I was 40,000 feet in the air when the news hit.
Well the news hit me from all over. I was on my way back from a family trip and settling in for what would be the longest 14 hour flight of my life (and that’s without the KP news). That’s life traveling with a toddler on an international flight.
I logged into the complementary 20MB of Wifi* to notify my parents that we had successfully made our connecting flight and we were on our way home** when the texts started flying in. Completely out of sync and order.
*= You think i’m made out of money?!?!?!
**= You’re never too old to be the irresponsible kid.
The first message I got was “holy shit they did it. F%^&’ing Knicks”. As a Knicks fan that can mean any one of 100 different scenarios. I knew I had to go right to the source hardwired into all of the comings and goings of the NBA- Adrian Wojnarowski’s twitter feed and I was met (read smacked) with this:
and as i scrolled up….this:
In the span of an hour the Knicks franchise had changed.
How did we get here? How did this happen? I tried to make sense of it with friends who themselves couldn’t figure it out. With a 14 hour flight in which i got maybe an hour of sleep, a few days, and some cryptic Kristaps snaps I’ve made sense of a few things which you may be asking as well:
- Who won the deal? The short answer? We don’t know. Dallas traded expiring contracts, an unprotected pick, a disgruntled young player who realized he would never be “the guy” when “THE GUY” was on the roster, and a lottery protected pick without any assurances that Kristaps would sign.
The Knicks traded their franchise superstar coming off an ACL injury and cleared out a bunch of cap space on the off chance that two of the most wishy-washy superstars of this generation would possibly sign with them.
Ultimately we won’t know who won until July 1 and even then this could be a wash. The Knicks could sign Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to max deals and the Mavs could get KP to sign a 5 year $158M extension and both teams will have gotten from this deal what they wanted.
To me the only way one side or the other would win this deal is if they sign Kyrie and KD and the Knicks flip the Mavs picks, Kevin Knox, and this year’s unprotected 1st to the Pelicans this summer for Anthony Davis then the Knicks won this deal. If the Knicks don’t sign either of those guys and KP goes on to sign an extension with the Mavs and he and Doncic turn into Nash and Dirk 2.0 for the next decade then the Mavs won this deal so there’s tremendous risk on both sides.
2. Did the Knicks sell low on Kristaps? It depends on what side you believe. According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, Steve Mills and the Knicks organization felt like Kristaps was becoming “detached” and felt the need to shop him quietly in January to assess what the return would be. You can understand why the Knicks would feel that way: it was just a year ago that KP blew off an exit meeting with Phil Jackson the former Knick legend and GM*, and then came the contradictory IG post KP put up of him running when the Knicks had just earlier in the day said he hadn’t. You could excuse the Knicks organization for assuming something was up.
*= Oh i’m well aware of how that sentence looks.
But this is after all the Knicks. And every Knicks fan knows that they are never the innocent ones. This is the same organization that removed access to a Daily News reporter because of a few articles that put the organization and its owner in a bad light* and refused to give media access to an entire radio station because of an over the top radio editorial by Maggie Gray of WFAN.
*= some would call this telling the truth.
The Knicks, if you’ve been living under a rock for the last two decades have lacked direction and any direction they HAVE had has been like Michael Scott following a GPS right into a lake. I won’t recall them all in this article because for one there’s way too many and second, I would need to be placed on concussion protocol from banging my head against the desk.
So its awfully discomforting to watch “sources say” that Kristaps showed up to the now famous five minute meeting and it went from, per Woj’s twitter account, the Knicks coming away with the feeling that he wanted to be traded to Kristaps requesting a trade during this meeting. Then came the hit pieces about Kristaps brother Janis being upset that he didn’t have a bigger role in the organization.
I would say this is normal but this is the same organization that was sued by one of its former beloved players after being physically escorted out of the arena while a game was going on so the idea of normal has to be shifted.
I’m going to split the difference down the middle. The Knicks have been very upfront about their goals heading into this season. They were going to lose. A lot. This was reported, discussed and dissected from every angle. So KP being upset over the direction of the franchise may not have had much to do with how much they were losing but rather where he fit into their future.
Here’s what I think: He’s coming off an ACL injury and the Knicks were linked to Kevin Durant and they were shopping their other contracts (Hardaway and Lee) to create a second max slot for a second superstar. With Anthony Davis including the Knicks on a list of teams he would sign a long term extension with* I’m sure KP’s camp thought he would be used as a main piece in a trade with the Pelicans and they wanted to take back some control.
He’s a 7 foot 3 guy thats coming off a leg injury. Medicine has come a long way since the 90’s where that type of injury may have been a career altering injury but the list of really tall guys with a history of leg injuries that came back to have great careers is basically nil.
So no, I don’t think the Knicks sold low on Kristaps if this meeting really was the breaking point where a trade may or may not have been requested. It also shows that the Knicks had prepared for this moment, per Marc Stein’s report, by canvassing the league in January prior to pulling the trigger quickly. What they got was what they wanted, salary relief, draft assets and a young player to develop through their player development system.*
*= stop laughing.
3. Did KP want to be a Knick? That’s a question for KP but most of the evidence suggests no. I’m sure his camp wasn’t sold on KP’s place within the framework of what the Knicks are potentially building to: the new super team. Were the Knicks prepared to max him out with a 5/$158M? Perhaps but now we’ll never know and the Knicks were well within their right to question his loyalty if they even got a whiff that he wasn’t sold on their future together.
