P&T superfan/NBA writer Howard Beck wrote today about James Dolan’s Knicks being the only NBA team that’s failed to issue a meaningful statement in light of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the Minneapolis police and the subsequent global protests of yet another red-soaked instance of systemic racism.
Much of Beck’s piece felt familiar, if not dated, perhaps because someone at P&T tackled the same issue with such verve and heart back in early June. There were the expected rebuttals on Twitter, i.e. “Dolan saying something wouldn’t make a meaningful difference”; “Dolan saying something would just be for P.R. purposes, so who cares?”; “Dolan’s hired X number of black people, so cut him some slack”; “The Knicks were part of a Juneteenth symposium”; “Other owners suck; why don’t you talk about about them?”
Heard ‘em all before. Today, they don’t interest me. What does are these bits from Beck:
“‘...[the] team’s seeming disinterest in racial justice might hurt its credibility with players, its own and future free agents...
‘I think it’s a big black eye on the Knicks as an organization,’ said an agent whose firm represents multiple stars, referring to the club’s silence. The agent, who is Black, added, ‘It will continue to be something that players look down upon, and it further explains why guys like Kevin Durant [passed on the Knicks]. You got all the resources and all the richness of the NBA, and still people don’t want to associate themselves with it.’
A player agent from another high-profile firm said his clients were ‘flabbergasted’ with the Knicks’ silence.
‘How hard is it to put out a statement?’ he said. ‘What’s going to be really interesting is the players that truly matter, the ones that are the upper echelon of the league, when they are free agents, how are they going to look at this?’
A major test will come next July, when the...Knicks will be flush with salary-cap room, yet perhaps hindered by their poor reputation. In the frenzied competition for superstars, every detail matters—and every vulnerability will be hammered by rival franchises.
‘Will...superstars look past this massive gaffe?’ the second agent asked rhetorically....
Several Knicks players have either marched or spoken out on social media about the Floyd killing. And at least one key rotation player told team officials he ‘definitely wasn’t happy with the Knicks’ remaining silent on Floyd, according to a source who does business with the team. ‘I know there are others upset about it,’ he said.”
The two easiest ways for teams to improve are free agency and the draft lottery. The Knicks don’t do well with either. The last star to leave his old team to sign with New York was Amar’e Stoudemire, who got a full-length maximum deal with no injury protections, an offer he couldn’t refuse and one the Knicks soon came to regret. Five years later the Knicks drafted Kristaps Porziņģis, their first star draftee in 30 years. Before his rookie contract was up, KP wanted out.
You’ve got caveats. Not interested; not today. What strikes me is how Knick fans being so exhausted after 7000+ days of Dolan’s ownership may be creating a bit of Stockholm syndrome. Whatever your stance on Beck, the quotes in his article are newsworthy, no matter how tired we are of this kind of news repeating itself over and over and fucking over again.
If an organization has nothing to offer its fanbase besides the forever promise of some far-out future that never arrives, and that future is contingent on cap space and lottery picks, and free agents or future draft picks might be turned off by Dolan’s selective silence, it matters. I don’t know about you, but if my Knick fandom were a sex act, it’d be a handjob that never ends. There’s all this promise about better days to come, but they never do, and neither do I. I’m not as interested in the messanger as I am the message. It’s completely fair to have beef with the Becks and Bondys and Isolas of the world. But the bigger problem remains, as always, the CEO.
Three years ago I wrote the following for a different site. It still speaks to my feelings on being a Knicks fan. Maybe I can’t quit them. But if Dolan’s gonna keep screwing things up, I wanna know. When I’m trapped in darkness, I don’t run. I slow down. If I’m going to fall, I wanna brace myself for it.
“...fandom is thicker than water, maybe thicker than blood, too; certainly thicker than reason. The teams we root for are family, or akin to kin in the sense that we don’t choose the ones we love. The Knicks are an old relative who look magical in the faded photos of the 20th century and who’ve fallen from grace ever since. You keep waiting for them to bounce back, but they keep bottoming out. You thought they hit rock bottom a few different times, but they keep falling. There’s nothing harder than watching someone you love being their own worst enemy. Actually, one thing is: seeing others laugh while they suffer...
Family stumbles and you stumble right along with them. Every time they fall, you feel the hurt of the crash, the weariness of having to pull yourself up again. You know what they can be. What nobody who isn’t living with them day in and day out could ever know. They may be their own worst enemy, but you don’t love them any less for it. You love them more. Not because they deserve it. But because “because” has nothing to do with it. Time erodes heartache. Facepalms sting, but fade. Memories fade. Glory, too. Faith endures.
How does anyone root for the New York Knicks? Because life’s greatest mystery is its own solution. Love. That’s why.”