On Saturday, Metta World Peace broke the news that, after just seven months and 29 games played with the New York Knicks, his agent was seeking a buyout to release World Peace from the team. Nearly 15 years after he was passed over by New York in the 1999 NBA Draft, World Peace’s decision to leave the Knicks stands as yet another indicator of how far the franchise has fallen in its post-Ewing malaise. More importantly, the moment is further proof that the team no longer belongs to the city. Marred by scandal, bloated contracts, spoiled stars, and poor performance, they’ve become just another one of James Dolan’s blown-out sideshows, a fantasy-turned-nightmare thought up by some rich kid with too much money and not enough sense. For all intents and purposes, the Knicks are dead to New York.
There’s something viciously cyclical about World Peace’s forthcoming departure from New York, namely, in the way that it corresponds to Dolan. Around the same time that the Knicks snubbed World Peace in the draft, Dolan was beginning to take a more hands-on approach with his franchise. Up to that point, Dolan had been known as the CEO of Cablevision, a position granted to him after his father stepped down from the role in 1995. Cablevision owns numerous sports properties, including the New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Liberty, and the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack. But, reportedly, it wasn’t until 1999 that Dolan, “started really getting more involved with the Knicks...when George Steinbrenner and other people suggested he should get more involved.” The intersection of Dolan’s increased participation and the Knicks’ eventual decision to pass on World Peace foreshadowed the franchise’s eventual death. Almost 15 years later, we can still trace back the pains of today’s Knicks squad to this exact moment in time.
The intersection of Dolan’s increased participation and the Knicks’ eventual decision to pass on World Peace foreshadowed the franchise’s eventual death.
The failures of the New York Knicks from the 1999 NBA Draft to today can be recited as litany. Frederic Weis. Isiah. Marbury. Steve Francis. Larry Brown. Isiah. Jerome James. Eddy Curry. Isiah. Antonio Davis. Zach Randolph. And, of course, Isiah. This is not even to mention the Anucha Browne-Sanders scandal—a disgusting sexual harassment fiasco that revealed how internally fractured the franchise had truly become.
Despite all their headlines and attendant grief, controversial players like Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis weren’t the problem. They were a symptom of diseased management and ownership. Great front offices are unwilling to be defined by media hype and attention, and because the Knicks have never closed themselves off to this pervasive influence, they’ve been beaten by the press time and time again. Marbury and Francis weren’t honest attempts to build a cohesive, winning team. They were quick fixes who could sell tickets. They were half-hearted stabs to continue the legacy started by Bernard King, Walt Frazier, and every other player deified by New York sportswriters and fans. As one of the NBA’s foremost franchises, the Knicks have continually refused to bottom out and rebuild by shedding bloated contracts and hoarding draft picks. Blinded by pride and fear, they’ve instead been forced to rebuild on the fly, often stitching together bands of misfits that never resemble a team.
But these moves are unsurprising. If you’ve ever read anything about James Dolan, then you know that he’s famously self-conscious about how the media perceives him and, by extension, his team. Dolan’s personality isn’t suited to lead. He wants to be beloved. But instead, he looks desperate and egotistical on an annual basis. The nepotism that bought Dolan a seat at the table of his father’s company couldn’t prepare him to take over a team like the New York Knicks.
When the player formerly known as Ron Artest was signed this past offseason, it reminded everyone of the lengths that the organization will go to to make a quick headline. What was management’s aim here? Sure, Metta had just played his best season in about four years, but he was also taking more shots than he ever had with the Lakers, the exact type of stat inflation that’s more indicative of a Mike D’Antoni offense than player turnaround. On top of that, the Knicks were the oldest team in the league last season (another obvious example, by the way, of the team’s failure to build through the draft) and at 34 years old, Metta wasn’t helping that problem. Once again, it was just another thoughtless grab for attention by the Knicks. Bring the hometown kid in. The story sells itself, right? But, as we’re seeing with Metta World Peace, you can’t just go back on a decision you made 15 years ago. An entire career happens in 15 years.