Whenever the Los Angeles Lakers played the New York Knicks back in the day, it used to be the NBA’s marquee event of the year. West Coast versus East Coast. The No. 2 media market in the country versus the No. 1 media market in the country.
This game would have been televised on TNT, ESPN or ABC. Back when NBC had rights to televise NBA games, this game would be the weekend showcase. Buzz emanated all over New York, Los Angeles and the country. It marked the celebration of the NBA regular season where everyone would be watching. This matchup used to highlight the dark days of sports in the winter.
Those were the days.
Now, no one cares. That’s what happens when the Knicks serve as an embarrassment to the NBA on and off the court for a long time. They are not only irrelevant locally, but nationally, too.
The Lakers arrived in town on Tuesday, and they played the Knicks on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, and no one noticed or cared. Yes, apathy exists in our once-proud basketball city. Lakers fans painted MSG yellow and purple with so much Lakers gear all over the place, and they left the World’s Famous Arena with a 100-92 victory.
For Lakers fans, this was just another game of a long schedule. For Knicks fans that actually care, this was just another L in another season to forget.
The 35-9 Lakers are fine-tuning themselves to a pursuit of championship No. 17. The 12-33 Knicks are once again hoping to win the NBA Draft Lottery in May.
To think the Lakers used to be as bad as the Knicks, but they recovered quite nicely after some lean seasons. The Knicks have been awful for two decades and counting despite some brief playoff appearances.
The Lakers can claim they built throughout the draft, but they never won with players such as Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart. Fortunately for them, they traded those three for Anthony Davis, who wanted out of New Orleans and wanted to play for the Lakers only.
In other words, the Lakers ran into good fortune. Also, LeBron James hired the Lakers in a sense he wanted to play for them only. This has nothing to do with how great Jeanie Buss, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka orchestrated the plan. They are no better than the Knicks failed trio of James Dolan, Steve Mills and Scott Perry.
The Knicks hoped they could have ran into some fortune by winning the lottery and hoping that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving would sign with them. It did not happen for them. When the NBA gave the No. 3 pick to the Knicks in the draft lottery, their plan went to the garbage since Durant and Irving were never coming without a rookie star such as Zion Williamson or Rookie of the Year favorite Ja Morant, the top two picks in the draft. Not surprisingly, Durant and Irving signed with the Nets this summer.
The Lakers and Knicks could afford to build without the draft since they play in a market that can recruit stars to play for them. They can get better fast, which is something teams such as the Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons and other woebegone teams can’t say. They don’t have to go for a drought for so long.
This makes the Knicks’ struggles for this long all so frustrating and baffling. There’s no reason for them to go on this long of a playoff drought. This will be the seventh straight season they won’t participate in the playoffs ever since they lost to the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2013.
Once again, the Knicks must go to the drawing board and start all over beginning with a new management. Mills and Perry showed they can’t build a team, and they need a head coach that aligns with the thinking of the new front office.
Dolan hopes Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri or Oklahoma City Thunder basketball boss Sam Presti would work for him in saving this downtrodden franchise. But why would either of them want to leave a great situation for an owner who doesn’t get it and never will? If Donnie Walsh couldn’t stand working for Dolan and Dolan couldn’t deal with him, why would anyone believe it would work out with either candidate this time around? If players such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Durant and Irving want no part of Dolan’s nonsense, why would any executive would?
Dolan hired Larry Brown, Phil Jackson, Mike D’Antoni and Walsh, and they flopped under him. Hard to blame these guys since they boast great basketball resume and pedigree. The Knicks owner represents the constant of everything that has gone wrong since he stewarded this franchise in 2001. Under his watch, hirings and firings, losing and unhappiness permeate this troubled franchise.
The NBA should be embarrassed about the Knicks’ woes. It’s unacceptable that the league’s flagship franchise continue to not get out of its own way. Dolan evokes comparisons to disgraced then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling for being incompetent and out-of-touch.
No one can blame James, Davis or any other star for wanting to play for the Lakers. As bad as Buss is, she has nothing on Dolan. The Lakers present better chance to win with 16 championships to show for it, not to mention legacy, post-playing opportunities and so much more.
The Knicks offer nothing.
Think about that when the Lakers go for their 17th championship this spring.