At times, it's easy to feel bad for the New York Knicks...if you're not a fan of them, that is. If that's the case, then you're constantly eyeing your Bible and some cyanide pills.
Fine, maybe things aren't that bleak with Kristaps Porzingis in town, but that doesn't change the fact that things are not good in the Empire State right now. Carmelo Anthony is likely to be on the trade market again, Phil Jackson continues to be stubborn, and fan morale is absolutely abysmal at this point. Don't get me wrong, the fans love their team, but their morale? Absolutely abysmal.
Like with the New York Jets, this is not a recent thing. Ever since the clock hit 2000, the New York Knicks - once a franchise of consistency and charm - have become the laughing stock of the NBA; and while the Brooklyn Nets traded all of their future assets in a poorly designed trade for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, at least there's some hope and optimism about what they're building. With the Knicks? Absolutely nothing.
So, like we did with the Yankees, let's review some of the Knicks' biggest mistakes over the past 17 years. As with the Yankees' list, individual games are not a part of this list; that includes playoff series and regular season games hat the Knicks blew because of poor decision making. Simply put, these are almost entirely all personnel moves.
Ready to revisit the days of Isiah Thomas? Let's do it!
15 The loss of tradition
This is a fairly simple one to start with, I agree, but I think it's one that needs to be addressed - and no, I don't blame this all on Phil Jackson like others are prone to doing. Instead, this falls on Jackson, James Dolan, Isiah Thomas and the rest of the power players in the New York Knicks organization for destroying the tradition that a New York team is supposed to have.
Look, I get that players don't want to spend their time on losing teams, especially now in the era of super teams, but for star players to not even bother meeting with the Knicks? Factor in everything else that Dolan is known for - and we'll give him a pass on his personal demons because he's not to blame for addiction - and it's easy to see why this franchise is where it is. Sadly, this is only the beginning of the bad for the Knicks...
14 Michael Sweetney
You and I both know how absolutely loaded the 2003 NBA Draft was, so there's not much point in talking about the top five guys. However, let's instead talk about the New York Knicks and their role, as they drafted Georgetown junior Michael Sweetney over Nick Collison, David West, and Josh Howard. If you asked who, I doubt you're alone.
In 119 games with the Knicks from 2003-05, Sweetney averaged 7.0 points and 4.8 in 16.8 minutes per night - not the worst stats, but certainly not what you'd expect from a player you invest a first-round pick into. Sent to Chicago in the Eddy Curry deal, Sweetney showed flashes in the Windy City before issues with his weight and depression took their toll. While we at The Sportster commend Sweetney for overcoming both to form a career for himself overseas, there's no denying that this was a mistake by the Knicks.
13 Passing on Rajon Rondo
Like moths to a flame, Rajon Rondo's name (rhyming accidentally!) was drawn to the New York Knicks many times in trade and free agency talks from 2009-16. However, we're going to focus specifically on the 2006 NBA Draft, when the Knicks selected Renaldo Balkman over Rajon Rondo; and while one could argue that the Knicks still had Stephon Marbury playing at a capable level, keep in mind that Marbury probably could have been used as a trade chip. So much for that!
And because the Knicks have made plenty of other major draft errors since 2000, here are a few others. I would start playing Yakety Sax right now.
2002: Drafting Nene only to trade him for Antonio McDyess
2005: Channing Frye over Andrew Bynum
2009: Jordan Hill over DeMar DeRozan, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, or Jeff Teague
2011: Iman Shumpert over Jimmy Butler
12 Firing Mike Woodson
What? How could I put Woodson's firing on this list? How many reasons, really, do you want? I've said many times that changes needed to be made after the 2013-14 NBA season, but firing a coach who had taken you to a 50+ win season a year before and had achieved prior success with the Atlanta Hawks was not the answer. Maybe it made sense at the time, but it's looking like most people are regretting this in hindsight.
And, in their defense, they're right! Trying to capitalize on what the Brooklyn Nets and first-year head coach Jason Kidd had just done by making an All-Star fresh out of retirement a coach, the Knicks tried it with Derek Fisher. Look at how that turned out...
