Knicks and Bruises

People often refer to Knicks fans as “long-suffering”. While this is true, it also isn’t quite right. Being a Knicks fan is perpetual suffering. Those of us under 50 really know nothing else. We weren’t around for the glory days of Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, and Dave DeBusschere. We have only seen grainy footage of the Captain limping onto the court for game 7 or Clyde splendiferously swishing and dishing the Knicks to a title. Sure, we grew up on stories of those days from our fathers, uncles, and revered elders. But our glory days are much more modest and usually ended in heartbreak rather than triumph. Instead of Reed’s heroics, we have Charles Smith getting attacked under the basket. John Starks barely missing the championship-winning shot (blocked by Hakeem Olajuwon) in game 6 before a putrid game 7 performance from which he never fully recovered. Ewing’s failed finger roll against the Pacers. We celebrate those teams despite their shortcomings because they gave us hope. And hope has always been both a blessing and a curse for Knicks fans. And that dynamic explains perfectly the varied reactions to yesterday’s blockbuster trade that brings former MVP Derrick Rose to Madison Square Garden.

On the surface, this seems like the Knicksiest move ever, a panic trade for a broken-down super star. Knicks fans have seen this script before, from Anfernee Hardaway to Steve Francis and even Tracy McGrady (although that one was a little different since it was mostly a salary cap move and nobody actually expected McGrady to be a significant player for the Knicks). We’ve watched past-their-prime greats decompose before our eyes while hoping for a miraculous return to form. Dikembe Mutombo. Chauncey Billups. Baron Davis. Jason Kidd. We’ve seen all of them try to reclaim glory in a Knicks uniform. We’ve also seen stars supposedly in the prime of their careers come to NY only to come undone (This is the Antonio McDyess/Stephon Marbury/Amar’e Stoudemire group). So why should Knicks fans expect anything different when it comes to Derrick Rose?

The biggest difference here is that for once the Knicks did not mortgage their future to acquire a former star. The Knicks gave up Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant, and the ghost of Jose Calderon. Only Lopez is of any significance on the court. Grant, a first round pick a year ago, was clearly not in the organization’s future plans and Calderon is no longer an NBA quality player. So basically it comes down to a trade of Lopez for Rose. Lopez played well for New York last year, but was probably overpaid and can be replaced relatively easily. The Knicks have 30 million dollars in cap space and there are several free agent centers available. Rose should be extremely motivated in a contract year. If Rose can be 75% of what he once was, this trade is a huge win for the Knicks. If he isn’t, the Knicks can let him walk and have an extra 24 million in cap space when Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul become free agents. This is the definition of a low risk/high reward move.

Knicks fans will root for a return to the playoffs and hope that Rose can coexist with Carmelo Anthony and aid in the development of young phenom Kistaps Porzingis. But even if it doesn’t work out with Rose, the Knicks are not in any worse shape going forward than they were before they made the trade. The extra cap space probably means that they’re in a better place moving forward regardless of how Rose performs. Knicks fans aren’t used to win/win scenarios. We’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. But in this case, every outcome for the Knicks comes up smelling like Roses.