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Finding Zen as a Knicks Fan

“Surrender to what is.

Let go of what was.

Have faith in what will be.”

– Sonia Ricotti
In the past 16 years, the New York Knicks have one competitive season (2012-2013 – 54-28) under their belt.  The decade and a half prior consisted of notable players, coaches, and executives – Isiah Thomas, Lenny Wilkins, Larry Brown, Antonio McDyess and Coney Island’s own Stephen Marbury – each of which fell just short of championship expectations.  Truly, these have been trying times for the Knicks’ faithful.

You all remember Isiah Thomas – a walking pastiche of mounting losses and questionable signings.  Despite enough wasted money to the global south, James Dolan wouldn’t let him go.  Isiah Thomas’ charm allowed him to manipulate Dolan into keeping him around years past his expiration date.  Media and fans knew they were good friends, not simply employer-employee; in fact, the relationship was so strong that Isiah Thomas somehow was considered for a consultant gig with the Knicks two years after he got fired!

Fast forward to Phil Jackson’s current tenure as team president.  As a player, he was part of the last few championship Knick teams in the early 1970’s. Phil a tall, but injury-prone, defensive juggernaut ended up becoming the greatest coach of all-time.

With 13 rings worth of experience – 11 as a coach, 2 as a player – Jackson returned to New York as the President of Basketball Operations.  He hasn’t found quite the same success in the front office as he did from the sidelines and on the hardwood.  With his reputation on the line and all eyes on Manhattan Island, The Zen Master put all his chips in the middle of the table this offseason for one last stand.  First, he realized the ancient triangle wouldn’t keep up with modern-day basketball: close friend Kurt Rambis went back to his assistant coaching role, and in came new Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek, previously of the Phoenix Suns.

Player personnel changes quickly followed.  Jackson struck a deal for Derrick Rose and Justin Holiday then signed Joakim Noah.  Jackson filled out the back court by signing Brandon Jennings and Courtney Lee.  Alongside with Kristaps and Carmelo, these new additions make the Knicks a bona-fide Playoff contender in the East.  Jackson spent the offseason stocking the team with a blend of young talent and savvy veterans in a similar mold to the team’s successful 2012-2013 campaign.

noah rose

It’s impossible to ignore the injury risk inherent in the Knicks new roster additions, particularly in regards to Noah and Rose.  While investing in players with their inconsistent health record is a risk, the truth is that injuries are often a matter of chance.  Stephen Curry sustained an injury at the most crucial time in the Playoffs, undeniably effecting their run to the Finals.  Injuries are an unfortunate reality, but there’s nothing to be done about that, other than provide the best training and medical facilities that New York can supply.  Knicks fans should appreciate what Phil has done to assemble this team, and instead of fearing what MIGHT happen, appreciate what HAS happened.  I mentioned Isiah Thomas earlier, who cared more about maintaining his relationship with James Dolan than creating a winning team: Phil wants a winning team, and he cares about how people will remember his time as the head of the Knicks’ front office.  That’s why he swallowed his pride, hired Hornacek, and shelved the triangle offense.

The season begins in two months.  The Knicks and their staff now have time to put their new pieces together before the show the world what they’ve created.  Until then, the Knicks remain positive despite the challenging road they walked for the past 16 years. This team’s potential failure is a real possibility, but as Michael Jordan once said, “fear, just like limits, is often just an illusion.”

By Jim Matthew (@nyjones7)