(Oh, and now is a good time to tell you that new head coaches for the 2014-15 season who were still unemployed when the Knicks hired Fisher on June 10 included Lionel Hollins and Byron Scott, two veteran coaches who had plenty of previous experiences with veteran teams. Yes, I just defended Byron Scott.)
11 Stephon Marbury
Am I putting Stephon Marbury too low on this list? Here's the thing: when he was healthy and playing well, Starbury was not at all a bad point guard in a Knicks uniform; he wasn't Jason Kidd across the river in New Jersey, but Marbury could get the job done enough to where, in an ideal world, the Knicks had found their point guard of the future.
However, that was in an ideal world, but what really happened was far from that. Marbury feuded with his two coaches - Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas - and management, even being banned from practices and games for the 2008-09 season before signing with the Boston Celtics in early 2009. Before Starbury was the biggest celebrity in China, he was the most hated athlete in New York - aside from Carl Pavano, of course.
10 Jerome James
Why would the Knicks sign Jerome James, coming off a season in which he averaged 4.9 points and 3.0 rebounds per game, to a five-year, $30 million contract? Months earlier, James averaged 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per night in 11 playoff games with the Seattle Supersonics, so he was clearly ready for a major deal. James played a total of 90 games with the Knicks, only starting 20 of those, before a February 2009 trade to Chicago.
That we're only putting this at tenth should tell you how bad some of the other mistakes were. So, what went wrong? Chris Mannix, once of Sports Illustrated and now with The Vertical, wrote the following about James in March 2017.
"James’s failure underscores the difficulty in player evaluation. Contract years can be misleading. The type of systems in which a player can succeed must be considered. Age, health and declining skills must be accounted for. A cap-gobbling bad contract can hang around a team’s neck for years; even a smaller one can limit cap flexibility."
9 Steve Francis
With Stephon Marbury in town, I don't think the Knicks really needed another point guard during the 2005-06 season. But, Isiah decided to be Isiah and trade Trevor Ariza and Penny Hardaway to the Orlando Magic for Steve Francis.
"This is a trade that we all feel makes us a better basketball team for both now and in the future," Thomas said at the time despite the deal not making any sense. "In Steve, we add an All-Star caliber player to our team without giving up core assets that are key to our future."
That may be true, Isiah, but why make the trade when you were 15-37? I can understand wanting to trade away older players in a time of rebuilding, but adding a player who played the same position as your star? If that was the case, were the Knicks planning on trying to offload Marbury? Why are we still asking these questions over a decade later?
8 Giving Chauncey Billups the amnesty
Now this one, as many Knick fans will argue, may be among the top five worst decisions made by the organization. However, there are somehow eight that are worse! After the Knicks acquired Billups, an All-Star point guard with the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets, in the Carmelo Anthony trade, the team picked up his team option following the 2010-11 season. Entering his age 35 season and coming off 21 games with the Knicks where he averaged 17.5 points and 5.5 assists per game, it made sense...until the Knicks used the amnesty clause on him months later when they signed Tyson Chandler.
The thing with the amnesty clause - and hey, maybe the Knicks were so overconfident at the time that they didn't think it mattered - is that it could only be used once. So, when all of the injuries began to pile up for Amar'e Stoudemire and Chandler seemingly forgot how to play basketball for a year, the Knicks COULD have used the amnesty clause on them if they hadn't on Billups! Yikes.
7 Trading Jamal Crawford
Another move that didn't make sense at the time and remains silly in hindsight, the Knicks - 11 games into the 2008-09 season, mind you - dealt Jamal Crawford to the Golden State Warriors for Al Harrington. Now, not only was Crawford a seasoned veteran and a full-time starter by this point, but he was averaging 19.6 points on a .432 shooting percentage (.455 from long-range, which would have easily been a career-high). For the past four seasons, Crawford had been a reliable sharpshooter in New York, so why would the Knicks get rid of him?
More importantly, why wouldn't they try to get something else like a first-round pick in return? If you're a Knicks fan already angry that they traded Crawford for two seasons of Harrington, it gets better. Had the Knicks managed to land a first-rounder in that trade, they could have drafted Blake Griffin with the first overall pick.
