Last month, the Knicks were the talk of the town. They had acquired Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, knocked off the Heat in Miami and were playing like a team set on making a serious playoff run.
But since then, things have not gone well for the Knicks, as they've dropped nine of 12, and dropped to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The offense has been stagnant, while the defense has been altogether non-existent.
They haven't won a playoff series since the 1999-2000 season, or even posted a winning record since the 2000-2001 season. So, a decade later, we review why the Knicks are struggling...yet again.
It's important to look at the one constant throughout all of the Knicks' struggles and embarrassments: James Dolan. Yes, Dolan spends money on the team (unlike Donald Sterling with the Clippers). Yes, Dolan seems to care about whether the Knicks win or lose. He's just really bad at making sure they have any success.
Soliciting advice and protecting Isiah Thomas, throwing Donnie Walsh under the bus, okaying horrendous contract after horrendous contract (Eddy Curry, Jerome James, Allan Houston) and having no sense of real control over the team, Dolan is the main source of blame for this mess.
As an owner, it's okay to have a hand in the day-to-day operations. But what's the point of hiring a great basketball mind like Donnie Walsh, only to force his hand with trades?
For Dolan and the Knicks to have any success, he must back off, re-up Donnie Walsh and cut ALL TIES off with Isiah Thomas.
The "D" in "D'Antoni" certainly doesn't stand for "defense." The Suns hardly played it during D'Antoni's stay there, and the Knicks have carried the mantle, looking lackadaisical on defense, allowing their often inferior opponents to cross the 100-point mark with ease.
There's no denying that D'Antoni is a bright basketball mind. His offensive system works with the right players, as shown in Phoenix. But defense wins championships, offense wins games. And when the offense is struggling to even do that (the Knicks again have a losing record), isn't it time to start re-thinking the coaching philosophy?
Yes, despite being fired by the team, Isiah's presence still looms large in New York.
First off, he's a main contributor to the mess that took nearly two-and-a-half years for Donnie Walsh to clean up. Secondly, his public comments about the Knicks, and his constant contact with owner James Dolan, have created unnecessary controversy for the team.
Isiah was heavily rumored to be running the Carmelo trade talks and bringing in Amar'e Stoudemire. Of course, the problem is that Thomas is a Division-I head coach for FIU, and the NBA has already ruled that Thomas cannot work for both teams. So either Thomas is informing the NBA the Knicks are flaunting the rules, or he's simply lying, and throwing the Knicks under the bus. Thomas never denied that he has been an adviser to the Knicks while at FIU.
No matter what you believe about what Isiah has actually done, it's clear he's been a distraction.
Carmelo has never played with another superstar before. In Denver, he had a very good point guard in Chauncey Billups, a couple nice big men with Nene and Kenyon Martin and a great coach with George Karl. But at the end of the day, he was the lone superstar.
Anthony has to realize this isn't his team, it's Amar'e's. While Melo is an all-world talent offensively, his defense leaves a lot to be desired, and his hustle isn't always there. Considering how much the Knicks just gave him (and how much they gave up), there should never be a question with how hard he's working.
As a Knicks fan, try listening to "I'm Coming Home," and not immediately thinking of Anthony.
And while this scene is a great PR coup, and an awesome moment, doesn't it seem that the Knicks are again putting the individual above the team? How can a fan not expect instant success with this type of introduction?
Yes, acquiring Melo and Billups was clearly a huge deal, and the Knicks wanted to capitalize on the exposure, but a team can't stage an introduction like this and then have a losing record.
The New York media and hype machine can make a good team great and a bad team awful. Extremes sell, and that's what they try to establish.
The Knicks, despite all their recent struggles, are only a game under .500. Granted, considering all the talent on this team, that's a pretty poor record, but they're still set to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-2004 season.
There has to be a silver lining somewhere...right?
It's impossible to understand where the Knicks are now without looking back to their past, which includes Scott Layden.
While Layden did enjoy some success during his tenure, the six-year, $100 million contract he gave to Allan Houston crippled the Knicks financially for years. The Knicks had to work around that deal, making it very tough for them to acquire any top-flight talent until his contract expired.
Curry did not pan out with the Knicks, never becoming the "Baby Shaq" that fans were promised.
Since Patrick Ewing, the Knicks have struggled to find a center, seemingly recycling middling players and wasted talent. Without a true center, the Knicks have struggled to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference.
No matter what anybody says, it's painfully obvious that Amar'e Stoudemire cannot play center, even in the Eastern Conference. While he may have an advantage with his supreme athleticism offensively, his defense is sorely lacking. Ronny Turiaf and Shelden Williams have both struggled to develop any consistency, or hold down the starting center spot all season.
If the Knicks wanted to make a run this season, they had to obtain a defensive-minded center like Marcus Camby. Look for the Knicks to target a center in free agency (Marc Gasol or DeAndre Jordan).
Pop Quiz: Who's the longest-tenured Knick in his current stint?
Answer: Toney Douglas.
Douglas, the second-year point guard, is inexplicably the longest-tenured Knick. Jared Jeffries has played the most with the Knicks overall at four-plus seasons, but his current run here is just 17 games long. It's impossible to develop any type of consistency with the revolving door of players the Knicks have had over the past decade.
Despite all the talent they have, the players are still learning how to play with each other. Remember, it took the Heat the first month of the season to really get into any sort of groove.
TEAMS, not players, win championships. That should have been apparent when the Pistons knocked off the Lakers in 2004.
Imagine the Knicks with Elton Brand or Ron Artest instead of Frederic Weis.
Or the Knicks holding on to Trevor Ariza.
How about passing up on Danny Granger in 2005 for Channing Frye?
How about them refusing to move up one pick to grab Stephen Curry, instead of settling for (and eventually trading) Jordan Hill?
Remember Michael Sweetney?
The thing is, the Knicks have actually drafted fairly well lately (David Lee, Nate Robinson, Toney Douglas, Landry Fields) but what has become of it? They have made some big mistakes in the draft (as listed above), and have too often shipped away their young talent for stars out of their prime (Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury, Tracy McGrady).
Hopefully, the Knicks' playoff drought can come to an end this season, and they can make New York and their fans proud once again.