Nets’ gap year proves New York will always be a Knicks town despite dysfunction

New York Knicks owner Dolan looks on during a news conference announcing Phil Jackson as the team president of the New York Knicks basketball team at Madison Square Garden in New York
New York Knicks owner James Dolan. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

Over the past eight months, we’ve been beaten with the notion that New York is officially a Brooklyn Nets town, taking the title away from the dysfunctional Knicks. 

I’ll be honest, I had one foot on that bandwagon. 

The Nets had a summer for the ages, acquiring a pair of transcendental superstars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who were quickly set to transform the Barclays Center dwellers from a nice little team to an Eastern Conference juggernaut. 

Sure, it meant parting ways with D’Angelo Russell — who willed the Nets to an unlikely playoff appearance last season behind a career year — but getting proven game-changers like Durant and Irving was too good a deal to pass up, obviously. 

What added a bit more drama to the Big Apple’s basketball landscape was that the Nets swiped KD and Kyrie from the Knicks, who were once deemed front-runners for the both of them. 

Add the fact that the Knicks lost out on Zion Williamson despite having the worst record in the NBA (thanks to some ping-pong balls), and it was another disastrous offseason for the league’s laughing stock, who scrambled by signing the likes of Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, and Taj Gibson. 

It prompted Durant, who is spending the first year of his four-year, $164 million contract rehabbing from a ruptured Achilles, to take shots at the Knicks, saying they are not “the cool thing right now.”

As expected, the Knicks haven’t been much better than the 17-win debacle that was on the floor last season — and they certainly haven’t helped themselves throughout the process. 

Head coach David Fizdale and president Steve Mills were fired — the former after a short stay and the latter following a horrifically long stint.

Fed-up fans who have seen seven-straight losing seasons have been chanting “Sell The Team” at disgraced owner James Dolan, who has (or attempted to) kick out fans for such behavior.

Then, of course, there was the resolution of the Charles Oakley fiasco two years ago only to have superfan Spike Lee claim that he was being “harassed” by Dolan this week just days after the court decision. 

Had the Knicks found a way to coax Durant and Irving to head to Madison Square Garden, some of those events might have changed.

But humor me for a moment: 

Could you imagine the flack the Knicks would be getting from the basketball world if this year’s events involving both stars transpired under their watch? 

Durant isn’t going to be playing at all this year while Irving had season-ending surgery on his shoulder earlier this week. He appeared in just 20 games. 

So for a combined sum of approximately $69 million, the Nets got just TWENTY games out of the two men expected to lead them to their first-ever NBA championship. Granted, we knew Durant’s chances of playing this season were slim. 

Regardless, the Knicks would be getting hammered from every direction as yet another example of bad luck coupled with cluelessness from the very top of the organization. 

Part of that is because Dolan is one of the worst owners in pro sports and bashing the Knicks is the “in thing” to do right now. Frankly, they deserve it. 

But they also get such a ribbing because they are one of the historic franchises in the NBA and still one of the most high-profile clubs in the league. After all, Forbes valued them once again as the most expensive franchise in basketball. 

It just says how inept Dolan and Co. have been over the past 20 years. 

Yet we’re hearing crickets with the Nets getting next to nothing this year from their two star signings over the summer and very little after reports emerged that Durant might play in the 2020 Olympics rather than make sure he’s good to go for next season with Brooklyn.

Part of it is because no one really cares about the Nets until Durant and Irving suit up and start winning games. That’s the definition of bandwagoning if I’ve ever seen it — from both viewers and the media. 

Say what you want about the Knicks, but they have some of the most loyal (or delusional) followers in the league. And the media is always ready to take the pulse of the next asinine thing that comes from management. 

That’s the kind of attention you get when you are the basketball institution in New York — regardless of how inept you are. 

No amount of marketing or smack talk from across town will ever change that.

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