARTDOG and Sacred Hoops, and Lecturer in Site Decorum and Marine Life Factoids. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present...well, it's a website. Whenever you are, that's the present.

Lord knows this year's Knicks have not inspired many hosannas since that one blessed night in Cleveland long, long ago. But take heart. Blessed are the poor in quality, for theirs is a high pick in next year's draft lottery. Blessed are the holders of high picks in draft lotteries, for theirs is hope. Blessed is hope, for without hope we're just apes waiting to die. In that vein, 95 reasons to renew your faith that all the orange and blue bruising will be worth it:

1. The Oklahoma City Thunder.

2. The Golden State Warriors.

3. The Washington Wizards.

4. The Toronto Raptors.

5. There've been numerous recent, rapid rises from rags to riches.

6. The 2009 Thunder went 23-59, opening the year 3-29. The next 3 seasons: 50 wins, then 55, then a trip to the Finals, all with an ownership that makes James Dolan look positively dreamy.

7. The 2012 Warriors were on pace to win 28 games. The next year they won 47. Then 51. This year they're on pace to leave bags of flaming poop on the doorsteps of the 72-win Bulls. The Warriors are on a mission like Keyser Soze.

8. The 2011 Wizards went 23-59. In 2012, the lockout year, they were on pace for 24 wins. This year, their pace is 58.

9. The 2011 Raptors went 22-60. In 2012, the lockout year, they were on pace for 28 wins. This year, their pace is 65.

10. "But wait!" you cry. "Thanks to Portland Portlanding another draft, the Thunder ended up getting Kevin Durant, in addition to drafting Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka. Golden State got Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in the draft. The Wizards won the lottery the year John Wall came out, and drafted Bradley Beal, too. The Raptors drafted Demar Derozan and Jonas Valanciunas."

11. "And," you continue, "they were smart enough that when they were stupid enough to trade Kyle Lowry for nowhere near what he's worth, they were stupid with the Knicks, who out-stupided the Raptors by refusing to give up Iman Shumpert or Tim Hardaway Jr. in the deal. How are the Knicks gonna out-stupid the Knicks?!"

12. Duh. They can't. That's impossible.

13. Although if any team could somehow out-stupid themselves...

14. Another point to consider: the Cleveland Cavaliers.

15. The Chicago Bulls.

16. The San Antonio Spurs.

17. The Los Angeles Clippers.

18. The Memphis Grizzlies.

19. Contenders universally contain talent they've drafted and developed. It's a plus in terms of chemistry, personnel awareness, personal connections, the salary cap--drafting your own guys is win-win-win. Win. The exception to this rule in Houston. Which makes sense. If the other NBA teams are bacteria, the Rockets would be the virus.

20. The Knicks have a chance for their first top-five pick since 1986. That year they drafted Kenny Walker. Not so good.

21. On the other hand...Kenny had his moments.

22. Two years earlier, they drafted Patrick Ewing. That was sweet.

23. Phil Jackson is Doctor Strange. How else to explain the benevolent mystical confluence of the Knicks having a fugly won-loss record the same year they actually own have their first round pick?

24. Seriously?! How often have the Knicks been one agonizing spot away from an elite pick? Not this year, baby.

25. In 2008, the Knicks drafted Danilo Gallinari with the sixth pick.

26. Kevin Love went fifth.

27. Russell Westbrook went fourth.

28. The next year, they missed Steph Curry by one pick.

29. They got Jordan Hill.

30. History (Knickstory?) would read very differently if they'd had their own picks in 2006 and 2007, when they sucked but had nothing to show for it.

31. In 2006, the Knicks had traded away what became the second pick, which became LaMarcus Aldridge.

32. The next year, their pick was ninth. Joakim Noah, you could've owned this town.

33. Give Jose Calderon some time. I suspect his game is less microwave (no relation to Vinnie Johnson) and more crock pot. Let the Calderon effect simmer. The Garden will smell amazing. Or at least, better. Phil Jackson didn't just give Tyson Chandler away because he felt like it, chemistry issues or not. In Calderon, the Knicks have a player who makes others better. Let that sink in.

34. Seriously. Give it a moment. I'll wait.

35. Other than Linsanity, who's the last Knick who demonstrably made others better? The Knick culture has been dysfunctional for years. Cultures aren't overhauled overnight. They erode. Erosion is the face of time. We don't see what Shane Larkin or Iman Shumpert are learning from Calderon in practice. We don't know how much easier he makes it for Melo and STAT just to get shots off. That's not insignificant. The Knicks haven't had that since Jason Kidd. These are all small battles being won, every day, outside our visual spectrum. This is the subatomica of building a winner.

