Saturday, February 11, 2017

Once More Into The Knicks

This Year's New Low
Let's start this where it begins. In America. The United States, specifically.

In the United States, very rich people like to believe that they got that way on the merits. Those merits might be hard work, insight, vision, determination, or even, more darkly, the superiority of their birth. But independent of anything else, the rich as seen are having merit. After all, if they didn't have merit, they wouldn't be rich.

Now, let's pivot to sports. Unlike way too much of our daily lives, sports has a scoreboard; a wonderful, definitive scoreboard that ends all doubts as to who won and who lost. You can argue that a team was lucky, you can argue that if only one factor had changed, it would be different, but everyone knows in the back of their minds that these are arguments for suckers. You either won or you lost. It's as black and white as life gets, and if you won, there had to have been some merits involved. Talent, hard work, strategy, preparation; teams don't generally just chuck it out there and hope for the best.

Now, the Knicks.

The Knicks are a *terrible* basketball franchise. They've been a terrible basketball franchise for a very long time. In what might be the weakest division in the weaker conference, they rarely threaten for the playoffs, despite playing in the media hub of the universe, to packed houses of NBA-mad celebrities, for a league that keeps its offices in the greater NYC area, and would plainly *love* a NYC team, in the world's most famous arena, to occasionally play a meaningful game.

They don't.

Instead, owner James Dolan fails and fails and fails again. He hires names from the past instead of people who have adapted to the way the game is played now. He cycles through coaches like a sick person cycles through tissues and cough drops. (Yes, actually, as I write this, I'm ill. It's peachy.) And every year, just as it becomes obvious that the construction of the latest Knick roster isn't going to be able to get it done (here's a hint, you mooks: try valuing 2-way players who win on advanced analytics, rather than Name Stars who aren't as good as their reputations, don't move the ball and don't defend)...

Well, there's some New Distraction to show that the organization is always more than willing to put more trash on the fire.

This year, it's GM and Old Man Shaking His Fist At Clouds That Resemble The Three Point Line Phil Jackson, who has spent the past few years showing Tough Love to star forward and embodiment of all that's wrong Carmelo Anthony. With the problem being that Tough Love tends to drive down the old trade value when you are trying to move on from this guy, especially since he's signed to a big whopping contract that you, yourself, inked in the not too distant past, when you made the utter whiff mistake of thinking that you could teach / motivate / change the dude into being something he clearly isn't, which is (not) the centerpiece of a championship team.

This week, it's the tawdry spectacle of franchise legend and very possibly crazy person Charles Oakley, who was escorted out of the building in a scene from Jerry Springer, subsequently banned for life and arrested, then given a rollicking character assassination by Dolan, AKA the last guy who should be discussing anyone's character. (Remember, this is the asshat who keeps hiring Isiah Thomas, no matter what results, on the court or in the courts.)

This has led to the very curious spectacle of people chanting for Oakley at Knicks home games -- as if he's going to wander out on the floor and change the course of play and/or get Anthony to D up -- and the usual hand wringing about what can be done to fix the Knicks.

And now, we're back to where we started; in America. Home of rich people who can screw up all they like, because they are rich.

In other countries, sports leagues have relegation, and long-time readers of the blog will note that I've been singing this sad song for a very, very long time... but the point still holds. If there were many basketball leagues instead of one, the way that the world treats soccer / football, Dolan wouldn't have an NBA (Tier 1) team. And as soon as he didn't have that, the celebs and crowds would melt away, and as soon as that happens, he'd have sold. Or done whatever the hell he wanted to, because who the hell cares.

Instead, Dolan will be an NBA owner until he dies, or takes the Donald Sterling exit. The Knicks will be the Knicks; always chasing the short-term shiny, never doing it with a lick of sense. And we'll have annual moments like the Oakley Affair, with think pieces of how this is the New Low, as if Dolan wasn't always capable of more.

American exceptionalism. See how it hurts?

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