by Lenn Robbins ,The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
It’s over. Thankfully, finally, mercilessly, it’s over.
The Knicks season can be forgotten like a bad second date, the one that confirms there’s no need for a third.
We went on record before the season that this wasn’t going to work. That the marriage of the wonderful Kemba Walker and Tom Thibodeau was a computer date gone awry. That the signing of Evan Fournier might have improved the outside shooting (when the streaky shooter is on) but that forfeited toughness and defense. That the new contract which proclaimed Julius Randle as the Knicks’ No.1 option was simply misguided.
This crumbling 37-45 of a season was as predictable as witnessing those Hovnanian condo projects in New Jersey start to fragment before the paint was dry.
Coming off their fourth-place, playoff appearance finish and Thibodeau’s Coach of the Year honors, the Knicks looked good from the outside. Again, cue the Hovnanian comparisons: those condos looked so appealing in the brochures.
It should take a basketball jury less than an hour to render its decision on the 2021-22 Knicks: The roster didn’t fit the head coach. The decisions behind the compilation of said roster were flawed. The head coach, a demanding taskmaster, can have the shelf life of an open jar of Gefilte fish.
The question, which seems to follow almost every Knicks season is, “What now?”
This is not a social media exercise.
This is not Knee Jerk Central.
Making changes for the sake of change is a small change way of doing business.
No successful franchise plays musical chairs with its management and coaching staffs. Successful franchises can talk about culture because it exists, it’s tangible, like the Miami Heat’s toughness or the Golden State Warriors’ professionalism.
Leon Rose was one of the most successful sports agents of all time and the architect of the Big Three – LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh – in Miami. That didn’t make him a prescient talent evaluator or team constructor. Uniting three exceptional team players who also are exceptional talents gets you a certificate of the obvious, not a doctorate in NBA franchise building.
He was a shiny hire but president of the New York Knicks is not an on-the-job training position. His two-year apprenticeship is up. Thibodeau we can thank for the 2020-21 season when New York, like the rest of the nation, desperately needed something to feel good about.
Here’s the rub. There are terrific people who can help the Knicks. Mike Zarren in Boston, Adam Simon in Miami, Milt Newton in Milwaukee are executives who come to mind. And now that Frank Vogel apparently has coached his last game with the Lakers, the Wildwood, N.J. native sure speaks our language and is a proven NBA head coach, one who would come with a ring on his finger.
Is there enough talent on this roster to win a ring? No. R.J. Barrett is a pro and could be a third option. Obi Toppin’s 6-of-14 shooting on 3’s in the final game of his second season was impressive as was Immanuel Quickley’s 12-assist, three-turnover performance. Quentin Grimes and Cam Reddish are worth another look.
This is the biggest rebuild job in the Big Apple. Which makes it such a desirable destination.
Except the one constant that prevents the Knicks from becoming a factor, if not a force in the NBA is the owner. He kept a lower profile than in recent seasons when he wasn’t bullying young fans or former Knicks stars or A List New York celebrities at The Garden.
But his stench lingers like the smell of beer and sweat on the famous freight elevator. As long as James Dolan is behind the curtain, the Knicks elevator will never make it to the top floor.