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The Rise and Fall of the New York Knicks

D.Michael LeeSenior Analyst INovember 5, 2008

The 100 Million Dollar Mistake

How the New York Knicks became the worst assembled roster in the game today

Growing up, my memories of the New York Knicks franchise focused around a seven-foot 270-pound force in the middle named Patrick Ewing, who was the unquestionable leader and face of the franchise.

I remember watching the Knicks battle Larry Bird and the Celtics and Isaiah Thomas and the Pistons in the late 80’s. They always fell short, but showed alot of pride. It wasn’t until the infamous Bulls-Knicks rivalries of the 90’s that they finally enter the league’s spotlight. Ewing never beat Jordan’s Bulls, though the Knicks did make two Finals appearances in the 90’s, losing to Houston and San Antonio respectively.

But it seems since those glory days, the franchise has gone downhill, fast.

The best thing on the court of the Garden these days have been the beautiful Knicks dancers.

The Knicks have not had a franchise player since Ewing left. Sure, they thought they did, and put that responsibility on the likes of Allen Houston, Latrell Sprewell, and most recently Stephon Marbury. But none truly delivered to the same extent as the Hall of Fame center.

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In a city which has zero tolerance for mediocrity, the Knicks are arguably the least important franchise in the Big Apple today. The current edition of the Knicks has arguably the greatest collection of overpaid, underachieving talent in league history. A Who’s Who of disappointment:

Stephon Marbury—owed $21.9 million this season, and exiled to the end of the bench by Knicks management.

Zach Randolph—owed nearly $48 million dollars over the next three seasons, and no one will be dumb enough to take that off the Knicks' hands.

Eddy Curry—owed nearly $10 million this year, with an option of $21 million over the next two seasons.

Quentin Richardson—owed nearly $9 million this season, with an option for $9 mill next year.

Jamal Crawford—owed $8.6 million this season, with option of nearly $20 million over next two years.

You get the point. Alot of money tied up in no results. Alot of personnel decisions will be put squarely on the shoulders of former Knicks front man Isaiah Thomas. Mortgaging the future of an once proud franchise for a win now or else roster, and they have not won.

While the end of mediocrity does seem near, with the arrival of Coach Mike D’Antoni, and the promise that most of these contracts will be expiring soon, the Knicks could look more like an expansion team than a playoff contender. So what, or who, can Knicks fans look to as a potential franchise saving moves for your team?

1. Remember every night that the summer of 2010 is not to far away

The face of the league could potentially shift dramatically that summer. The Knicks could position and market themselves not only as a team on the rise, but a young, hungry group of players with a great coach in a great city, and a lot of money to spend.

Of course, Lebron James is the biggest prize that year, but you also have the likes of Paul Pierce, Al Horford, Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwayne Wade, Kevin Durant, Amare Stoudamire, Tony Parker, Chris Bosh, Caron Butler, and others. Now of course, many of these players will probably resign with their current teams, but some will not, and the Knicks must align themselves to be key players.

2. Identify your keepers

Looking at the Knicks roster from a long-term perspective, there are probably six guys I would want to have on the roster going into the 2010-11 season: Chris Duhon, David Lee, Nate Robinson, Danilo Gallinari, Mardy Collins, and Anthony Roberson. Of course, these players' development over the next two years could alter this drastically.

3. Realize who your competition is

Looking at the Eastern Conference, you have to realize who is built to win right now, and who is not.

Boston was built to win the title within three seasons, and they already got one of those three out of the way. The same can be said about Detroit. Cleveland is in a tough spot because if Lebron leaves, they are done. The Nets, much like the Knicks, are thinking about the future. The Pacers and Bucks are young, and the Raptors, Sixers, and Magic are going to be good for a while.

So that leaves NY, who isn't good now, and won't be for at least a few years. Short-term goals should be to compete each and every night and win at least 35 games this season.

4. Bring the magic back to the Garden

The Knicks of the 90’s made the Garden the most intimidating home court in the league. The team wasn’t made up of all first-round draft picks, but rather a mixed bag of role players, second chance stars, and veterans happy to play together. The same can happen again, but they must be better at selecting players to put together and not take a fantasy basketball take on the roster.

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