CHICAGO – Perhaps the larger question with the New York Knicks, who began the season a disappointing 3-10, is how could that happen given their roster that boasts the second-highest payroll in the NBA.
After all, they have only one player who was accused of murder, although the charges were later bargained down. They have just one player who was suspended by his previous team during the playoffs because he refused to play in a dispute over his playing time. And they have just one player who basically killed a franchise in inciting the worst brawl in the history of American team sports.
How could a team like that not have success?
Now, remember, we here in the United States do not much care for not only New York, but especially New York sports teams.
There’s a famous cartoon from the New Yorker magazine — who names a magazine after a city? — that shows a map of the United States with New York and then going west the Pacific Ocean with basically nothing in between but some desert and mountains. This is basically the New Yorker’s view of the country.
There’s an old joke about New York sports teams:
What’s the definition of a dynasty?
It’s either when a family in China rules for 1,000 years or when a New York sports team wins three consecutive games.
Yes, they are pretty full of themselves there.
But they shouldn’t be with the Knicks, who last won an NBA title in 1973, and only seem to be getting farther and farther away.
New York considers itself the capital of the U.S., though players don’t generally seem so enamored. That’s how the Knicks ended up with J.R. Smith, the league’s top sixth man last season and starter-to-be who served a 24-day jail sentence in 2007 when the car he was driving — and driving after being arrested seven times for speeding — passed a stop sign, which he passed while driving around a car waiting there and going twice the speed limit and was hit by another car and his passenger died. He settled a suit and was allowed to plead down from manslaughter.
There’s Kenyon Martin, the starting power forward who was basically banned from his Denver team in the playoffs by future Hall of Fame coach George Karl in 2006 because Martin accosted Karl and refused to play because he didn’t like the way Karl was coaching.
Earlier that season, the NBA fined Martin after his “posse” of friends threatened fans in a game in Chicago.
And, of course, Ron Artest, who likes to go by the name of Metta World Peace, though he has the most violence-related suspensions of any active player, and who basically destroyed the Pacers franchise in 2004 by going into the stands to assault fans in one of the worst riots in American sports history.
Instead of chanting, “Fire Woodson,” as fans are these days in Madison Square Garden, he should get a raise for trying to manage that menagerie of oddball talent.
Expectations always are high in New York despite the realities, and it didn’t help that often-erratic owner James Dolan before the season fired general manager Glen Grunwald and told Woodson he believes the Knicks would compete for a title.
He should have specified what league.
The Knicks are not horrible and not as bad as they have started, if certainly dysfunctional.
They did win their division and 54 games last season and their first playoff series in more than a decade. But a lot of that, oddly enough, had to do with Jason Kidd bringing an unselfish sense of play as a leader that permeated the team. But Kidd’s legs gave out late and he retired, soon going into coaching the Nets.
The joke in New York now, of course, is his career decisions hurt both teams.
They Knicks lost to a tough Indiana Pacers team in the conference semifinals, and they did add big man shooter Andrea Bargnani in the summer.
Giving up yet another No. 1 draft pick, though. They don’t have their pick in 2014 from the Carmelo Anthony trade, and it’s looking like the league may have to step in like it did with then-Cleveland owner Ted Stepien 30 years ago to keep the Knicks from destroying their future.
In any case, New York is about what have you done today, and they did get a tough break when center Tyson Chandler, their best defender, broke his leg early in the season. He will be out about six weeks.
The result has been a small, shooting-oriented lineup which makes it tough to win in the NBA.
And then there’s Anthony, the high-scoring All Star who supposedly was to be the savior.
He has been growing grumpy about the losing as he scores a lot and doesn’t much defend or pass to anyone and hasn’t totally quieted speculation he will leave as a free agent after this season. He’s not likely to even as the Lakers have been mentioned as a possibility given he’s already made one move because he said the organization wasn’t doing enough to win.
Moving again may suggest maybe it’s not the organization. The odds are Anthony stays.
The Knicks still have Amare Stoudemire on the roster for one more season after this with deteriorating knees so bad he only can play once or twice a week. He said he should play more, but has been unproductive when he has played.
The coach doesn’t appear to like guard Iman Shumpert, who seems to be in daily trade rumors as Smith says he should start and point guard Ray Felton said he had a back injury after some poor efforts.
Because the Knicks have so many scorers, they can be dangerous. Though given the history of so many of their players, that can be taken in many ways.
Sam Smith covered the Chicago Bulls for 25 years with the Chicago Tribune. He is the author of the best-selling book “The Jordan Rules.”