This month, Complex Sports is featuring "You Suck But I Love You," a series of open letters from one of us about our favorite (and terrible) NBA team. Thus far, we've gone through the Boston Celtics, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Detroit Pistons. Today, Justin Block discusses his support for one of the Big Apple's rottenest teams, the New York Knicks.
In July 2012, I swore off Madison Square Garden, James fucking Dolan, and the rest of his sorry troop. A “new” team in Brooklyn with cool all-black-everything branding was hitting New York City. My brain had a meeting. Do we ditch the Knicks?
Deliberations raged, but eventually, one herd mentality won out over the other. Being called a bandwagoner is the most hurtful thing another human can say to another. My roommates at the time were all Knicks fans, so coming out and pledging my allegiance to that team across the East River seemed lame. If there’s anything sadder than watching the Knicks lose, it’s watching the Nets fake win all alone.
I was still hurt though. Just months prior, Linsanity had swept me off my feet, and I wasn’t alone—there’s a book about how much Jeremy Lin’s play meant to Knicks fans and bloggers. It meant more to me though. I was a super fan. By sheer coincidence, I had been at Lin's breakout game against the Nets. He scored 25 points off the bench to lead the Knicks to a win, Carmelo Anthony got hurt, and woah: Linsanity happened for two months. I've never ignorantly screamed "gong hei fat choy" before, but every day of Linsanity felt as dope as the Lunar New Year. As a Chinese American male who grew up watching and adoring professional athletes who looked nothing like me, Lin as Knick—and actually playing well as a Knick—was sports nirvana.
Then, to have Jim fucking Dolan sneer his little billionaire snout at Lin’s market value contract, and then let the kid sign with the Rockets that July… I was disgusted. I swore to never give Dolan another dime ever again, and that I wouldn’t go to another Knicks game until I was done being a Butthurt Betty.
Two years, a handful of Knicks games at MSG, and one Andrea Bargnani t-shirt purchase later, and yeah, I’m a hypocrite. Whatever though. I’m a sports fan, which makes me an irrational tit who’ll always come back to the boys even when a hot girl takes me for a spin. Favorite athletes and fuccbuddies come and go with the cuffing seasons, but your homies and your team just don’t. I’ll remember Linsanity like my first time, even if I sometimes get too J. Cole about it.
Since Linsanity, the Knicks have been an extended cut of The Happening. Over and over again, it’s felt like the Knicks have been purposely falling asleep in the garage with the engine on.
These recent tweets were just another setup for a brutal death scene. On Christmas, no less.
#knicknation Merry Christmas to all and Peace on earth. Please be assured your hopes and wishes are getting through to Santa. He will bring— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) December 25, 2014
#knicknation a better 2015 than 14. The effort and skill of our team will grow as the players learn how to play with and for each other.— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) December 25, 2014
Given that last bit, “the players learn how to play with and for each other,” this next Vine feels like a very teachable moment.
As you can see, not a single fuck was given about Quincy Acy. To every Knick (particularly Cole Aldrich), he was an individual getting into his own individual spat with an opposing individual—not a teammate in need of back-up. Acy was ejected for the skirmish, and the crowd cheered him off the floor.
MSG cheered for Acy, who had a dirty foul and then tried to punch an opponent while his team was actually on a decent run.— Andrew Keh (@andrewkeh) December 25, 2014
Unfortunately, this micro event represents the worst of what’s been (and what will likely be) the worst Knicks season ever. Nothing will be learned from Acy's parting shots. A $90 million payroll has racked up the most losses in the NBA this season. Rookie head coach Derek Fisher, judging off of what we see game-to-game (or even headline to headline), doesn’t appear to be actually coaching.
The Knicks play the slowest, most unattractive basketball in the NBA, and on the defensive end, they operate like traffic cones. It’s making Fish’s hands all clammy and shit.
(But at least his visits to Suit Supply have been fruitful.)
Despite his shortcomings as an NBA head coach, the $90 million roster Fisher’s been handed isn’t exactly helping his cause. Phil Jackson and Fisher want to build a culture that’s the opposite of how the Knicks have operated the past decade. Teamwork and “buying in” are to be trumped over individuality, greed, and moodiness. Those attitudes, however, are hard to impress upon a team when only two players on the roster (Anthony and Jose Calderon) have guaranteed contracts for 2015-16. It’s even harder when your team’s franchise player straight-up lacks the tools to be the on-court leader of The Zen Master’s Cultural Revolution. George Karl, Anthony’s coach during his Denver Nuggets days, said this about Melo in March:
“I don’t think Melo understands that coming to work with the best attitude every single day is a precious commodity when you’re the best player. That’s not the same thing as playing hard. That’s bringing the total package, 100 percent focused on all the little things. Those are rare breeds. Kevin Garnett. Michael Jordan. LeBron didn’t always have it, but he has it now.”
LeBron having “it” now gives me hope. He sacrificed money and dignity to go join Pat Riley's Miami Mafia, and it worked out for him. Maybe Jackson’s whispers of sweet nothings, coupled with Fisher’s growth and a roster full of guys who have long-term futures with the Knicks will bring Anthony to an epiphany. It’s a hypothetical, but given Anthony’s actions and words, that “ah ha!” moment is hard to visualize. Here’s what I mean:
Anthony on July 25, after deciding to not leave $50 million on the table by signing with the Knicks over the Chicago Bulls: “I want to win. I don’t care about the money.”
Anthony on December 18, with the Knicks sitting at 5-22: “Regardless of what happened, it would all come down to the money. That’s just the life we live. You can’t escape that.”
This duplicity is so Knicks-ian that it almost feels good. If I were a twisted fan who allowed the Knicks to be a catharsis in my life, I’d get off to those quotes. (I proudly have a bargain-bin Jeremy Lin Knicks Fathead on my bedroom wall, so “twisted” can really go all sorts of ways.) For over a decade, the Knicks have collected highly priced losers while trying to build a championship roster. The mission and payroll may point to an organization that’s earnestly trying to win some fucking games, but underneath the surface—within the fabric of the team itself—that mission has failed.
Jackson’s said it himself too: "There's some resistance to discipline and order and culture change and things like that.”
Yes, my 2014-2015 New York Knicks are too asinine to let a 13-time NBA Champion take the wheel. Yet within the team’s collective insolence, there’s a part of me that gets it. It’s fine guys—the jig is up. You don’t have to have J.R. Smith speak-up on the lack of effort anymore. You don’t have to act all mad and curse at each other after losses anymore. You don’t have to pretend like you care about wins and losses anymore.
The majority of this roster won’t have a 212 area code in 6 months, and those guys will be damned if they have to practice more or lick Jackson’s boots. This team is playing for that next contract—not for the team. It's a shameful reality, but one that we must accept. The carrot of a high first round draft pick (omg we have one this year), cap space, and 2015 free agency is a more worthy cause to chase than this team's current path down the rabbit hole.
Knicks fans, instead of emotionally investing in this lot, let’s pick a new slogan for ourselves. A few half-baked choices: “Lose every day for Mudiay,” “I’m ‘okay’ for Okafor,“ or my favorite: “The envelope’s sealed for Jahlil.” Adam’s got us. I won’t ditch you. Now just lose, baby.
P.S. #BargsBack in 2015. Bet.