Harris DeckerIn a season with so much wrong, the Knicks could do nothing but watch as the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Miami Heat 98-85 on Saturday. There was no shot on the line or free throws needed for the Knicks. Instead, Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the team watched as the Hawks clinched the eight seed, eliminating the Knicks from the playoffs.
It comes as no surprise. The Knicks had a dismal season both on and off the court. From the trade that sent valuable picks to Toronto for Andrea Bargnani, the Glen Grunwald firing, to blown games against the Nuggets, Rockets and Wizards. The sour taste in my mouth still lingers from the blowout Sunday losses to the Spurs and Celtics. Did this team deserve to make the playoffs? Absolutely not. There will be no more waiting. The magic number is zero.
Looking back on this season, it still boggles my mind how far this team fell. After winning 54 games and a playoff series last year, the team came into the 2013-14 season with high hopes, especially after the crosstown Brooklyn Nets brought in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, lighting a fire for both fans and players. It just never came together and now Mike Woodson has earned the firing he’s likely to receive.
We’ll never be able to answer the questions. How important was Jason Kidd to this team last year? How much of their great play was because of his leadership? How much credit did Woodson actually deserve last year? All I can say is that this roster doesn’t look all that different and one year later the Knicks will be watching the playoffs on television.
Another theme of this season were the what-ifs. What if Amar’e Stoudemire had cracked the starting lineup earlier in the season? What if Andrea Bargnani had remained healthy? What if Phil Jackson was hired two months earlier, when it appears talks surfaced? What if Steve Mills had fired Woodson after the 9-21 start? The questions will drive you crazy. The answers are much clearer.
Phil Jackson’s arrival was a stroke of brilliance. With no room to maneuver under the cap, the Knicks spent money in the one place that the NBA doesn’t rule: the front office. Not only did James Dolan spend money, he spent it wisely. Jackson is a proven winner and understands basketball on a level that is hard to even comprehend. The future looks good for the Knicks. While I want to say that it looks bright, I can’t make that claim just yet. The reason for that is wearing No. 7.
As soon as the season ends, Jackson will likely fire Woodson, name a new head coach and then shift 100 percent of his attention to Carmelo Anthony. With an op-out looming, Jackson will have a major decision on his hands. Rebuild around Anthony and pay him a kings ransom or let him go (hopefully in a sign-and-trade) and move on without the former scoring champion. It’s not an easy choice and I’m glad I don’t have to make the call.
It will be an exciting offseason and I wanted to personally thank each and every reader for remaining loyal through the good and the bad. There are brighter skies ahead and I can’t wait to watch the Knicks raise another championship banner to the rafters of Madison Square Garden.