Gone is the Phil Jackson mystique that made him appear semi-God like. Gone is his booming voice, his daunting height, his crisp shoulders, the way he entered the room like the King eyeing his subjects after war games. Gone is the creation of an image of Phil Jackson as an emperor, one that extended to the basketball floor and the array of organizational patterns the triangle offense readily made available while Phil watched bemused. Gone is the squeezing of every drop of life out of an offense no one else could adequately run because no one else had Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. We all have a philosophy- if it works then we double down on it. It failed Phil, followed him out the door. A new GM is in the bunker and Kyrie wants to be the hero of Rome.
Eyebrows raised when the trade me here list Kyrie Irving gave Dan Gilbert was one in which the Knicks came in second after San Antonio and before Miami. Kyrie has been to three straight NBA Finals. He has won at the highest level. He celebrated himself and his team in a parade. The Knicks are as faraway from that level of celebratory joy as the earth is to the moon. So what’s up with wanting to dumb himself down?
It’s New York, that’s what. Every NBA star has relished the idea of playing in the Garden full time. The Knicks haven’t won in 40 years but there is something about the franchise in Manhattan that makes NBA All-Stars giddy as children. Perhaps for Kyrie it is going home, sort of, the New Jersey kid by way of Australia. The Knicks represent the NBA the way it used to be when the Knicks, Celtics, Bulls and Lakers dominated the league. It was about cities and stars. Plus, being in New York means you are talked about.
But can a Kyrie Knicks team win?
Not with just Irving, Porzingis and a bunch of spare parts. Any chance of getting Kyrie means Carmelo is out the door. Kyrie would get his wish and be all Russell Westbrook with it and the Knicks would entertain. Kyrie would drop 30 a night, 40 some nights, a couple of 50’s and lose in the first round while his former teammate is back in the NBA Finals.
Kyrie in New York is trusting just got here GM Scott Perry to build around him. The last time a superstar had a divorce as public and soap opera-ish as Kyrie’s it took four years for the Lakers to adequately build around Kobe Bryant.
Kyrie already has a ring so maybe it doesn’t matter to him, the waiting. The NBA is a league that eats their own. When you are not winning, you don’t really matter.
The addition of a talent like Kyrie would be a New York Knicks gift. A third of Kyrie’s shots come from the three point line. He was a 40% three point shooter last year. He is a clutch shot maker and isn’t shabby at passing the ball around, 5.5 assists in his career. Two of the last three years, his offensive rating has been 116 and 117. His defense is garbage but how does that make him different from any other Knick? The former Rookie of the Year has posted PER’s of 21.4, 21.4, 20.1, 21.5 and 23.0, five out of six seasons. The one season he didn’t cross the 20.0 threshold, 2015-16, his PER was 19.9. No one on the Knicks who played twenty minutes in 2016-17 had a PER that high, not even Carmelo.
Despite the Triangle burned in effigy, it doesn’t really matter which NBA offense you run. You must have elite NBA players in their prime, and good role players as a compliment. If the Knicks were able to make a deal for Kyrie, they would have the elite part of the equation with Kyrie and Porzingis in house. The complimentary role players are the question mark.
The Knicks are a long way from winning consistently. Average talent doesn’t win in the NBA. You need skilled offensive wings, those who can get their shot off against defenders in a variety of ways of scoring: catch and shoot, dribble pull up, dribble and drive, jab step, reverse. For the big men, more than one post move of up-and-under and/or lob usually does the trick.
In addition to a star point guard, the Knicks weaknesses in 2016-17 were palatable. They didn’t have shot makers. They didn’t get to the line. They didn’t create steals or fast break points. Their defense was boring. They weren’t a selfish team but they weren’t unselfish either.
And so that leaves them here. Wanting a player who wants them but having zero assets to dangle on the trade market. They are not giving Kristaps Porzingis away. They would need another team to get in the Carmelo trade action. Carmelo to Houston. Kyrie to the Knicks. And what would the Cavs get?
That is why Dan Gilbert can be smug and say Kyrie is going to be in Cleveland’s training camp. He is holding all the cards, temporarily. Kyrie may want New York but Dan Gilbert has to make it happen.
Dan Gilbert is a dream killer. I don’t see that happening in this lifetime.
photo via llananba