It has been quite the busy off-season for the New York Knicks. A franchise with a huge basketball market playing on the grandest stage of them all has failed to live up to expectations in recent years. Despite having one of the best scorers in the league, the Knicks have only won 1 playoff series in the millennium and have failed to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons. The brightest spot on the Knicks 2015-2016 season was the unexpected high play of rookie Kristaps Porzingis, who is establishing himself as one of the best big men in the league.
Frustrating is an understatement to describe Melo’s time as a Knick. Melo was drafted 3rd overall in 2003 by the Denver Nuggets, in what has been regarded as one of the strongest drafts in NBA History. With the other 4 top 5 picks winning an NBA championship (even DARKO MILICIC IN HIS ROOKIE SEASON!), the pressure has been on Melo to capture that ever elusive trophy. In 2011, Melo requested a trade to his home city to play alongside all-star Amare Stoudemire. The two noticeably struggled with sharing the ball and Amare’s knee injuries eventually led to the demise of the duo. Since then, the Knicks have failed to build a reliable core around Melo and have even had 5 different head coaches calling the shots since Melo’s arrival. Melo’s contract includes a no-trade clause and he has stated that he has no desire to leave the franchise. However, he has publicly stated his frustration of not being a playoff contender while his friends are all competing for multiple championships.
President Phil Jackson appears to be on the right track of building a championship contender. After acquiring 4 new players through trades and free agency, the Knicks should be one of the league’s most exciting teams to watch this upcoming season. Some people have even gone as far to call them a “superteam” who can compete with the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. However, the off-season additions are more about career revivals rather than guarantee contenders. Each man has a chip on their shoulder with something to prove. Let us look at each acquisition:
In June, the Knicks officially announced the hiring of Hornacek as the new Head Coach. Hornacek began his coaching career in 2013 with the Phoenix Suns. Competing in a stacked Western Conference, Hornacek led a young Suns roster to a 48 win season, even capturing Coach of the Month Honours few months into the season but failed to make the playoffs. Suns Management decided to break up majority of the young core and the Suns failed to reach the playoffs the following season. After compiling a horrible 14-35 record last season, Hornacek was fired mid-way. Now he has the opportunity to revive his coaching career with a much more talented roster, filled with veterans who have been played many years in the league.
Last month, Lee signed a 4 year contract with the New York Knicks and is expected to be the team’s starting shooting guard. Drafted in 2008, Lee started many games for the Orlando Magic and helped the team reach the 2009 NBA Finals before losing to the Lakers 4-1. Lee will never forget missing a lay-up with 0.6 seconds left in Game 2, which would have evened the series at 1 game a piece. After his rookie season, Lee was traded to the New Jersey Nets as part of a trade for Vince Carter. Since then, Lee has not settled on any NBA team, bouncing through 4 different teams in 6 seasons. Lee now has the chance to be part of the long term plans of a franchise hungry to regain relevance in the league.
Expecting to be the team’s 6th man, Jennings joined the Knicks on a one year deal. Drafted in 2009 by the Milwaukee Bucks, Jennings became the first player in history to skip college and play in Europe before being drafted to the NBA. During his rookie season, Jennings appeared to be one of the future stars of the league, dropping 55 points in one game and leading the Bucks to a playoff berth before losing in 7 games to the Atlanta Hawks. Since then, Jennings has only made the playoffs once, getting swept in 2013 by the Miami Heat. His tenure with the Detroit Pistons was damaged with a torn Achilles suffered mid-way through the 2014-2015 season. However, Jennings has still shown that he can be a reliable scorer and can definitely spark an offence coming off the bench. His play will be vital to the success of the New York Knicks, especially during crunch time.
Noah signed with the Knicks on a 4 year, $72 million deal last month and is expected to be the team’s starting center. After leading the Florida Gators to back-to-back championships, Noah was drafted 9th overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2007 NBA draft. When Derrick Rose missed significant time with knee injuries, Noah emerged as the heart and soul of the franchise. His high energy, passion, and tough play kept the Bulls in respectable competition for multiple seasons. Noah was also named the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year and made 2 all-star appearances. Despite his success as a Bull, Noah’s final season with the Bulls proved disastrous. He lost his starting center job to Nikola Mirotic and averaged only 4.3 points and 8.8 rebounds, his lowest since his second NBA season. A tear in his shoulder followed by season-ending surgery caused Noah to appear in only 29 games during the season. Videos have since surfaced of Noah working to get back in to top basketball shape. If he can re-gain his form, the Knicks will have one of the toughest and most versatile front court in the league.
The biggest acquisition has been the former-MVP Derrick Rose, who was acquired in a trade a few months ago. “And the expectations I think of us, we just want to win” Rose stated in an interview. Drafted 1st overall in 2008, Rose emerged as one of the best players in the NBA. In just his 3rd season, he became the youngest MVP in NBA history and led the Chicago Bulls to the league’s best record before falling in the Eastern Conference Finals. Since then, it has been a nightmare for Derrick Rose and his fans. In the 2011-2012 season, Rose missed significant time and then tore his ACL during the first round of the playoffs. After sitting out the entire next season, Rose’s anticipated return the following year was marked short after tearing his meniscus just 10 games into the season. Concerns over his health had many people wondering if Rose would ever reach all-star level again. Mid-way through the 2014-2015 season, Rose once again tore his meniscus but returned in time just before the playoffs. The Bulls advanced past the first round but were eventually eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The next season was frustrating for the Bulls and they eventually failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since Rose’s arrival. Reports surfaced of locker room conflicts between Rose and star player Jimmy Butler. It was clear that one of the players had to go. Despite the unsuccessful season for the Bulls, Rose showed signs of his former-MVP level of play and did not miss significant time due to injury. His health will be a major x-factor for the Knicks’ future success.
The 2016-2017 NBA season is less tan 3 months away and many fans are eager to see the New York Knicks in action. While capturing the NBA Championship is the ultimate goal, seeing this core revitalize their careers would be a feel-good motivational story around the NBA.