The New York Knicks are one of the biggest brands in the NBA, if not all of professional sports. They’ve won two championships, boast a legendary core of alumni, and have the biggest television market in the country. Their history should speak for itself.
Unfortunately over the past decade and a half, they’ve had one of the most tumultuous span of years since their success in the 1990s. Through incompetent front office decisions, off-court controversies and pitiful play, they became a laughing stock around the league for the better part of the 2000s.
Fortunately, they seem to be on the right track, winning their first playoff series since the 1999-00 season this year. It was a long road back to relevance for the Knickerbockers, filled with almost comical levels of failure. Let’s look back at some of the biggest fails in the Big Apple in the last decade and a half…
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15. Signing AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE
Okay, we really can’t blame the Knicks for this one. It was the summer of 2010 and they finally had enough money to rope in a big name. Of course, we remember this offseason as the formation of Miami’s Big Three, but the first domino to fall was Stoudemire. All signs pointed to LeBron ending up anywhere but New York, so the Knicks had to pull the trigger.
Now just three years into his five year, $99.7 million deal, the STAT experiment hasn’t been so successful. After Carmelo Anthony came and pushed him out of the number one role, where he was thriving, Stoudemire’s been on and off the injury list and it has become apparent he’ll never be his old self again. Now the Knicks are stuck with that enormous contract.
14. Trading for ANTONIO McDYESS
The Knicks decided to trade for McDyess with Marcus Camby, Mark Jackson and the rights to Nene in June of 2002. Jackson was aging, but had started all 82 games for New York this season before. Camby was often injured, but was also a young, dominant defensive big man. Nene, who was drafted to be part of the deal, has put together a solid NBA career, scoring 12.6 points a game on 55 percent shooting.
McDyess was coming off a serious knee injury, a ruptured Patellar tendon, but when healthy was a stud for the Nuggets. He put up over 20 points and 12 rebounds for Denver in the season before the injury. It was a gamble for the Knicks, and it didn’t pay off. He reinjured the knee in a preseason game and played just 18 games for New York before being shipped away in a trade we’ll cover later.
13. 50-point home loss
The Knicks have played at Madison Square Garden since 1968, but had never lost as badly there as they did on January 24, 2010. New York was trounced by the Dallas Mavericks by 50 points in the midst of a season where they’d finish with just 29 wins.
Just so you understand how awful this game was, the Knicks shot only 33 percent from the field and their leading scorer was Jared Jeffries, who overachieved his way to 14 points. In one of the ugliest stretches ever endured in franchise history, this may have been rock bottom. The Knicks were finally able to find success the following season after living through horror stories like this game year-in and year-out.
12. The LARRY BROWN Fiasco
The Knicks became the veteran coach’s seventh NBA stop when they brought him in for the 2005-06 season. The stint was short-lived. In his one year as coach, the Knickerbockers limped to a paltry 23 wins, and the on-court issues were only inflamed by the feuds between Brown and the team.
The most infamous quarrel was that of Brown and the Knicks’ star point guard Stephon Marbury about his tendency to play freely, the opposite of Brown’s team-oriented system. Brown acknowledged that this stop was a failed one, saying, “I’m disappointed, I love this franchise, but I didn’t do what I was paid to do.”
11. Drafting FREDERIC WEIS
In the 1999 Draft, the Knicks held the 15th overall pick. Many fans were happy to see Queens native and St. John’s star Ron Artest still on the board. The pick would have made sense for the Knicks, as they lacked depth at small forward and Artest’s defensive prowess would complement Latrell Sprewell‘s strong offensive game well.
But maybe it made too much sense. Instead of capitalizing on the strong roster that led them to a Finals appearance the previous season, they decided to draft a raw center out of France, despite having Patrick Ewing and Marcus Camby crowding the depth chart. That project’s name was FrÃ©dÃ©ric Weis, best known for being emasculated by Vince Carter in the 2000 Summer Olympics. Weis never played a second of NBA ball, and Artest has had a very interesting, but ultimately successful career.
10. Failing to Re-Sign JEREMY LIN
After a short stint of Linsanity, the Knicks decided not to bring back the popular point guard. The Rockets offered Lin a poison pill contract that saw a huge spike in the final year of his three-year deal, and New York decided to back off.
I get it; the Knicks didn’t want to fall into another financial squeeze after working so hard to escape the disaster that was the past decade. But Lin was a commodity worth way more than that. Not only did he facilitate the offense impressively in his limited action, but he quickly became a global brand and one of the most profitable players in the league.
So the Knicks were hesitant to shell out big money for another point guard, but Lin not only was a fan-favorite, he was a role model that completely contradicted the me-first tendencies of past Knick ballhandlers. I guess we’ll have to see how his career projects before we really pass judgment on this one, though.
9. Overpaying LATRELL SPREWELL
In all fairness, Sprewell was coming off some solid seasons for the Knicks. After he was traded to New York following his suspension for choking out his own coach, he helped carry the blue and orange to a NBA Finals appearance. In the subsequent seasons with the Knicks, he averaged 18.6 points per game, and then 17.7 points in 2000-01.
New York decided to extend him with a five-year deal worth $62 million… despite his past issues. They saw an immediate return on their investment, with Sprewell making his only All-Star team as a Knick. Alas, the fun didn’t last, as Sprewell broke his hand in an apparent fight on his yacht right before training camp. He was traded after the injury-shortened, subpar season just two years into the deal.