4. Does this deal affect other teams? Well yeah. If you’re the Warriors the thought of losing Durant didn’t just surface the morning of the Kristaps deal. They’ve been dealing with that reality for some time. But the Celtics had to be surprised waking up to Kyrie’s “ask me July 1” as rumors swirled that the Knicks would use the second max slot to team Kyrie with Durant. Both are contenders for championships this year and beyond but both teams require keeping Durant and Kyrie respectively to maintain their dominance so there is a bit of scrambling here that affects them.
Let’s take this a step further. Say this summer, the Knicks somehow realign the stars and rid themselves of their toxic karma to bring the two in-their-prime superstars to New York to make them a contender, it would hurt the Celtics and hurt the Warriors (but only slightly). Those are two organizations that aren’t just going to let these star players walk and have their collective shit together.
If you’re the Celtics and you want to keep Kyrie now is the time to make an all-in play for Anthony Davis who was rumored to be interested in teaming up together. But Anthony Davis’ dad*, citing the Isiah Thomas trade, has made it clear his son isn’t interested in signing a long term deal in Boston.
*= So far this year, Kawhi’s uncle, Anthony Davis’ dad and Kristaps brother has altered the NBA. Amazing.
Of course that hasn’t stopped the Celtics from asking the Pelicans to wait because ::wink wink:: it’ll be worth the wait.*
*= Here’s a live picture of Danny Ainge making an offer to Dell Demps:
The Celtics scrambling to keep the Pelicans from trading AD to the Lakers for…..their entire roster*, created an opportunity for other would be contenders in the East, like the Sixers who traded for Tobias Harris.
How does this affect the East?
The Clippers owe their 2019 first round pick to the Celtics but its lottery protected. The Celtics are hoping to use that pick as one of the tasty assets that they can offer to the Pelicans in a trade. They need that trade to convince the here-today-gone-tomorrow Kyrie that there is a future in Boston with a better roster. The Clippers were able to clear one max slot with this trade and are capable of clearing even more if they trade Gallinari. More importantly they are sacrificing a playoff run this year (and the value of the pick) to be financially set to offer a max contract for….drum roll please- Kawhi Leonard who is from the Southern California area.
You remember Kawhi don’t you? He plays for the Raptors who just traded for Marc Gasol. The Raptors made that deal to try and convince Kawhi that if he sticks around an entire country can be his and they will continue making win-now moves. Another team that sees Boston in a moment of weakness? The team with the best record in the Eastern Conference and the best player in the conference: the Milwaukee Bucks who just managed to flip Thon Maker and some second round picks into Nikola Mirotic (via Stanley Johnson).
That’s before you begin to consider what trade rumors do to Boston’s locker room. If every player is available in a trade, like rumors would suggest with the Lakers, how will the young guys on Boston feel when they are asked to give their all for a playoff push? Boston has underachieved this season as it is.
The Warriors on the other hand are good either way. They are likely headed towards their third title in a row, fourth in five years and comparisons to dynasties before. Durant leaving could provide Steve Kerr’s group with the needed motivation. Remember the threesome of Klay, Curry and Draymond were one game away from winning 73 games and a title so they aren’t going anywhere but they will go from being THE favorites to a favorite.
The potential of this trade is far reaching which is why as a fan of the Knicks I went from being horrified of this trade because its the Knicks to being strangely optimistic. The KD rumor has been around for some time and his current media blackout in Golden State is basically fueling the fire for a change.
Things have never been this much in favor for the Knicks since they went to Houston up 3-2 in the 1994 NBA Finals and…well…..
Again this can all go wrong for the Knicks and their past suggests that Knick fans be prepared for the worst. We could ultimately strike out for both major free agents. They could panic and lock up Kemba Walker and Tobias Harris to two max slots and continue to be the laughing stock of the NBA because all this (Read KP) would’ve been all for naught.
Or things can magically go right. Even if the Knicks strike out on that second star to pair with KD they could roll that cap space until another star decides he’s done with his current situation because if the last 10 years have taught us anything its that a superstar will always become available and maintaining flexibility is the biggest asset you could have. It means not sacrificing first round picks except for absolute sure things. The Knicks are building a culture. That will take time, especially when you are trying to restore the roar back to the Garden.
Knicks fans like me have longed to hear it and if Kristaps didn’t want to be part of the next winning team here in NY then so be it. I won’t hold a grudge or boo KP next time he shows up. New York isn’t for everybody and I recognized, that save for a guy flipping us the bird on the way out, there isn’t a reason to boo that player for recognizing that either. Its a point of pride to say you’re from New York- you’re a survivor more or less.
So good luck Kristaps. I’m not hoping for your knee to be like paper mache. I hope you go and have success except if it directly affects the Knicks. As for the Knicks? This is a franchise that’s continuously tripped over its own feet for the last two decades so even if the worst scenario plays out I’m completely prepared for it.
Oh and by the way I never sent that text to my parents to let them know I boarded my connecting flight. I went on that 14 hour flight and my son slept for maybe one hour and when we landed my parents lit into me for forgetting them. Once again, the Knicks ruined my life. Hopefully on July 1, they will make it all better.