New York was once considered the basketball Mecca, and Madison Square Garden was the place to be to see the NBA’s best players showcase their talents. Through the years, there have been many great Knicks teams and players that have passed through its doors. Willis Reed’s Championship team in 1970 that won over the perennial powerhouse LA Lakers and the great Patrick Ewing teams of the mid 90’s immediately spring to mind when thinking about the legacy set forth by the great organization. This leads us to ask the question, “What happened to the Knicks?”
This season has been a historically bad one for them, but in order to get a full understanding of where things went south, we have to take a step back and look at the rebuilding efforts which started in 2010. The Knicks signed Amar’e Stoudemire to a five-year deal worth $100 million, reuniting him with his former coach, Mike D’Antoni. The move seemed like it was working out in the Knicks’ favor when Stoudemire was chosen to start in the All-Star game, making him the first Knick since Ewing to do so. Later that same season, the Knicks traded for All-Star Carmelo Anthony, which set them up for their first postseason appearance since 2004. All was right in the world because the Knicks were back in contention–that is until Stoudemire injured his back and the Knicks got swept in the first round by the Celtics.
Although they hadn’t gotten to where they wanted to be, it was abundantly clear that the Knicks were ready to make a few runs towards the finals. However, the Knicks struggled early in the season due to their lack of a point guard to distribute to Stoudemire or newly-acquired Tyson Chandler. Stoudemire missed most of the second half due to a back injury and was forced to sit and watch as the Knicks limped into the playoffs as the seventh seed. They were forced to face the powerhouse Miami Heat and were bounced in the first round.
The 2012-2013 season rolled around, and it felt as though the Knicks were running out of time to win a championship. They signed J.R. Smith and Jason Kidd as free agents in a last-ditch effort to make it to the finals. Early in the season, Stoudemire yet again went down with an injury and ended up missing the rest of the season because of it, but the Carmelo-led Knickerbockers were not going to die so easily. They rode a 54-28 record into the playoffs and managed to make it to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, where they would lose in six games to the young, up-and-coming Indiana Pacers. This was the loss that truly closed the window for the Knicks, because in 2013-2014 they missed the playoffs all together.
This season, we have seen the Knicks begin to clean house, moving Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler. It seems as though the Knicks are going to have to rebuild their team. Yet again, the team had plenty of tools to make a run at a championship but could never get over the hump and win it all. It may be a long time before New York wins another NBA Championship. For now, The Garden will stand only as a reminder of what used to be.