The New York Knicks taking a step back from the Christmas Day spotlight is probably for the best in the 2019-20 NBA season.
For the past decade, the New York Knicks were tied to Christmas Day games no matter what their record was. It happened in 2009 when they were clearing cap space for the 2010 offseason. In 2014, they made an appearance in the franchise-low 17-65 season.
2018 became New York’s latest game on this holiday, against the Milwaukee Bucks, and, again, they finished 17-65. With that, it marked six consecutive losses and seven of their last nine on Dec. 25.
So, no matter how often the Knicks lost in the regular season, they usually found their way onto this slate of matchups. The big market and Madison Square Garden draw appeal.
However, on Friday, the 2019 NBA Christmas Day schedule leaked. ESPN report by report, there were five games listed:
Unless the NBA plans for a sixth Christmas Day game, the Knicks are absent for the first time since 2015 and just the second time since 2008. They are a holiday tradition, but after another lowly season and an unknown outlook for their offseason changes, the league placed them on the outside, looking in.
For New York’s sake, that is fine.
Shifting out of the spotlight, before knowing how often they will play on national television, in general, lets the Knicks stay under the radar. They may win more than 17 games, but, perhaps, not by too much, leaving them in an awkward position of, potentially, being the only losing teams to play amongst these Christmas teams in 2019; the closest to this may be the New Orleans Pelicans.
In the background, the Knicks can rebuild their look after last season’s on-court struggles and the free agency woes of not acquiring a superstar. If they had signed Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant, this conversation is probably different.
Sure, some NBA fans may want the Knicks on the Christmas Day and grander national stage to see RJ Barrett and the surging Mitchell Robinson in action. Julius Randle also grew as a player with the New Orleans Pelicans, before signing a multi-year contract in early July, so he will be someone to watch early and often.
Instead, the Knicks can take their occasional ESPN or TNT game and otherwise avoid the spotlight, similar to the Brooklyn Nets, who took steps forward without much focus until late in the 2018-19 season and suddenly became an appealing destination.
Given this is New York basketball, the New York Knicks may work their way into the picture in some way, but for this holiday special, after losing continuously to superior opponents, it makes sense to have them take a step back in 2019.