8. Relying too much on J.R. SMITH
Smith had perhaps the best season of his volatile career this year, his first full one (after playing just 35 games with them last year) as a Knick. It was a renaissance that was capped off by a Sixth Man of the Year award. Smith toyed with fans throughout the season, providing them with some exceptional moments, consistently gaining steam as the season went on. He became a fan favorite and the second scoring option.
All this importance may have been misplaced, especially with someone who consistently struggles to produce in the playoffs. Entering this postseason, he averaged just 40 percent shooting in his career in such games, and hadn’t shot over 37 percent in four appearances since 2009. This one was no different, as he shot a pathetic 33 percent and completely disappeared in their second-round loss to the Pacers. Maybe the Knicks won’t put too many eggs in Smith’s basket should they decide re-sign him.
7. Drafting MICHAEL SWEETNEY
The 2003 Draft was chock full of superstars, but unfortunately for the Knicks, they were all rightfully taken before they were in line to pick at the nine slot. New York needed some bodies on their frontline following the McDyess debacle, so they took the heaviest one they could find.
Ok, so Sweetney did look great a Georgetown, a school known for producing big men (Ewing, Mutombo, Mourning), but he struggled with weight problems throughout his life, and subsequently his NBA career. Just yesterday, we rated him as one of the 20 biggest draft busts of the century. Just nine picks later, David West was taken by the Hornets. Sweetney was traded two years later.
6. Hiring MIKE D’ANTONI
The Knicks hired D’Antoni to a four-year deal in May of 2008, much to the chagrin of writers and pundits for a number of reasons. First off, D’Antoni’s run-and-gun, high-tempo system called for athletic players who could keep up the pace throughout the game. New York may have had some nice pieces that fit that system, but their guys would have to compensate for the ultra-offensive style by playing imposing defense.
That’s where they were met with some issues. While the Knicks proved to be workhorses on offense in the first season, dropping 105 points per game — good for fourth in the league — they also gave up an average of nearly 108 points, the third-worst mark. The Knicks struggled during his tenure, suffering two losing seasons and making the playoffs only after stars Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire came over. D’Antoni resigned from the job following an 18-24 start in the final year of his contract.
5. STEVE FRANCIS
The Knicks acquired Francis just before the trade deadline in February of 2006, pairing him with Stephon Marbury in a star-studded backcourt. Unfortunately, New York found out too late that having two overpaid guards who need the ball in their hands to be successful isn’t the best direction for a franchise.
Francis struggled with a bad knee in his second season as a Knick and averaged just over 11 points per game. The experiment ended when he was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers on draft night in 2007. The Blazers didn’t even want him, immediately buying out the remaining $30 million on his contract.
4. 13 Straight Playoff Losses
After making 13 consecutive playoffs from 1988-2001, the Knicks began to flounder at the turn of the millennium. In those 2001 playoffs, they lost the final two games of their first round series against the Raptors. Then, after making the playoffs in 2004, they were swept by the New Jersey Nets.
In 2011, they ended their longest playoff drought since the NBA/ABA merger, but still couldn’t manage a win against the Celtics. Then, finally, after dropping three straight to open the postseason in 2012, they were able to grab one win against the Miami Heat before being sent home. The 13-game playoff losing streak was the longest in NBA history.
3. Falling for JEROME JAMES
In one of the most criticized signings in NBA history, the Knicks signed the underachieving center on the basis of one solid playoff run. They shelled out an indefensible $30 million over five years for a guy who had never averaged more than 5.4 points per game.
The move worsened the Knicks already poor cap situation, and took away any motivation James had to become a serviceable player. He showed up to camp out of shape and failed to produce any semblance of play worthy of even the league minimum. James averaged just 2.5 points in his four seasons with the Knicks, with a total of 10 points in his final two years combined.
2. Trading for STEPHON MARBURY
Starbury and New York seemed like a glove-like fit, as he grew up a Knicks fan in Brooklyn. He was the star that the Knicks were searching for after striking out in previous years. After a few down years at MSG, fans were excited for a turnaround.
Unfortunately, Marbury only complicated the situation. He constantly feuded with coaches, was booed loudly by the home crowd, and played selfishly — all while being paid around $17 million a year. In the end, after losing his starting job prior to the 2008-09 season, he fell so out of favor with the organization that he was banned from practices and games despite being under contract. In his five seasons with the team, he led them to the postseason once, and held them back from putting pieces around him with his giant paycheck.
1. Hiring ISIAH THOMAS
Some Hall of Fame players just aren’t cut out to be Hall of Fame coaches or executives, and this might be the most infamous case of such. Thomas joined the Knicks front office in 2003 as President of Basketball Operations. His tenure played out as one of scandal, controversy and failure.
Three years into his role, he managed to compile the highest payroll in the league. Yet, the money spent did not translate into any type of success, with the Knicks producing the second-worst record in the league in 2005-06.
After Knicks owner James Dolan fired Larry Brown following that dismal season, he somehow rewarded Thomas’ front office shortcomings with the coaching gig. Thomas failed to translate his skill as a player into coaching, going 56-108 in his two seasons on the bench. He and Marbury couldn’t work together, and Thomas was still making questionable moves in his executive role as well. He was removed first from his front office position, and then as coach in less than three weeks.
Not only did he struggle to produce winning teams, but his off-the-court problems made headlines, too. He lost a sexual harassment lawsuit to a former coworker, and months after being fired, was reportedly admitted to a hospital after overdosing on sleeping pills. Thomas has been pinned as the scapegoat for the Knicks forgettable decade, and is universally loathed by New Yorkers.
What do you think of this list?
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