Sure it sucks that the New York Knicks missed making the playoffs in one of the worst conferences in history, but hold your heads up, Knicks fans; it gets better.
In a season of crushing lows and middling highs, it’s unquestionable that the biggest highlight of the year was the hiring of Phil Jackson, and now we’ve reached the moment that matters most: the offseason. All of that hyperbole about Phil being able to shape the Knicks to his liking will now be tested. All of those questions about Melo’s future will now be answered. And all of our worries will, well, who knows really, but we’ll soon find out how to feel about next year.
It’s only natural to be disappointed with how this season played out, but honestly, this team did not deserve to make the playoffs. If they did, they would have almost certainly been disposed of quickly and only furthered the apocryphal narrative of Woodson being some kind of an above average coach. Having the Knicks eliminated from the playoffs bares them for what they are: a mess of a team that resembles a triage tent after an arduous battle.
Selling tickets and fielding an entertaining team for 82 games a year are probably goals for some other franchises, but here in New York, fans should demand excellence; and that means a hell of a lot more than making the eighth seed. If you want to know what I mean by excellence then I encourage you to watch diehard fan and native City kid Michael Rapaport’s new documentary film at the Tribeca Film Festival, “When the Garden Was Eden,” which is based on the best selling book by Harvey Araton. If you haven’t read the book, do that first because every Knicks fan should know their team’s history. In fact, this wouldn’t be the first time I recommended it.
Believe it or not, the Knicks were once the model of traits like fortitude, chemistry, and excellence; three words not used around here in a really long time. One of the most important parts of the movie is hearing former Knicks legends like Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, and of course, Phil Jackson reflect on what it means to trust in your teammates and represent New York. Rapaport revealed that Phil’s handlers only scheduled 30mins to speak with him about the Knicks but his love the ’70s teams was so palpable that he ended up spending over two and half hours waxing poetic about the team. It’s a refreshing reminder of what the Knicks used to stand for and hopefully a harbinger of what is yet to come in the Phil era. The culture of those early ’70s Knicks teams is one of a kind, but its something I believe Phil is going to strive for.
Unfortunately, the Knicks have very little room to make the changes needed to put forth a winning team right away, but next season shouldn’t be about rings — it should be about molding a championship culture. It’s something we may already be seeing with Phil’s acquisition of former championship players like Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown. While an experienced team president may have the adroitness to make minor roster moves that pay off in a big way, Phil will have to show us, and of course ‘Melo, that his plan is worth being patient for, so these next few weeks are going to be most interesting ones yet.
‘Melo has every right to want to forgo sticking with the Knicks. Let’s face it: with the wear and tear Woody put him through this year, he may not even be the same player two years from now that we saw this year. Phil is undoubtedly aware of this, and there may not be much he can tell him to convince him to stay, but if he can’t, it doesn’t change the need to create a new culture. It’s the single most important thing on his to do list. Changing that is not going to happen with a major trade; it’s got to happen gradually and its important Knick fans are patient enough to embrace this. So sit back, enjoy the playoffs, and be comforted by the fact that, yes, it will get better.