The bumbling New York Knicks were beaten by a familiar name on Saturday, as Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry obliterated the Knicks defense for 32 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in a 115-100 Toronto win.
Lowry has never played for New York, but he's become well-known to Knicks fans everywhere. Lowry-to-the Knicks rumors were everywhere in the early part of December. There were a few variations on the trade, but each of them included some combination of Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr. and New York's 2018 first-round pick going to Toronto.
The rumor mill only cooled off after it was reported by Bleacher Report's Howard Beck that the Knicks were no longer pursuing a trade. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported that Knicks owner James Dolan vetoed the trade.
But that was all the way back on December 23, and five days is a lifetime in the Knicks' universe. In the interim, New York lost twice to the Raptors, with Lowry looking good in each game. Now Knicks fans are asking themselves: Will Dolan resurrect the trade?
Maybe they will...but they shouldn't.
Let's just say the Knicks had already traded for Lowry.
Would they have won this game? Would Lowry have inspired the team to finally guard the corner three, taking away the wide-open looks that allowed Toronto swingman Terrence Ross to shoot a career-high 7-of-11 from behind the arc? Would he have fixed the bizarre screen-switching defense that put centers on guards and guards on centers, leading to inexplicable stats like this, courtesy of MSG Network's Alan Hahn?
Chandler/Bargnani, 7-footers, combined to grab 5 rebounds. JR Smith/Shumpert, 6-5 and 6-6, combined to grab 15 rebounds.— Alan Hahn (@alanhahn) December 29, 2013
Can Lowry single-handedly overcome a Knicks team that seems so desperately close to cracking?
Per the Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring:
JR, on where the team's collective mindset is: "I don't even know right now."— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 29, 2013
Stoudemire: "We've gotta look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves whether we're giving a good enough effort to win."— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 29, 2013
Of course he can't. Lowry is not a franchise savior. Sure, he looked great Saturday night. He's a good player, and the Knicks have a habit of making good opponents look great. He would most assuredly help New York—the question is: Help New York do what?
Lowry won't turn the Knicks into a title contender; that much is certain. Even the most optimistic Knicks fan has probably given up on that dream.
Can he get New York back to .500? The math is against them. The Knicks are now 9-21 on the season. To finish the season at 41-41, they would have to go 32-20 the rest of the way. Possible? Sure. Likely? Not for this team, particularly when factoring in their upcoming schedule.
The Knicks would be wise to forget these last two Toronto games ever happened. Reevaluating a potential franchise-altering trade on the basis of one or two games is madness.
More to the point, it's exactly the kind of madness that has torpedoed the Knicks throughout the James Dolan era.
Make no mistake, the Lowry trade has the potential to significantly alter the Knicks franchise...and not in a good way.
New York is already critically short of draft picks over the next few years. They threw in their 2014 first-rounder in the 2011 Carmelo Anthony trade, along with three promising young players (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Timofey Mozgov).
You can almost follow along with Dolan's line of thinking at the time: Who cares about a 2014 pick? It's three years away. And with Melo, we'll be picking in the bottom of the first round anyway!
Naturally, three years later, the Knicks are terrible. And that first-round pick has the potential to be far more valuable to New York's future than the free-agent-to-be Anthony. According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Dolan is now troubled by the perception that then-Denver GM Masai Ujiri swindled him in the deal.
But that feeling obviously didn't stop Dolan from tossing a few more picks Ujiri's way, this time in a trade for Toronto big Andrea Bargnani. New York gave up a 2016 first-rounder and two more second-rounders for Bargnani, who had been injured for two years. ESPN's Marc Stein had already reported that dumping Bargnani's massive contract was the Raptors' top priority.
Yet Dolan once again spared no expense in acquiring the player no other team wanted. He opened the draft pick vault yet again and rained picks on Ujiri and the Raptors. How did that work out for the Knicks on Saturday night?
Per Grantland's Zach Lowe:
Fan above me just now, upon glancing Masai Ujiri: "MASAI, I LOVE YOU!!!"— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) December 29, 2013
The Knicks could have tried to get some protection on those picks—top five, top three, something—to mitigate the potential loss. But they didn't. It doesn't even seem to enter their thinking during trade time.
The Knicks simply say "I want this guy" and never bother to consider the expense or the consequences. It's the kind of thought process one might expect from a man who has had everything in life handed to him by his rich father.
Nuclear Winter in New York
There is a very powerful argument for New York making any move necessary to reach the playoffs, and it has to do with that long-departed 2014 draft pick.
If the Knicks stay the course, there is a very real chance the Denver Nuggets will win the 2014 draft lottery with New York's pick—in one of the deepest drafts in years, no less. Of all the low points in Dolan's tenure as owner—and there have been too many to count—the sight of watching Denver walk away with the first overall pick would be the lowest.
But there might be a silver lining in the lottery cloud. Before any addict can begin recovery, he or she must first hit rock bottom. And, make no mistake, the Knicks are addicted to throwing away draft picks.
Dolan isn't going anywhere, and every Knicks fan knows it. The Knicks can only move forward as a franchise once he wakes up and realizes the error of constantly going for the quick fix.
So forget about Kyle Lowry. Forget about trading away the future for a minuscule chance at climbing all the way back to .500. Keep Tim Hardaway Jr. Play Toure' Murry. Call up forward Jeremy Tyler from the D-league. Things can't get any worse for New York...on the court, at least. But if James Dolan starts meddling yet again, New York's nuclear winter could last through the end of the decade.