Knicks Front Office, attn. Jeff Hornacek
4 Pennsylvania Plaza
New York, NY 10001
Dear Jeff Hornacek,
Hi! My name is Alex Wolfe. I write for a blog called Posting and Toasting sometimes. We cover the Knicks! There’s only 9,352 Knicks blogs on the internet, so it’s an exclusive club.
I’m writing to express my discontent with your rotations last night. But first, I’ll soften you up with some praise:
— You managed to play the only sure thing on the roster, beloved unicorn Kristaps Porzingis, for 38 minutes. And he looked damn good in the process, scoring 31 points and nabbing 12 boards. Thank you for that.
...OK, yeah, that’s all I’ve got.
Look, Jefe: I get that it’s the first game of the season. I get that, at this point in the year, we’ve got to put on a facade that this team is trying to make the playoffs. But, unfortunately for you, if one looks at this team on the court for more than a good first quarter or so, it becomes abundantly obvious that this team probably isn’t going too far this year.
“Yeah, but, Oklahoma City figures to be a really good team this year. Of course we’re going to look bad against them!” you’re probably saying to yourself as you read this (you’re definitely reading this, right?).
OK, yes, Oklahoma City will probably be a dynamic team this year. The Russell Westbrook/Paul George/Carmelo Anthony troika looked to be every bit as good as advertised last night. But we’re not just talking about one game here, Jeff.
Unfortunately, we have an embarrassingly awful preseason to reference as well, in which the Knicks lost all five games by an average of 15 points, while not really looking to have any plan in place on either side of the floor. Preseason’s not exactly everything in measuring future success, but it ain’t nothing either.
But it’s not even that you’re unwilling to throw in the towel at Game 1 of the regular season that’s annoying to me, Jeff. I wouldn’t really have any respect for you if you weren’t at least pretending to want to win. No, what really annoys me is that you got everything that you wanted — everything that we wanted — in a young, rebuilding team, and you somehow found a way to screw that up from the word “go.”
You said this, in the midst of last season:
“We’re all competitors and we all want to get there. [But] we have to understand we have to try to develop something for the long term. If we’re just skipping steps just to get in the playoffs, that would be great for this year, then what do you do next year? We want to try to combine those two.”
And then there was this, prior to the start of this season:
On Friday, Hornacek was comparing himself to Brett Brown, the Sixers coach who endured obscene amounts of losing for the sake of “The Process” (AKA higher draft picks). Hornacek also acknowledged that he won’t sacrifice the rebuild, “just to win some games.” Then new GM Scott Perry said victories aren’t the priority when assessing this season. His assumption is that fans will hop aboard so long as effort is evident.
So, Jeff, what happened? From about midway through the second quarter until the end of the game, it was abundantly clear that the Knicks, even at their “best” (in your eyes), were mightily overmatched. And yet, three-fifths of our “young core” (Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez, Frank Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson and, for whatever reason, Ron Baker) played a combined 14 minutes and six seconds.
So, which one is it, Jeff? Are we rebuilding, no matter the cost? Or are we trying for meaningless wins, rebuilding and development be damned? After one game, it certainly feels more like the latter, and that’s disappointing.
This team had a very pointed message during the offseason — we have a young core, and they’re the priority.
Then-Knick Carmelo Anthony was left out of marketing materials in a passive-aggressive strike to get him off the team.
Steve Mills wrote a blog post (that’s our schtick by the way, Steve) where he touted the youth movement of the Knicks: “...Our plan to become more youthful and athletic is underway with 22-year-old Kristaps Porzingis, the return of Tim Hardaway Jr., 25, Willy Hernangómez, 23, and with the debut of our 1st round draft pick, Frank Ntilikina, just 19.”
Not a month later, Scott Perry shared similar sentiments: “There are no shortcuts. Reshaping the Knicks as a championship contender will be a step-by-step process, and along the way, the plan will demand patience, as our young core of Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Willy Hernangómez, Frank Ntilikina and Ron Baker mature.”
Is Hernangomez supposed to mature in three garbage time minutes, one season after putting up historic per-36 numbers for a rookie?
Willy Hernangomez averaged 16.0 points & 13.6 rebs per-36 minutes.— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) April 14, 2017
Per @bball_ref, here the last 6 players to avg 16 & 13 per-36 as rookies pic.twitter.com/pP3RIEWsU5
Oh, well maybe Willy took a step back? That has to be the reason he got benched, right?
On Willy Hernangomez, Hornacek basically said Kanter & O'Quinn earned their minutes based in the preseason but nothing is set in stone.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) October 20, 2017
Yeah, not really, bub:
Willy Hernangomez per-36 minute averages this preseason: 19.2 points and 17.7 rebs— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) October 13, 2017
Knicks need to make sure he gets plenty of playing time
How about Frank Ntilikina? The kid came out and clearly looked nervous in his debut, trying to force a couple of passes and air-balling two jumpers. Taking him out in the first half, when the game was actually close, makes sense.
But after registering just under five minutes in the first half, Ntilikina didn’t see the floor until the late stages of the fourth quarter, right around the time that Hernangomez and Dotson checked in. The Knicks were down by 20 heading into the fourth quarter, Jeff. Why not give the kid some run?
“Well, he looked shaky out there—”
Zip it, Imaginary Jeff! In what world does it make sense to play Ron Baker for damn near the whole second half, miscast as a point guard, while your first round rookie actual fucking point guard rots on the bench? Just couldn’t get enough of Ron flubbing behind-the-back passes on a 3-on-2 break? Did you love watching him dribble it off his foot every other time that he tried a behind-the-back? Because I sure had a GRAND ol’ time watching that instead of my lengthy first-round rookie!
I want to forgive you, Jeff. I want to believe that you can be a good coach for these young guys, like you once were in Phoenix. But it’s not easy to believe you when you say that you have the development of these young guys in mind.
Remember when you said that you’d bring Courtney Lee off the bench last year? That lasted one game. You said that you wouldn’t fold to former team president Phil Jackson’s insistence on the triangle offense, but you did.
Basically, Jeff—and I know this is brash after just one game—I don’t think you’re the right guy for this team. Please take Kurt Rambis with you when you leave, because he’s essentially the Mike Pence to your Donald Trump—even if you’re gone, he’s not a good option, either.
Just know that I think you’re an OK dude, just not the right coach for this basketball team.