New York Sports Franchises: New York Knicks
April 27, 2011 Leave a comment
NBA Championships: 1970, 1973
Retired Numbers: #10 Walt Frazier, #12 Dick Barnett, #15 Dick McGuire, #15 Earl Monroe, #19 Willis Reed, #22 Dave DeBusschere, #24 Bill Bradley, #33 Patrick Ewing, #613 Red Holzman
The Knicks are one of only two teams of the original NBA still located in its original city, with the other being the Boston Celtics. Consistent playoff contenders in their early years, the Knicks made the NBA Finals in three straight years in the franchise’s first decade of existence. For the remainder of the 50’s, the Knicks would field relatively decent teams, making the playoffs in 1955, 1956, and 1959. New York was also the first team to sign an African-American player to a contract, with Nat Clifton signing with the Knicks in 1950.
In the 1960’s, the franchise fell on hard times, finishing last in the division ever year from 1960-1966. At the tail end of this fall into oblivion, things looked to be turning around, as draft picks of future superstars Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, and Dave Stallworth looked to bring excitement back to New York basketball. In 1968, the Knicks made it to the playoffs, and hired Red Holzman as their new head coach at the close of the season. With Red at the helm, and the roster evened out with young talent such as Bradley and Walt “Clyde” Frazier, the Knicks’ assertion of playoff contention saw the team with significant playoff runs in 1968 and 1969.
Success continued into the 1969-70 season, as the Knicks had a then single-season NBA record 18 straight victories en route to a 60-22 record. After defeating the Bullets and Bucks in the first two rounds of the playoffs, New York met the Lakers in the NBA Finals. In a highly memorable 7 game series, the Knicks clinched their first NBA title with a 113-99 win over Los Angeles. The starting lineup of this championship team all had their numbers retired by the franchise.
The Knicks’ success continued for the next few years. After losing to the Bullets in the 1971 Eastern Conference finals, the team, aided by key acquisitions of Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and Jerry Lucas, returned to the Finals in 1972. However, this time the Knicks fell to the Lakers in five games. The next year, the two teams met again in the Finals, with New York coming out on top in a five game series that gave the Knicks their second NBA title in four years. The franchise saw one more productive season in 1973-74, as they reached the conference finals again, but this time fell to the Celtics in five games. It was after this season that Willis Reed announced his retirement, prompting the state of the franchise to take a turn for the worst.
Dismal performances were common from 1975 until 1985, with a few scattered playoff appearances ending in disappointment. After a beyond miserable 24-58 1985 season, the Knicks were entered into the first-ever NBA Draft Lottery, winning the first pick, and taking star center Patrick Ewing out of Georgetown. In Ewing’s first season in the league, he led all rookies in scoring and rebounds, winning the Rookie of the Year Award, and sparking hope for a Knicks’ turnaround. His team, however, would not fare as well, posting 23-59 and 24-58 records in Ewing’s first two seasons with the club.
The Ewing era brought a whole lot of change to the franchise, including frequent head coaching upheavals, as well as a return to prominence, from 1985 to 2000. The franchise made the playoffs a number of times, and won the division in 1989, 1993, and 1994, making it to the conference championship in five of those seasons. The 1999-2000 season would prove to be the last one in New York for Ewing, as he was traded in September 2000 to the Seattle SuperSonics. The Ewing era, which produced many successful playoff appearances but no NBA titles, came to an end. Head coach Van Gundy, meanwhile, would ultimately log 248 career wins to become the third-winningest coach in franchise history.
Following the end of both the Knicks’ string of 14 consecutive Playoff appearances and their decade-long streak of 433 home sellouts, Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas was appointed president, basketball operations on Dec. 22, 2003. Over the next five seasons, Hall of Famers Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown and ultimately Thomas would coach the Knicks, with Wilkens leading New York to its most recent Playoff berth in 2004. Thomas engineered the acquisitions of Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry, Jamal Crawford, David Lee, Quentin Richardson, Wilson Chandler, Zach Randolph and Nate Robinson.
A new Knicks era dawned in the spring of 2008, with the naming of New York native Donnie Walsh as president, basketball operations on Apr. 2, and the hiring of Mike D’Antoni as head coach on May 13. Walsh returned to his hometown after two decades in Indiana over which he molded the Pacers into one of the NBA’s elite franchises. D’Antoni arrived after leading the Phoenix Suns to four 50-plus win seasons and three Pacific Division titles. In 2008-09, his first year at the helm, D’Antoni engineered a nine-game improvement in the win column for New York, instilling a trademark high-octane attack that enabled the Knicks to finish as the League’s fourth-best offensive team. Off the court, Walsh presided over an extensive roster makeover that not only brought the likes of Al Harrington and Larry Hughes to the Knicks, but would also enable the team to have salary cap flexibility (in 2010) for the first time in more than a decade.
