The New York Knicks (5-14) are in 13th place in the Eastern Conference and could drop even further down standings before this month is through thanks to a grueling slate of upcoming games, yet even in these dire times there are things to be thankful for.
It is Thanksgiving, after all.
The Knicks are coming off a surprising victory over the Boston Celtics, but have lost six of their last seven, and in the next six days they finish off November by facing the New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies, Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers. December begins with a battle against the Milwaukee Bucks, and by that time the team’s record might be like, really, really bad. Head coach David Fizdale, meanwhile, has started to make some questionable decisions — from his ax antics to his unpopular starting lineup changes — and no amount of motivational speakers are going to turn this season around anytime soon.
The Knicks find themselves free fallin’ towards becoming one of the two or three worst teams in the entire NBA this season, and unlike the Tom Petty song, it will not be inspirational.
However, it is Thanksgiving — a day to be grateful for the things in life you have — so let’s take stock of the positives as we prepare to eat turkey and deal with family shenanigans while crossing our fingers for the first pick in next year’s draft.
The Youth Movement Is Real
If the ascendance of Kristaps Porzingis prior to his injury last season made it feel like the Knicks could be one or two pieces away from being a legitimate force in the NBA, his absence this year has made it feel like the team is further from contention than ever. There are kernels of truth in both of those things.
Much has been made of the fact that the Knicks are the youngest team in the league this season, and their lack of experience has clearly cost them games. Their youth is also one of the main reasons to be optimistic for the future of the franchise.
Porzingis is 23-years-old. Allonzo Trier is 22. Frank Ntilikina and Mitchell Robinson are 20. Kevin Knox is 19. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Damyean Dotson, 26 and 24, respectively, are practically elder statesmen for the team at this point.
That’s a mere smattering of the young’uns that represent the Knicks current roster, and all of them should mature and improve, hopefully reaching their collective peak within the next few years, or right around the time that the Golden State Warriors reign could be coming to an end. Nothing lasts forever, right?
There Will Be Salary Cap Space
The Knicks have cleared their books with aspirations of attracting a big star before, though it’s true that fans have reason to be suspect of how successful the team will be in free agency this summer. The last couple of times the Knicks had serious salary cap space, they didn’t exactly hit any home runs; in 2010, the Knicks failed to land LeBron James and settled for Amar’e Stoudemire’s uninsured knees, and in 2016 the team tried to reassemble a Chicago Bulls team that had already fallen apart beyond repair.
This time around, the Knicks are in a very different position. In addition to salary cap space, the team has Porzingis and all the other aforementioned youths, along with a 2019 first-round draft pick that fans are currently hoping will turn into Duke forward Zion Williamson.
There’s no guarantee that the Knicks will even get a meeting with the likes of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, or any of the other players whose names start with the letter K and are expected to become free agents this offseason, but they have a better shot than in years past. And the front office is better hands than usual thanks to Scott Perry and Steve Mills, who thus far have been able to initiate a real rebuild without being forced to make any dumb decisions by ownership.
Things Could Be Worse
Things have been pretty darn bleak this season, and at the end of the year the Knicks record might be among the worst in franchise history, but any serious fan should agree that there are far darker places the team could be.
A couple of years ago, Phil Jackson was publicly feuding with Porzingis while signaling that the Unicorn was available via trade. We’re only a few seasons removed from the Derek Fish era — an era that included a DUI, rumors that Fisher was romantically involved with the girlfriend of at least one of his own players, and the infamous beef over Fisher dating the ex-wife of Matt Barnes.
Five years ago, AKA one season after Carmelo Anthony led the best Knicks team in recent memory to the second round of the playoffs, the team decided Andrea Bargnani was the missing piece of the puzzle. They gave up Steve Novak, Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson, along with a 2016 first-round pick and two future second-round picks for Bargnani, who was not good.
Last year, Charles Oakley was forcibly removed from Madison Square Garden during a game against the Los Angeles Clippers because he got frustrated and aggressive after Dolan sent a squadron of security guards to keep an eye on the former Knicks bruiser.
Isiah Thomas ran the team for all those years. So yeah, things could be worse.
Count your blessings, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!