6 The Antonio McDyess Trade, Part One
Maybe I'm alone in this, but I don't blame the Knicks for wanting to consider Antonio McDyess as a big man of the future. I don't blame the Knicks for wanting to trade Marcus Camby and Mark Jackson for McDyess. But, there's two things that went wrong here. Number one, McDyess was hurt in one of his first preseason games with the Knicks, meaning that he missed the 2002-03 season and was sent to the Phoenix Suns 18 games through the 2003-04 season.
Second, the Knicks traded Nene, the seventh overall pick, in the deal, meaning that they instead could have drafted Amar'e Stoudemire with that pick. Imagine if the Knicks used that pick on Stoudemire before all of the injuries AND kept themselves from trading for McDyess. If you think this is bad, it gets worse.
5 The Antonio McDyess Trade, Part Two
...and by worse, we're not kidding. When the Knicks finally dealt McDyess to the Phoenix Suns, the trade looked like this:
Phoenix acquires: Antonio McDyess, Howard Eisley, Charlie Ward, Maciej Lampe, the draft rights to Miloš Vujanić, two first-round picks and cash considerations on January 5, 2004
New York acquires: Stephon Marbury, Penny Hardaway and Cezary Trybański.
Now those two first-round picks, those were in 2004 and 2010, and Phoenix ended up trading those to Utah in exchange for Keon Clark and Ben Handlogten at the 2004 trade deadline. Those picks wound up being Kirk Snyder (the Jazz also could have drafted Josh Smith, J.R. Smith, or Jameer Nelson) and Gordon Heyward (no issues there).
4 Not learning from Isiah
Now, we're getting to the REALLY good stuff, although I won't attack Isiah Thomas as much as Knicks fans think I should. Earlier on, I argued that the loss of tradition was its own mistake - and I'm still standing by that, don't worry - but what goes along with that and ranks much higher is that the franchise still hasn't learned from Isiah Thomas' tenure as coach and executive. Between public disputes and outcry from players and coaches to all of these aforementioned decisions that have taken place since Thomas' ousting in 2008.
And if you think the Knicks HAVE learned from the Isiah Thomas era, keep this in mind: a little over two years following his dismissal, the Knicks were considering bringing him back in an advisory role. What sense would that make? Isiah Thomas is one of the greatest basketball players of all time, yes, but I think he did a bit too much damage in New York.
3 Trading for Andrea Bargnani
Before Knick fans come at my throat for saying this, let me be honest: I don't blame the team for considering Andrea Bargnani as a trade target after the 2012-13 season. I don't blame them for trading Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, and Quentin Richardson to do it, nor do I blame them for giving up a couple of second-round picks. But to give up a first-rounder in 2016 for Bargnani? Why?
Then, it gets worse. The numbers may look pretty with Bargnani averaging 13.3 and 14.8 points on .442 and .454 marks in his two seasons with the Knicks, but trust a New Yorker: this was not a fun ride. Bargnani was loathed by fans for effort and poor decision making before joining the rival Nets for the 2015-16 season. Woof.
2 The Triangle
Is it fair for me to put the triangle so high on this list? Like with how I didn't blame the Knicks for wanting to acquire a veteran big man in the form of Bargnani, I don't blame Phil Jackson for wanting to test the triangle with the Knicks. But for the organization to try forcing the philosophy down players' throats when it's clear that it's not working...there has to be a point when they stop, right?
Instead, we're entering our fourth full year of the Phil Jackson regime and a fourth full year of the triangle being force fed to players that want to try something different. The stats and evidence show that the triangle has worked in the past, fine, but why not accept that it may be time to try something new?
1 Eddy Curry
Well, you probably knew that this was coming. At times, Eddy Curry was a fine center for the New York Knicks and had his share of dominant performances...but other times, he was plagued by weight and personal issues during his time with the Knicks before being traded in the Carmelo Anthony deal.
But wait, it gets worse. As part of the trade that brought Curry to New York from Chicago, Isiah Thomas traded Jermaine Jackson, Tim Thomas, Mike Sweetney, two unprotected (!) first round picks, and two second round picks for Curry and Antonio Davis. Which is worse: Curry's six-year, $60 million dollar deal with a player option for the final year, or those first-rounders turning into LaMarcus Aldridge and Joakim Noah - who, ironically, would become the next Eddy Curry when he arrived in New York.
What a time to be alive if you're a Knicks fan. Which of these was the worst decision in your book? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!