36. Speaking of winners: Tim Duncan.

37. Lebron James.

38. Kevin Durant.

39. Chris Paul.

40. Noah.

41. Contending teams have leaders. The Knicks don't. Odds are anyone they draft won't be a leader for a few years. I think Jackson and Derek Fisher will prioritize signing one. That's no small thing. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson get all the pub, but if Andre Iguodala wasn't there they wouldn't be a contender.

42. I'm still down with Derek Fisher. But given his rookie status as a coach at any level, coupled with Mike Woodson's performance art before that, it's pretty much guaranteed the Knick coaching will improve each of the next few years. That worked for Scott Brooks and Oklahoma City. Boston seems happy letting Brad Stevens grow into the role. Kidd out-hipstered the hipsters by being the first person to ditch Brooklyn for Milwaukee and look good doing it.
We don't know Fisher's ceiling. But we do know he's developing. He's growing. It's like the Knicks are an infant. Their body isn't really capable of doing anything besides sucking and pooping. But their brain is exploding with new awareness.

43. Cap room. The Knicks have a ton of it coming. Cap room lets you bring in leaders. Cap room lets you be a player for guys who get traded that no one saw coming. Worked wonders for Cleveland. Ya gotta be in it to win it.

44. 22

45. 22

46. 23

47. 18-20

48. Those are the ages of Tim Hardaway Jr., Larkin, Cleanthony Early, and Jahlil Okafor Karl Towns Emmanuel Mudiay the Knicks' next 1st round pick.

49. Cap room + young cheap talent = chips at the table. This year the Knicks are Austin Powers playing blackjack. Soon they could be James Bond with a straight flush.

50. Seismic shifts stem from sequences of the slightest suggestion. It was too early to wanna marry Shane Larkin after the first weeks of the season. Same thing with Shumpert not getting picked up.

51. It's just as presumptuous to write either player off after 20 games. If Larkin develops a floater-- Tony Parker didn't come in to the league with one; he added it-- he's a different caliber of player.

52. If Shumpert is ever able to have a defined, consistent role...

53. Shump reminds me of a young pitcher that a team yanks around between starting, closing, and middle relief. Eventually it doesn't matter how talented or healthy or committed the guy is. He can't grow if his role isn't defined. And steady.

54. But it's not like there's no talent on this team. If that talent's being put in positions that are not optimal for growth and success--Larkin opening as the starting PG because of injury; Shump asked to play lead guard, then off guard, to defend Lebron James, then Kyrie Irving, simply because no one else can--then the talent will look bad. But the simplest explanations are often the most likely. You know what the Knicks biggest problem is?

55. Bigger than the free throw disparity?

56. Bigger than their Maginot Line defense against opponents taking three-pointers?

57. Bigger than Carmelo's recent form?

58. Bigger than Fisher's learning curve?

59. Even bigger than Dolan?

60. Well, OK. Nothing's bigger than Dolan. The second-biggest problem, let's say.

61. It's that nearly 40% of their payroll goes to two guys who wouldn't start for most teams: Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani. I'm not hating on them. I'm talking market value. There's a built-in limit to how successful a team can be with 40% of their payroll going to one-dimensional forwards. In fact, calling STAT and Bargs "one-dimensional" is an insult to straight lines everywhere.

62. Process precedes product. It requires spherical vision, the ability to see things both for what they are and for what they are becoming, and to see them simultaneously. The Knicks needed to flush their system clean of the residue of years of dross and dysfunction. If this season is flushed in that process, let it be. The best time to buy a stock is when it's bottomed out. Top three pick, baby. Top three.

63-94. This one takes up 32 spots. Because bottoming out feels a lot longer than it actually takes.

95. There will be a lockout in two years. Book it. And I'm glad. Because I think Michele Roberts is the most exciting person to enter the NBA since Lebron. Regardless of your stance on labor disputes, no one disputes that the owners win every time, and that the changes made NEVER work in favor of the Knicks. The Bird exception, the larger increased penalties for luxury taxpayers, a successful global growth that renders "big market" an obsolete concept...they all screw the Knicks. This time, the tide may finally turn.