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I look forward to feeling a Knicks feeling I haven’t felt before

The Knicks are back.

NBA: New York Knicks-Media Day Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

When the Knicks traded Kristaps Porzingis, my soul left my body. This is a protective measure, like evacuating a home on fire. One waits outside to see how hot and long the thing burns, then returns to pick through the ashes. While I was outside, I got a lot of texts and DMs and stuff. I bet you did, too: an equal mix of WTF DROWN ME IN A VOLCANO and you okay? and we need to pay rent.

My response to all that was “whatever.” I’m dead inside. The Knicks cannot make me feel. From outside the inferno, I took inventory and concluded there was nothing inside to burn; nothing that hadn’t already burnt. I live in an igloo of cinders, and rent’s due.

But I was back inside by the time I tried to fall asleep, and I could see the glowing embers around me for what they once were. This was not the ultimate Knicks trade, but it was the ultimate Knicks feeling. A review of all Knicks feelings. A kaleidoscopic, palimpsestic soot of 20 years’ scorched bullshit.

I count over a dozen past feelings in here:

Kristaps Porzingis embodied hope (1), but I think we can all admit that hope wavered (2), but no developing player is complete and issues can be fixed (3), but also sometimes they can’t and one ends up feeling stupid for having committed (4), but this felt more like suddenly bailing than carefully eschewing commitment (5), but the return package is decent (6), but it’s hard to believe a better one didn’t exist or couldn’t have been generated with a long bidding war (7), but it’s also hard to believe there was a team out there that wanted Porzingis and the Knicks’ garbage contracts (8), but those garbage contracts were their own fault (9), but it really seems like he didn’t want to be here (10), but that information got leaked by the team which never happens and reflects poorly on them anyway (11), but all of this is gonna feel unimportant if the Knicks win the lottery (12), but they won’t (13), but that will feel unimportant if they sign the very best free agents (14), but that has literally never happened before so why would it this time (15).

  1. I don’t remember Ewing’s youth, and I remember Linsanity as something gnarlier, but Kristaps provided that same blissful combination of “holy shit, he’s good” and “holy shit, he’s ours.” We spent a whole calendar year watching grim, Kristaps-less Knicks games, and not one of them passed without me turning away to peek at one of his highlight reels for a few minutes. He was the one lit candle in the room, and they blew it out.
  2. But come on, the candle flickered. Right? The hope wavered every time a hot start — to a game or to each season — turned tired and cold. When he held the ball. When he hurt himself again and again until he, like, REALLY hurt himself.
  3. Kristaps just got traded to an organization with one of the best and best-fitting co-stars imaginable, and with a super hands-on medical team that extracts players’ blood and probably passes their DNA to Mark Cuban so he can sell it to the Russian Olympic Federation in exchange for cryptocurrency backed by mastodon milk or something. It’s creepy. But the point is, Kristaps is now in a wonderful developing milieu if he stays healthy, and he’s in a good place for staying healthy. It’s impossible to accurately compare that to his hypothetical development among the Knicks of the 2020s, but that doesn’t mean we won’t hear about it constantly! This was all Lin stuff. It was all Gallinari stuff. It’ll probably become Ntilikina stuff at some point. Feels especially potent this time through.
  4. Melo.
  5. I make a point of not understanding these things now that I don’t run this blog, but I gather the Knicks were in a position of power, restricted-free-agency-wise. Y’all really wanna lose a game of chicken before the trade deadline?
  6. This is not quite the quintessential Knicks trade, if only because the picks coming back in the deal— always unclear in the first few minutes of tweets— proved to be better than expected. Acquiring a totally unprotected first-rounder is very good. It’s a reasonable expenditure for a Dallas team expecting a lot of wins from a fuzzy 19-year-old with the growth plates of a GOAT, but it’s a cool Knicks pickup just the same. Anything can happen, and if anything doesn’t happen, late first-rounders still help you accomplish your dreams.
  7. It had been a while since the Knicks made a move backward like this. It reminds me very much of the Phil Jackson pursuit, where the Knicks landed their solution to a perceived problem before anyone else even realized they perceived a problem. I’m so curious what other teams would have offered! I’m so curious what the Mavs would have offered if the Knicks pushed them longer than like six minutes after the public (and the league, from the sound of things) found out about all this! There’s a normal way to do this stuff and the Knicks just refuse it!
  8. I keep seeing “KRISTAPS FOR DENNIS SMITH???” and reflexively wanting to barf back “yeah but they also got out from under some cumbersome deals in the process”, which feels like the Shumpert/Smith trade, and feels like the Bargnani trade ...
  9. ... mostly because the cumbersome deals were self-encumbered.
  10. Whatever happened in yesterday’s meeting aside, Kristaps never seemed enthusiastic, did he? Not everyone can be Joel Embiid gleefully cheering dystopian labor practices, but Kristaps repeatedly telegraphed iffiness. He definitely picked some of that up from Melo. I felt like a stupid turd every time I noticed Kristaps hadn’t publicly acknowledged the Knicks’ draft picks, or that he was liking the Instagram posts of his former teammates way more than his current ones, or ... ya know, way more blatant social media stuff. And of course there was the blown exit interview, which was objectively badass, but subjectively worrisome. Subjective in the sense that I am “subject” to caring about the capital of a shithead billionaire. Also, he has his fucking brother for an agent.
  11. But when in doubt, the Knicks are the bad guys. This regime may be clear of head and forward of thinking, but they’re still the dudes James Dolan approved for the job, which makes them suspect by default.
  12. “They might!” - Me, circa 2001, 2002, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2014, 2016, 2017.
  13. “Oh well.” - Me, circa 2002, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2015, 2017, 2018.
  14. I’m sure the Knicks have grand designs. I don’t have to enumerate the times they’ve had them before.
  15. I just really hope they have medium-sized designs, too. And I hope whatever happens next doesn’t burn so much, because it turns out there’s still some combustible material inside me.