By Lenn Robbins
As an NBA team owner, James Dolan is volatile and unpredictable at best.
As a musician, he’s pedestrian, as far as house bands go.
But as a magician, he ranks with Houdini and Blake.
Dolan has done what was once thought impossible. He’s gotten one of the most passionate fan basis in all of sports to seriously consider turning their backs on the Knicks. And who could blame them?
The Knicks (read Dolan) had a chance to give their long-suffering fans hope. He had a chance to bolster a fan base that just six weeks ago had been utterly gutted when the Knicks didn’t secure the No.1 pick in the draft (read Zion).
All he had to do was what he never, ever would have been criticized for in the Big Apple: Swing for the fences.
Sign Kevin Durant.
Perhaps it’s easy, even irresponsible to tell someone how to spend his $164 million over four years, the numbers it would have taken to sign one of the top five basketball players in the solar system.
Durant, of course, suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the NBA Finals. He will be 31 when the next NBA season begins, a season he won’t play while he rehabs. It’s fair to ask what kind of player KD will be when he takes the court in 2020 at the age of 32 with a surgically repaired Achilles tendon?
That scared away the Knicks, according to published reports.
The Nets were willing to take that gamble. They will sign Durant and in one fell swoop do something else that once seemed impossible: Make the Nets the more intriguing and relevant team in the metropolitan area.
The Warriors were willing to sign him to a $221 million deal over five years. The Clippers were willing to do what the Nets did and the Knicks didn’t do. In other words, there are a lot of really smart people in the NBA that thought Durant is worth the risk.
But you know what so often happens to people that believe themselves to be the smartest in the room – every room. They get it wrong much more than they get it right.
The Knicks did agree to sign center/forward Julius Randle to a three-year, $63 million deal and this has the potential to be a steal. Randle had his best NBA season in 2018-19 averaging 21.4 points on 52 percent shooting, 8.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists. He’s healthy. He’s 24.
But he’s not Durant. He’s not the level of NBA superstar that can draw other superstars.
KD is that superstar. It’s not a coincidence that point guard Kyrie Irving and rim protector DeAndre Jordan, who wore a Knicks jersey last season, also will sign with the Nets.
So, to repeat: The Nets are now more intriguing, more relevant, and quite possibly more prepared to compete for an NBA title in two years than the Knicks.
Even if the worst happens, and Durant doesn’t return, or returns a shell of his two-time NBA Finals MVP self (Lord we hope that doesn’t happen because KD is a magical player to behold) no one will blame the Nets for taking the KD chance. Not in this town. In this town, everyone digs the long ball.
“While we understand that some Knicks fans could be disappointed with tonight’s news, we continue to be upbeat and confident in our plans to rebuild the Knicks to compete for championships in the future, through both the draft and targeted free agents,” wrote Knicks president Steve Mills in a statement released by the team.
Good to know someone’s still upbeat about the Knicks. It’s just not their fans. And they know just who to blame.