In February 2011, there was pandemonium in New York as the city's beloved Knicks traded for “superstar” Carmelo Anthony. The trade for Carmelo offered Knicks fans a sense of hope that the team would finally be in legitimate competition for an NBA title. However, since the trade, the Knicks have been hampered by continuity issues and lingering injuries, leaving the team in a state of mediocrity.
As the 2012-2013 season approaches, the once optimistic view of success has all but faded. As a frustrated fan, it is easy to blame the current Knicks for their shortcomings, but the true fault lies with the organization, starting with owner James Dolan and his refusal to commit to an actual rebuilding process.
For the past 12 years, the Knicks have been repeatedly haunted by a front office that continues to make the same mistakes. Instead of bottoming out and actually rebuilding the team with young talent through the draft—an approach proven successful by the Oklahoma City Thunder—the front office has decided it is better to trade for and to sign overpaid, middle-of-the-pack “star” players.
The list of overpaid veterans the Knicks have acquired in the past 12 years includes Antonio McDyess, Stephon Marbury, Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry, Jalen Rose, Steve Francis, Tracy McGrady and now Carmelo Anthony
Marbury and Anthony have been able to lead the Knicks to three first-round playoff appearances, but the other players mentioned can be considered complete disasters, as the team has only finished above .500 twice during that span.
In order to acquire players such as Eddy Curry and Tracy McGrady, the Knicks gave away draft picks, which have turned into players such as All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and impact defensive center Joakim Noah.
In 2008, when the Knicks hired famed executive Donnie Walsh as president of basketball operations, it seemed as if the team was finally headed in the right direction. After a few years of working to get under the cap, in 2011 the Knicks emerged as an exciting young team led by newly signed Amare Stoudemire, accompanied by draft picks Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler.
However, the trade deadline deal for Carmelo Anthony, in which the Knicks gave up Gallinari, Chandler, and starting point guard Raymond Felton as well as four future draft picks, signaled the Knicks had fallen for the same trap. What was more intriguing were reports that James Dolan stepped in at the last moment to make sure the deal went through. Adding to the suspicion that there was dissent in the Knicks front office, Donnie Walsh chose to leave the team at the end of the season. Although Carmelo Anthony might be a class above several of the other players the Knicks have traded for, his selfish play as well as lack of postseason success should have been a red flag for the organization.
The primary reasons suggested for owner James Dolan’s continued pursuit of overpaid middle-of-the-pack stars comes from the claim that the Knicks' revenue would suffer greatly if they were an absolutely terrible team. However, there are several financial factors that prove this is far from true.
Despite not advancing past the first round of the playoffs for the past 12 seasons, the Knicks are still currently the second-highest valued NBA franchise at $780 million, according to Forbes. Also, the Knicks have been in the top 10 in the league in attendance for all 12 of those years. The primary evidence, however, comes from the 2005-06 season.
That year, the Knicks finished with their worst record during the aforementioned 12-year span at 23-59. However, they still finished sixth in the league in attendance, averaging close to 19,000 fans per game. What James Dolan continues to misunderstand is that New York basketball fans are intelligent basketball fans. The true Knicks fan would not lose allegiance to the team over a bad season or two if they saw the team building towards the future through the draft. As the beginning of the 2011 season showed, a young and exciting team that hustled and played hard every night would truly bond with the city.
For the past 12 years, James Dolan has been content producing a mediocre product and benefiting solely from New York’s craving of basketball instead of operating the team following a true plan with potential for long-term on-court success and unimaginable profits for the franchise.
Going forward, a fan can only hope that whether or not the Knicks long-term commit to Carmelo Anthony or not, they will finally learn from their mistakes and focus on building the team through the draft and by acquiring role players without burdensome contracts.