Kevin Durant is now in New York City, just not with the team most expected him to join. There was a nearly league-wide expectation for much of last year that Durant was headed to the Knicks, likely with Kyrie Irving in tow, but as we neared free agency the Nets shifted into the driver’s seat for the duo, ultimately landing them when free agency opened.
Much has been made of this shift and why it happened, and while it’s likely for a few reasons, it’s yet another failure by the Knicks to land top talent despite their market. Carmelo Anthony remains the only star that’s joined the Knicks in recent years, and that was even via trade with the Nuggets. Other stars have flirted with New York, only to go elsewhere, either using the Knicks as leverage or simply not having them at the top of their list.
As to why this happens, Durant himself can speak to it best. The new Nets star, who likely won’t make his debut until the 2020-21 season as he recovers from his Achilles injury, went on Hot 97 on Tuesday and offered a succinct and simple explanation.
Durant asked on Hot 97 why the Knicks can't land the stars right now:
KD: "I think a lot of fans look at the Knicks as a brand and they look at these younger players, who in their lifetime don't remember the Knicks being good… The cool thing right now is not the Knicks.” pic.twitter.com/MqeHQ4j5PW
— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) October 8, 2019
There are plenty of reasons that have been thrown out for why the Knicks can’t land guys, and many of them have merit, chiefly the organization’s dysfunction and guys not wanting to play for James Dolan. Bad ownership is likely the true illness of the Knicks but Durant is right about the symptom, which is nearly two decades of irrelevance on a national scale. It’s telling that Anthony, a New York native, has been the lone star to really want to join the Knicks, because only a Knicks fan could still revere this franchise.
Players love to go off in Madison Square Garden, but are happy to do so once or twice a year. Playing for the Knicks, as Durant notes, doesn’t carry the weight it once did and kids that were born in the late 1990s and early 2000s would rather join franchises they’ve seen have success or, at the very least, have some kind of cool factor going for them. The Knicks simply have dysfunction and the market and stage aren’t enough to overshadow those issues. Maybe they’ll shake that reputation in the future, but for right now, Durant’s letting Knicks fans know maybe not to get their hopes too high the next time they have significant cap room.
Put even more simply: