The New York Knicks are in a bit of a pickle. Their starting center, Tyson Chandler, is injured once again. They don’t have the shooting to space the floor, and as a result, they’re less than competitive. A less generous soul might use some combination of nouns and the word “fire” to describe their situation, be it as a tire fire, dumpster fire, a diaper fire or, for the truly dramatic, a floating garbage barge fire gently floating down the East River composed entirely of both tires and dumpsters.
The Knicks are a mess, is what I’m getting at. It’s an awful situation for a once-proud franchise, and I know too many New York fans who are ready to don their pirate garb and commit a mutiny against the good ship Knickerbocker. But we here at Hardwood Paroxysm aren’t in the business of mocking people when they’re down (at least, not usually). In times of great duress, it’s up to the citizenry of the basketball-loving world to come up with a plan and return the Mecca of basketball to its former glory.
So in borrowing a page from a group that’s used to dealing with people at their lowest points, I’ve come up with a 12-step plan for fixing what ails the Knicks. If New York’s ownership follows my lead, they’ll soon find themselves back in basketball contention — or, at the very least, Knicks fans will have a guide to how to wean themselves from their dependency on a franchise that cares for neither logic nor, seemingly, its supporters.
1. We admitted we were powerless over what the Knicks might do—that our lives had become unmanageable.
Fixing the Knicks starts with the understanding that no matter what a New York fan might attempt, they are powerless over the organization. Owner James Dolan isn’t going anywhere any time soon, not when he can figuratively print money because of the sheer scope of the current Knicks operation. Trying to understand Dolan’s approach to running the team is only going to drag Knicks fans into a deeper and deeper hole with no ladder in sight. Admit that for all of your concern and pining for something, anything to fix this team, you are powerless to actually enact change on your own. This is Dolan’s team for bett- well, for worse or for worst.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
This might be the step that takes the greatest courage for anyone trying to fix the Knicks. As bleak as things are now, we must have faith that there’s someone out there who can turn this thing around. It’s an incredibly difficult task, what with the entrenchment of CAA within the organization and Dolan’s marching orders that this time will not rebuild but instead reload. But somewhere, there’s a general manager who has the wherewithal and the cunning to both speak truth to power and do so in a way that’s palatable to ownership.
Searching for that someone promises to be an unenviable task, and it’s one that could take years as New York continues to wander through the wilderness. But with time, even the darkest nights will show a glimmer of a sunrise. The Knicks were a formidable organization once; even under Dolan’s stewardship, they can be again, as long as that greater power is given the opportunity to operate.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of the greater power as we understood him.
If Step 2 takes the greatest amount of courage, then Step 3 takes the most amount of faith. This is more or less a direct appeal to those currently in charge of the Knicks. You’ve been very successful in your lives, rising to the top of your chosen fields. Such success comes with its downsides, however, foremost among them an unending belief in one’s own capabilities. But for over a decade now, things just haven’t gone your way. At a certain point, you have to understand that for all of your victories in other arenas, you simply have no idea what you’re doing when it comes to operation a basketball team.
With that said, it’s paramount that the current owners find their greater power and vest in him or her the full might of New York’s empire building. The greatest asset the ownership has its overflowing abundance, financial resources that give the Knicks a leg up on every other organization in the league (save possibly the Lakers and Nets) if the team is operated properly. Though that’s easier said than done, it’s a possibility if those in charge follow Step 4:
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
I don’t know how well James Dolan knows himself, but we know him. As far as we can tell, he wants three things, not necessarily in order:
- To be the most famous person in New York.
- To make more money than has previously been printed in all of history combined.
- To bring an NBA championship back to New York.
That’s it. That’s his litany of goals. Yet for some reason, he keeps getting in his own way. In order to remove himself from the equation and allow the Knicks to attain their former glory, he’s going to need to sit down and figure out what it is in his moral makeup which prevents him from taking a back seat. If it’s the thought that someone else might get all the accolades, he has to trust that if the Knicks win a championship, he’s going to get his due — especially when it comes as a result of doing a complete 180 as an owner.
But until he figures out just what makes him tick, the Knicks are never going to get there. Without Step 4, this plan is a non-starter.
5. Admitted to our higher power, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Let’s face it, Mr. Dolan — nobody’s perfect. And that’s okay! We all make mistakes. But the biggest thing you could do to win back the fanbase is to admit that you’ve royally screwed up in your tenure as Knicks owner. Simply saying a couple little words (“I’m sorry”) could begin the healing process on 15 years of pain and suffering. It would show that you understand that things need to change and that you’re willing to truly hand over the reins to someone better suited to running a basketball organization. And if you truly mean it — which, after taking your complete moral inventory, you should — then you’ll be able to suppress your urges to stick your nose into your general manager’s business when things don’t go exactly as you hoped.
Building a true title contender is a long process, but admitting the mistakes of the regime to this point would be a good first step toward that goal.
6. Were entirely ready to have our higher power remove all these defects of character.
This is where things start to get dicey. Dolan has made it abundantly clear that he has no intentions of tearing this organization down and going into a rebuild. That mentality of reloading on the fly and trying to win now, and next year, and the year after that has been an utter and complete failure, though. If the Knicks are truly committed to winning, they have to change their ways — and their organization philosophy.
Once the Knicks have selected their new general manager and given the team over to him or her, they must allow their newly enlisted higher power to gut the current roster. Whether or not tanking works isn’t really the point; New York needs a massive overhaul, starting from the top. If things continue to go as poorly this year as they have so far, then there’s a very good chance that Carmelo Anthony will leave at the end of the year. And you should let him. At this point in his career, Anthony’s probably looking to play for a contender, and if the Knicks follow these steps, they’ll be anything but in the coming seasons. Any valuable pieces should be shopped for potential draft picks in return. I know! It’s crazy! But again, you need to start doing things you haven’t been doing to this point, including stockpiling draft picks instead of giving them away for middling veterans. As soon as the Knicks embrace their higher power and the idea that things need to change, they can jettison the notion that they’re reloading every year, which will likely put an end to the continual departure of their future first round picks.
7. Humbly asked our higher power to remove our shortcomings.
This one’s pretty straightforward. If Dolan can see fit to humble himself before his new general manager and actually allow the GM to do his or her job, then there’s hope for the future. If not, he’s going to keep meddling, and the Knicks are going to keep losing. It’s not rocket science — though if the Knicks can figure out a way to hire Daryl Morey, that’d be pretty awesome.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
The Knicks have burned quite a few bridges over the years, but no team is an island unto itself in the NBA. Every organization needs trading partners, and not every player in the league is represented by CAA. At some point, the new general manager is going to come into contact with people who don’t really like the way that the Knicks have treated them in the past. In order to get past that obstacle, Dolan and company will need to be willing to right the wrongs they’ve committed in the past. If that means apologizing to a former general manager who’s caught in with another organization, then do it. If that means appeasing an agent whose clients have been shunned in the past because of their representation, New York’s leadership needs to swallow its pride and put their appeasing pants on.
I understand that it seems like bad business to crawl into bed with the enemy, but the goal shouldn’t be to control the world through a CAA-controlled monopoly. The goal is to put the best possible product on the floor in order to compete for championships and make boatloads of money, and a team can’t do that without being willing to play politics with all involved parties. At the very best, the NBA is an oligarchy, and no one master can rule over all its domains.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Don’t be Mean Girls. It’s not worth trying to rebuild a relationship by burning a third party. Do what is necessary to make others willing to work with you, but don’t do it at the expense of other potential interactions. One never knows who will hold the cards in the future.
10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
This goes back to the fact that no one’s perfect. Even if the Knicks get back on track, they’re still going to make mistakes. All organizations do; it’s simply the nature of the beast. But successful teams realize their mistakes, admit that they were wrong and vow to not do it again. And that would be a welcome change for New York after one-and-a-half decades of beating their heads against the same wall over and over again while wondering when the headache will go away.
11. Sought through process and reflection to improve our team through a well-conceived plan and the strength to stick to the principles of the rebuild even as the losses pile up.
If the Knicks want things to get better, they have to be ready for them to get a lot worse. That means missing the playoffs and developing young players in-house instead of hungrily chasing the next big thing or a stopgap solution at the expense of assets. And that starts with allowing the general manager to plot the best course of action for a team with the resources that New York has at its disposal. It doesn’t mean rolling out a putrid on-court product; as several of the tanking teams have shown this year, it’s possible to build with an eye toward the future while still putting together an entertaining team. But that takes discipline and a keen eye for talent, as well as a coach who can install the right systems and press the right buttons with the players.
Knicks fans are smart. They’ll understand if the team takes a step back in order to take five steps forward, and they’ll keep coming to games because they love basketball. If they’ve managed to stick with the organization through the down times that offered little hope for the future, then they’ll certainly shell out the cash to watch a young, high-flying team that they can learn to love as the players grow and find their place in the league while wearing blue and orange. And they’ll appreciate the intellectual honesty, too.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other fanbases, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
This is the part that the Knicks least have to worry about. If they follow the other 11 steps and give themselves a chance to succeed, I guarantee that New York fans will gladly trumpet their triumphs to whoever is in earshot.
So there it is — a foolproof, step-by-step guide to fixing the New York Knicks. None of the steps can happen without the others, and each must be taken in its proper course. It’s easy, really: Just have James Dolan accept the failings of his approach; give a real general manager (one who knows what they’re actually doing) the keys to the operation; allow him or her to make decisions without the meddling of ownership; and admit his previous shortcomings as an owner. Then commit to a full rebuild while rebuilding relationships around the league; take stock of the decision-making process and recognize when problems arise and how to prevent repeating them; don’t overreact to the tough times that will follow; and when it all comes together and the time is right, celebrate.
Easy-peasy, right Knicks fans?
…could you pass that bottle, please? I think I need a drink.