The Demise and Rise of the New York Knicks

Posted: February 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

The past decade has been one of turmoil for the New York Knicks and their dedicated fans. The last 10 years have been full of horrific trades, change in coaches, and change in management roles. Many New York Knicks’ fans have blamed the trade of Patrick Ewing for the demise of the franchise over the decade.

In 2000, the Knicks dealt the centerpiece of their organization for 15-years to the Seattle Supersonics for Luc Longley and Glen Rice. Ewing, who was named on of the 50 greatest N.B.A players in history, was upset with how he was treated by the Knick’s fans.

In the decade after the trade, the Knicks posted a record of 327-493. The team made the playoffs only 2-times and did not make it past the first round in either try. When Patrick Ewing controlled the paint for the Knicks, the team was 668-530. Although the Knicks never won the N.B.A championship in the Ewing era, they did appear in the finals two times. While Ewing was a Knick, the team found themselves in the playoffs 13 times. The difference in the two eras jumps out at you.

When Patrick Ewing departed, the Knicks were in search of a player to build their franchise around. The Knick’s search led to the acquisitions of players who could not fill the shoes of Ewing. In the 2003-2004 season the Knicks’ trouble was supposed to be fixed by new General Manager, Isiah Thomas. Thomas made an early splash by acquiring Coney Island, New York’s own, Stephon Marbury. Marbury was deemed the Knicks’ savior. The deal seemed to make perfect sense in a fairytale type story. Hometown product leads hometown team back to glory. What is not to like?

Unfortunately, things did not work out as planned for Marbury and the Knicks. Marbury found himself feuding with the personnel in the Knicks’ organization and put them in a very difficult situation. The one-time star found himself on the bench and becoming a distraction. After a series of disputes with Isiah Thomas due to his lack of playing time, the Knicks’ were forced to buy-out Marbury, who later signed with the Celtics.

The Knicks also made waves when they traded for Bull’s center Eddy Curry in 2005. This deal is one that still makes the Knicks’ fans cringe for many reasons. The first reason is for how much the Knicks had to give up for Curry. In exchange for Curry, the Knicks traded Tim Thomas, Michael Sweetney, their 2006 first-round pick, and the right to swap first-round picks in 2007,along with second-round selections in 2007 and 2009. As a result of this trade, the Knicks ended up giving the Bull’s the second pick in the 2006 draft, as well as swapping them the ninth pick in 2007. The two players selected were Joakim Noah and LaMarcus Aldridge respectfully.

The Curry trade also made the Knicks the team with the highest payroll in the league. Although the Knicks’ payroll was the highest, the team finished with the worst record in the Eastern Conference, posting a horrific 23-59 record. Eddy Curry found himself fighting injury and after injury and never turned into the player the Knicks expected. Now you can find Big Eddy sitting at the end of the Knicks’ bench wearing a suit.

In 2008, things began to change for the Knicks’ when they signed Donnie Walsh as team president. Walsh is a highly distinguished figure in basketball. He is known as an expert in the field of building a franchise, and managing a team’s salary cap. Donnie made an immediate impact when he signed ex-Sun’s coach, Mike D’Antoni, to the same position. From the moment Donnie Walsh arrived with the Knicks, he made it clear what his goal was. Walsh wanted to clear cap space for the summer of 2010, where he could make a push for high-level free agents such as: LeBron James, Joe Johnson, or Chris Bosh.

The strategic minded Walsh began making deals for players with expiring contracts in 2010. Walsh acquired players such as Al Harrington, Larry Hughes, Tracy McGrady, and Chris Wilcox. Walsh also signed veteran point-guard Chris Duhon. The Knicks struggled in the first two seasons under the Walsh/D’Antoni regime; but the fans knew the 2010 off-season was right around the corner and LeBron James would be on the market. The buzz was back around the Garden, as fans anxiously awaited the decision of LeBron James.

Although James was the prized player in the free-agent class, there were many other players on the market. With the deals Donnie Walsh made, the team had the ability to sign two maximum contract players. The Knicks set their sight first on guard Joe Johnson, who elected to re-sign with the Hawks. The Knickerbockers then turned their focus to Amar’e Stoudemire. Stoudemire accepted the challenge of helping re-build the team, and signed a 5-year, 99 million dollar deal.

Stoudemire was a piece that was supposed to attract LeBron James to New York. Things did not work out as the Knicks’ and their fans planned, as they watch LeBron James’ “Decision” live on ESPN. While LeBron was dancing around on stage with new teammates Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, Donnie Walsh set his sites on point-guard Raymond Felton. Felton signed a $15.8 million deal spanning 2-years. The Knicks then drafted Stanford’s Landry Fields in the second round of the 2010 draft. The drafting of Fields was frowned upon by many Knicks’ fans at the time. Little did they know, Landry Fields would be starting for the Knicks on opening night along with fellow rookie Timofey Mozgov. Walsh signed Mozgov, a Russian center, to a 3-year deal. Walsh also cut a sign and trade with the Golden State Warriors for David Lee. The Knicks acquired Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf, and Kelena Azubuke.

So here they were, the new looked New York Knicks. Things started off sketchy for the team, starting 3-8. At this point, Amar’e Stoudemire made it known that this Knicks team was not going to accept losing. After the statements made by Stoudemire, the Knicks went on a roll. The team won 13 of 14 and improved their record to 19-6. New York City fell in love with Amar’e Stoudemire and this New York Knicks team. Landry Fields also won over the crowd that once booed Donnie Walsh for drafting him. The buzz around the Garden has returned, just like the days of Patrick Ewing. For about a decade boos were constantly echoing around the Garden. Now you can hear Knicks’ fans serenading Amar’e Stoudemire with chants of MVP! MVP! MVP! With the Knicks eyeing more free-agents for next season with a lot of cap space remaining, it is safe to say basketball at the Mecca is back and it is here to stay.

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