Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd. That was the starting backcourt on the night of Nov. 2, 2012, the first game of the 2012-13 season for the New York Knicks. It was also the first game of my fandom. Back then I had just started seriously getting into basketball as a high school freshman.
I had heard about Linsanity through friends and the news the year prior. My first jersey was Jeremy Lin. It was that phenomenon that sparked my NBA interest. Lin not returning in free agency was my first lesson in Knicks disappointment (I know now how unprepared I was for the absurd amount of heartache and frustration that was to come).
A new era is underway for the Knicks with the signing of Jalen Brunson
So for a little while, Lin, Felton, and Kidd (can’t forget the amazing Pablo Prigioni as well) were the only Knicks point guards I knew anything about.
Eventually, I would learn about the greatness of Walt “Clyde” Frazier. I read about other legends like Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Mark Jackson, and Dick McGuire. When you look back on the history of the point guard position, New York has been spoiled with some of the NBA’s all-time players.
But, there are many, many, maaaaaany other lead ball handlers who have worn the orange and blue, the majority of whom are infamous rather than legendary. Players who couldn’t even qualify as average. Thankfully, the Knicks may have just signed their next great point guard.
With the addition of Jalen Brunson, New York has finally put an end to what I call “the stopgap era.” For the last two plus decades, the Knicks have struggled to find success on the court as well as in the front office (the draft and free agency).
It seems they have killed two birds with one stone, as Brunson is expected to be by far the best and most promising point guard the team has had since the early 2000s.
It is no surprise that the lack of a franchise PG has run parallel to several years of failure.
Here is a list of every PG that I have witnessed in 10 years as a Knicks fan: Lin, Felton, Kidd, Prigioni, Chris Smith, Toure’ Murry, Beno Udrih, Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway, Shane Larkin, Jimmer Fredette, Jerian Grant, Brandon Jennings, Derrick Rose, Chasson Randle, Ron Baker, Trey Burke, Jarrett Jack, Ramon Sessions, Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay, Kadeem Allen, Dennis Smith Jr., Elfrid Payton, Rose again, Jared Harper, Immanuel Quickley, Kemba Walker, Ryan Arcidiacono, and Miles McBride. Even Alec Burks saw a lot of time at PG, but I’d rather not talk about that.
That’s a total of 30 point guards. In just 10 years, the Knicks roster has seen 30 different point guards get playing time. Not all of them were expected to be very impactful, and not all of them got the chance they deserved, but most of them got far too many opportunities that were not earned. Someone had to play the position and, despite a few exceptions, Knicks point guards have been dreadful.
That list doesn’t even account for the countless other PGs employed by New York in the years before 2012. Basically, every Knick PG from 2000-2011 not named Stephon Marbury, Nate Robinson, and Charlie Ward was unable to both A) show promise to be a cornerstone and B) stick around longer than two seasons.
Therefore, the overwhelming majority of PGs that have played in New York were merely stopgaps. They were players that were here to fill a role, even if they did a horrible or mediocre job in the process.
Even the best of the players I listed, who are undoubtedly Lin, Rose, Felton, and Kidd, turned out to be stopgaps, placeholders. Lin wasn’t re-signed after one year, which led to the return of Felton. Felton provided some quality seasons before falling off, and ditto for Prigioni. Kidd played out what was always going to be his final season in NY.
Rose came to The Garden via trade as a reclamation project who failed to reach his previous and historic heights. He left after one season, and then found his way back here via trade again two seasons ago. As a player entrenched in the role of sixth man and at the age of 33, he is the latest example of a PG who the Knicks are turning to serve in a temporary capacity.
Hopefully, Rose will be the last, and I believe that will be the case. I believe Jalen Brunson is a fantastic acquisition who will shine in a greater role here in New York over the next four years, and for many years thereafter. It looks like the stopgap point guard era is finally over.