A new year means new changes for the New York Knicks.
Since Phil Jackson was hired to run basketball operations in 2014, the Knicks have gone through several roster makeovers. The constant turnover of players has limited the success the Knicks could have had on the court because to be a competitive team, in any sport, continuity plays an important role in how a team grows from season to season.
Professional athletes are savvy enough to figure out how to play with their new teammates from game to game, but with limited practices — and more rest time between games — in the current CBA, continuity is more important than ever to guarantee future success.
Now, the Knicks are under a new regime — since Jackson was told to go kick rocks in Montana — and under Steve Mills, it seems like the Knicks are, once again, making changes that’ll destroy any continuity from the previous season — which isn’t a bad idea this time around.
The first move Mills made this offseason was to sign Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year, $71 million deal. Hardaway Jr. was a restricted free agent, but the Knicks were so desperate to bring back the man its executives drafted, four years ago, by offering him almost $30 million more than what the Atlanta Hawks were willing to pay him.
Obviously, the Hawks weren’t going to match the absurd amount of money the Knicks threw at Hardaway Jr.’s feet, especially since new General Manager Travis Schlenk has begun the process of rebuilding the Hawks from the ground up. So, like any sensible franchise, the Hawks politely declined to match, and the Knicks got their man by overpaying — which has been a Knicks staple since James Dolan became owner in 1999.
Hardaway Jr.’s signing is significant because it signals the end of the triangle era in New York.
Jackson traded Hardaway Jr., to the Hawks, in 2015 because he believed Hardaway Jr. didn’t fit the triangle offense. By Mills deciding to bring back Hardaway Jr., he’s revealing he didn’t support every move Jackson made as President of Basketball Operations.
Either that or Mills couldn’t stand Jackson’s guts, and he decided to be petty and make a move that would completely defy Jackson’s Zen logic.
Besides the possible pettiness that Mills may have unloaded from his arsenal of petty bullets, the signing of Hardaway Jr. also signifies the era of position-less basketball in New York.
According to reports, with the Carmelo Anthony trade to the Houston Rockets looming, it’s clear Mills believes Hardaway Jr. is capable of replacing the scoring that will be left behind once Anthony joins the scoring party in Houston. With Anthony gone, the Knicks will be left with a plethora of guards who will be able to run the floor and help push the pace in Hornacek’s high-tempo offense.
Playing lineups with three guard sets isn’t unusual to Hornacek, who used to run similar sets in Phoenix when he had Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas, and Goran Dragic at his disposal. Often, Hornacek would have a lineup consisting of three guards, a wing, and a big man.
That is the true definition of position-less basketball.
Positions are now becoming obsolete in the modern NBA. Big men nowadays are more equipped to play on the perimeter, as opposed to always playing with their back to the basket, and more teams are running a fast pace spread-type of offense instead of running a half-court offense that would run through the big man.
Today’s NBA depends on guard and wing play more than ever.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Hornacek throw out three guard sets, this upcoming season, which could see a combination of Courtney Lee, Tim Hardaway Jr., and a veteran point guard, to play off of Kristaps Porzingis, in the starting lineup.