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“Knicks need to learn from the crosstown rivals…and the Lakers.”

They never even got a meeting.

This is the reality of the New York Knicks offseason when they tried to lure the big fish of the 2019 NBA free agency class to play in the orange and blue. Most of us were prepared for this, and despite the media bashing and public ridicule the organization has received, the Knicks did have a successful summer, even if it was plan B. With that being said, for the second time in a decade, they had a chance at signing the best player in the league, and just like 2010, missed out. This time around, however, it stings even more. Not only did Knicks fans endure a season of non-stop rumors and false hope, but in the end, the cross-town rival Brooklyn Nets came away with the pot of gold we thought we were destined to receive.

As a fan, you can accurately point out a number of things that caused the Knicks to miss out on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. You could say that the owner is a buffoon and that the Knicks will never find success again as long as Jim Dolan is captain of the ship. You could say that Durant’s achilles rupture in game 5 of the NBA Finals completely shifted the attention of star free agents off the Knicks. In reality, it was neither of those things, but simply this: The Knicks aren’t ready to attract players of that caliber to
the team.

“But we’re the Knicks! We bleed orange and blue in New York City, we’re a basketball town, and Madison Square Garden is the world’s most famous arena! Whoever wins here would be a legend in the greatest city in the world for life!”

This arrogance and confidence would’ve been relevant twenty years ago, in a different time when the team had a different owner and the Knicks only roadblock to a title just happened to be the greatest player of all time. In 1996, a similarly wild offseason, the Knicks were coming off another 50 win season and had cap space to sign players to compete for years to come. They almost signed Michael Jordan, who gave the Bulls an hour to match the contract the Knicks gave him (which they of course did). That was then, this is now. The culture of the team, while turning positive, isn’t there yet. It’s in the beginning stages, something that Scott Perry and Steve Mills have stressed to us all year. They have begun to take the approach the Nets began taking three years ago, but the Knicks haven’t completed this process yet, while the Nets have.

Brooklyn, whose own culture was questionable when they made the worst trade in NBA history several seasons ago with Boston, took a lethargic and graceful approach back to relevance. Taking on bad contracts for draft picks and signing young players that had been cast off by other teams, the Nets made a run to the playoffs this past season that indicated a clear culture shift in their organization. They went from being the laughing stock of the NBA to have the best offseason in the team’s history. And yet, despite those obvious reasons, it’s still hard for some Knicks fans to grasp why Durant and Irving chose
the Barclays Center rather than the Garden, but for too long now the fan base and James Dolan have carried themselves as if the Knicks have the same lure and mystique as the Los Angeles Lakers.

Sure, the Knicks are the most valuable logo and brand in the NBA, and despite a 17-65 record, we’re in the top ten in attendance per game while the Nets came dead last, but there’s a reason why despite equal organizational dysfunction and ownership issues that the Lakers were able to draw LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and are still in the running for Kawhi Leonard. They have mystique and lure, not to mention sunshine, Hollywood, and a plethora of other amenities. The Lakers also know how to handle expectations from their fan base: with a grain of salt. Their culture is all about winning, and despite the recent NBA dynasty that is the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers have still been, by far, the most successful franchise in the modern era. Although their fan base is just as demanding as the Knicks, the Lakers never make the panic moves because of public pressure.

The bottom line for the Knicks is this: despite twenty years of risky trades, bad free agent signings, and drama, the Knicks are finally turning the corner on their culture, but this offseason, they weren’t ready. One day the culture will shift on this team into a positive light, where just like the crosstown rivals, they can land the biggest free agents on the market. While most would see this offseason as a failure, after rumors set the city ablaze like a forest fire, Plan B would have been (in most years) seen as a very successful summer. It’s only the beginning for this team, but the seeds are there for them to be a
championship contender again in the future. Then, and only then, will they be able to conduct themselves like the other storied franchises in the league.

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