Leading up to the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday night, I had been thinking a lot about the events that unfolded (or rather the ones that didn’t) at this past February’s trade deadline for the New York Knicks. The team was 25-31 on the night of February 10th, the same night in which they defeated the Golden State Warriors, 116-114, mere hours following the deadline.
The three leading scorers from that win were Julius Randle (28 points to go with 16 rebounds and 7 assists), Evan Fournier (22 points), and Alec Burks (15 points, 11 in the fourth quarter). This was extremely ironic at the time and remains so because those are arguably the three players that Knicks fans wanted to be traded that day and they’re who New York could trade in the coming weeks.
The trade deadline came and went leaving people shocked and mostly infuriated. The inability of Leon Rose and the rest of the Knicks’ front office to move on from those players and others felt like the low point of the season. But, of course, New York still had much further down to go.
Twenty-six games and 12 wins later, the Knicks found themselves on the outside looking in from the play-in tournament and a potential return to the playoffs, finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference. I still see the cries daily for the team to “play the kids” during the 2022-23 season in the hopes of seeing our players of tomorrow grow before our very eyes into a winning squad.
And this was the argument for making the moves at the deadline I’ve alluded to. Fans were fed up with the lack of success and effort from fading star Randle, and they were over Tom Thibodeau prioritizing playing the veterans major minutes over Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, and the other youngsters.
Randle, Burks, Fournier, Kemba Walker, and Nerlens Noel all struggled mightily for much of the season when they were available and permitted to play. It was evident night in and night out that the way in which New York executed wasn’t translating to wins. And if you can’t win with one group, then why not switch it up and see what happens?
But, Thibodeau, as stubborn as ever, refused to give in and didn’t allow the kids to get valuable and abundant playing time until the final (and I mean final) games of the season. And to the pleasure of Knicks fans, we got some of the great performances we had foreseen and had been yearning for.
Should fans still have trust in the New York Knicks’ front office?
The people in positions of power in this franchise attempted to still win games when all arrows pointed towards that being a waste of time. Thibodeau and Rose might point to the fact that the team was without Derrick Rose and Noel much of the year and say “we missed the tournament by just a few games, we could’ve been in the playoffs.”
Those words would fall on deaf ears. What happened, happened, and they were proven wrong in trying to save their season despite making little to no changes throughout the year.
At the time, I came to the conclusion that the front office wasn’t completely to blame for no trades getting done. As discussed, the players they tried to deal were having poor years. Teams simply weren’t interested in what the Knicks were trying to sell them, even if players like Burks and Noel are on reasonably priced contracts.
And so, based on the fact that they put together a team that had at one point proven good enough to make noise in the East as a playoff team, and because they had drafted so well, I still had faith in this front office. And even after the rollercoaster that was Thursday night, I still believe in this front office’s plan and vision.
I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I see fans online who I think I would trust running the team. And I’m definitely not the only fan who has a small part of them that thinks they’d do a fantastic job as the GM, head coach, president of operations, etc. But, we all know it’s not as black and white as Twitter may have you believe.
This isn’t me being a Leon Rose apologist or too much of a diehard to be willing to doubt what the team’s plans are. What I am trying to do is be one of the calmer heads that can bring this fanbase to a place of rational thought rather than reactionary and emotional slandering.
This front office has done nothing but add promising young talent, they’ve given out contracts that aren’t potential albatrosses and have piled up draft capital. They’ve done far more good in just a few years than the many men who have come before them.
I don’t at all blame people for getting antsy and saying ‘It’s year three, where is the big move that propels us further towards competitiveness and contention?’ However, patience is a virtue, especially when there are 29 other teams that you are constantly battling against in every aspect of building your basketball team.
And that’s the key: As a front office, you just have to do your best to be better than a ton of other personnel doing the same job as you. It sounds cheesy, but it is exactly why the trade that went down happened. The Sacramento Kings and Detroit Pistons, even if because of their own failures and incompetency, found themselves to be picking fourth and fifth in the draft, respectively.
There are a thousand things the Knicks could have done this past season and in previous years that would have allowed them to be where they wanted to be; which in this case was to be in a position to snag Jaden Ivey. And for all of their efforts, they simply couldn’t convince either of those teams that what they were willing to trade was worth moving back in the lottery.
Those teams have their own plans and visions, so they made the decision they felt was best for them. Just like at the trade deadline, it came down to the people on the other side of the phone call being unconvinced.
What immediately followed Detroit’s selection of Ivey was extremely unfortunate for us fans. We knew they were still trying to get Ivey, and every reported detail of what turned out to be the trade we were left with made it look like they were getting closer and closer to capturing their target.
When I read the tweet from Shams Charania that said the Charlotte Hornets were trading Jalen Duren to New York, I dropped my phone on the table of the sports bar I was at and looked up at my friends, exclaiming in shock two words I can’t repeat here. I was convinced in that moment.
I saw the rumor that the Pistons were interested in entertaining the Knicks if they could get Duren. I, and many others, began swarming to our timelines to unite in suspense about what was happening and what was to come. “How can they be making these moves and involving the Pistons if not to get Ivey?”, I said.
But, we all know what happened next. Shedding Kemba Walker by giving up four second-round picks and a first-round pick isn’t a great look. Trading a lottery pick so that you can free up cap space doesn’t sound great either. And yet, the Knicks still managed to add value.
This front office didn’t cross their arms and pout when they were told no by the Kings and Pistons. They didn’t sit on their hands and do nothing, nor did they keep the 11th pick and select a player who they didn’t think could contribute to the team.
It sucked living through that anxious hour, but it resulted in a profitable move. The front office went to work and did their job; they did the best they thought they could.
This is why I believe this front office can still be trusted, whether they sign Jalen Brunson, trade for a star, or both. The Knicks clearly have a path that they’ve been on since day one. That sort of structured discipline, patience, and confidence in their goals is something this organization on many occasions has craved.
It’s about time that this is going on in MSG and it’s something worth buying into as fans. This front office has earned more time to perfect their vision. Let’s do our best to join them and see it through.