On May 20, 2008, the Knicks received the sixth pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, using it to select Danilo Gallinari. The Knicks also signed veteran guard Chris Duhon using a portion of their salary cap exemption. On November 21, 2008, the Knicks dealt one of their top scorers, Jamal Crawford, to the Golden State Warriors for Al Harrington. Hours later, New York traded Zach Randolph, along with Mardy Collins to the Los Angeles Clippers for Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas, with the intention of freeing cap space for the 2010 offseason, when top-flight players such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Amar’e Stoudemire would be available.
In the 2009 NBA Draft, the Knicks chose forward Jordan Hill after targets such as Stephen Curry, Jonny Flynn, and Ricky Rubio were off the board; and guard Toney Douglas with the eight and 29th picks, the latter of which was acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers. Shortly afterwards, New York executed a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies in which the Knicks acquired Darko Miličić in exchange for Quentin Richardson.
However, in February 2010, the Knicks traded Miličić to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Brian Cardinal and cash considerations. The next day, the Knicks and Boston Celtics swapped guard Nate Robinson for shooting guard Eddie House. The deal also included forward Marcus Landry going to the Celtics and the Knicks acquiring bench players J. R. Giddens and Bill Walker. The Knicks also acquired All-Star forward Tracy McGrady from the Houston Rockets and point guard Sergio Rodriguez from the Sacramento Kings in a three-way trade. The deal sent the Knicks shooting guard Larry Hughes to Sacramento and forward Jordan Hill and power forward Jared Jeffries to Houston. About 3 weeks after these team-changing trades, the Knicks played the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center and blew them out by a score of 128–94 for the largest win of the season. However, the Knicks were eliminated from playoff contention in late March 2010.
The Knicks and former Phoenix Suns forward/center Amar’e Stoudemire came to an agreement on July 5, 2010. The sign and trade was made official on July 8 as Stoudemire agreed to an approximately $100 million contract over the span of five years. President Donnie Walsh recognized the signing of Stoudemire as a turning point for the future of a Knicks team that had struggled in recent years.
The Knicks continued to redesign their roster trading David Lee to the Golden State Warriors for Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf. The Knicks also struck deals with former Bobcats point guard Raymond Felton and Russian center Timofey Mozgov. New York regained their title as the most valuable franchise in the NBA following these acquisitions, though this was mainly due to the arrival of Stoudemire, whose star power allowed the team to resurge; the Knicks sold out their full-season ticket inventory for the first time since 2002.
D’Antoni, along with Stoudemire and the core of young players, including Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Mozgov, Wilson Chandler and rookie Landry Fields, piloted the Knicks to a 28–26 record prior to the All-Star break marking the first time the team had been above the .500 mark at that point of the season since 2000. Next, the Knicks made a push for Denver Nuggets standout Carmelo Anthony.
And then it happened. After months of speculation, Anthony was traded to New York, along with teammates Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter, and former Knick Renaldo Balkman. Denver acquired Felton, Gallinari, Chandler, Mozgov, Kosta Koufos, a 2014 first-round draft pick, the Warriors’ second round draft picks for 2013 and 2014 and $3 million in cash. In addition, the Knicks sent Anthony Randolph and Eddy Curry to the Minnesota Timberwolves and in return the Timberwolves’ Corey Brewer was sent to the Knicks.
After this mid-season roster upheaval, the franchise clinched its first playoff berth since the 2004 NBA Playoffs with a win over the Cavaliers on April 3rd. Carmelo Anthony ensured the franchise’s first winning season since 2000 on April 10, 2011, against the Indiana Pacers, as Anthony scored the game winning basket for the Knicks and subsequently blocked Danny Granger’s shot in the final seconds of the game. As the Knicks are freshly off being swept by the Celtics in the first round of playoffs, a series which featured tumultuous late-game choking in Games 1 and 2, as well as injury-plagued embarrassing double digit losses in the final two games, there is a lot of work to be done for the boys in blue and orange. Stay tuned this week for the current pulse of New York’s most recent sporting disappointment!