That’s the problem with NY Knicks fans. We always prefer the flash over substance. That’s why everybody is ripping Phil Jackson this morning. In a NY minute, Phil has gone from saviour to money-snatching sucker in the eyes of the majority of Knicks fans after he selected Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis, a paper thin, 7-foot-1, three-point shooting project, with the fourth pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.
After much discussion throughout the week as to whether Jackson would end up trading the pick, he went along with the European whose stock has risen during workouts.
Knicks fans — to put it lightly — went bonkers when Porzingis’ name was called. The fans in attendance booed wildly and gave an emphatic thumbs downs to the pick. For starters, no one outside of devout basketball nerds had even heard of him. Secondly, Knicks fans endured a full-year of tanking in hopes of snatching one of the draft’s two coveted big men; No. 1 overall pick Karl Anthony Towns (Minnesota) or No. 3 pick Jahlil Okafor (Philadelphia). That was the first part of Phil Jackson’s master plan. Shed cap space and old baggage, lose enough games to get a sure-fire stud. All they needed was a top three pick to get a player that everyone would be cool with. D’Angelo Russell, who was drafted No. 2 by the Lakers would have sufficed. Unfortunately, all of those guys were gone when the Knicks No. 4 pick arrived.
There had been rumors that Porzingis was rising up the board and he possessed the qualities that would fit well in a Triangle offense, but most fans never saw this one coming. It blindsided the majority of them, who immediately started blazing their negative energies over social media outlets and expressing an outrage not seen since the Isiah Thomas era. As the shock wears off and reality sets in, some media heads will claim that they knew all about Porzingis. That the NBA was waiting for him to be ready for some time now. They will tell you about his 53 percent on jump shots, his spacing of the floor and his wet stroke. He represents the natural evolution of the 4 they’ll insist.
Others will flat out diss and dismiss it as typical Knicks head-scratching hogwash.
See, Stephen A Smith is from Queens, so he’s just reflecting the frustration and selfish, misguided psychotic and sad characteristics of tortured Knicks fans. We have such pride and basketball knowledge and have been made fools of by Knicks ownership and management for so long that we are almost like broken horses. This draft was in Brooklyn at The Barclays. It was supposed to be a special one for NY. We were going to get a fancy-named baller out of college, through the draft just as everyone has been begging for and imploring that we had to do to return to prominence. We were going to snatch the big fish to play with Melo and celebrate Phil Jackson’s first great pick as Knicks King Controller. People were going to look at us again and covet our new draft pick. Instead, we got a player that most teams probably wouldn’t have touched with a 10-foot pole at No. 4.
Instead, we are having nightmares and flashbacks of France’s Frederick Weiss, an infamous Knicks draft pick, who was ranked 13th on Complex.com’s “Top 25 Worst NBA Draft Picks of All-Time”:
You’ve probably heard the name Frederic Weis before, and it probably had something to do with the fact that his face once made intimate relations with Vince Carter’s balls during the 2000 Summer Olympics. That’s really the only thing that American basketball fans will remember the French big man for, having never decided to come over to the NBA, even after being drafted by the Knicks in 1999. Oddly enough, his draft rights were traded to the Houston Rockets in 2008 for Patrick Ewing Jr. So basically what the Knicks ended up with here was Patrick Ewing’s less-talented son, a center too soft to even attempt playing in the league, and no Metta World Peace (Knicks passed over him to draft Weiss). Pat yourselves on the back there, New York.
All Phil had to do was draft any Top 10 college player and Knicks fans would have been elated. We don’t have that much trust in the Knicks organization to do the right thing, so we have come to the point where we at least want them to do the safe thing. Duke’s Justice Winslow (No. 10 overall pick by Miami) was available and he plays D. So does Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein. He guards five positions on the court at 7-feet-tall. The Knicks will need a couple of those players.
Instead, Phil Jackson had plans of his own. Looks like he does have a dream scheme after all and the fate of Porzingis and Jackson are now forever intertwined. I hope Phil knows he plays in the Eastern Conference. I don’t see too much toughness or rebounding on this Knicks team so far, but free agency lurks.
I was talking to legendary photographer Andrew Bernstein, who wrote a book with Phil Jackson called Journey To The Ring, and he says there’s no way Jackson would take the Knicks job or a personnel chance like this unless he’s sure the kid is going to be more Dirk Nowitski than Andrea Bargnani or Darko Milicic. Knicks fans can’t accept the fact that Phil didn’t make the NYC splash, but at this point we still have to give Jackson the benefit of the doubt. If he really was trying to just steal the money and run, why would he invest in a player that everyone knows is at least three years away from dominance? Bernstein says Jackson has too much ego and pride and basketball savvy to take this job and not try to win a title. He also “respects the game of basketball way too much, ” Bernstein said.
So while everyone wanted Patrick Ewing 1984, we have to look at the bigger picture and not be Twitter-twits. Porzingis was Phil’s first move last night. Instant gratification wasn’t served, but Phil’s second maneuver actually showed some boardroom savvy, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a while, and it ultimately improved the grade for Phil’s body of work on his first Knicks draft.
Notre Dame point guard Jerian Grant, one of the top seniors in this year’s class, was selected by the Atlanta Hawks then traded to NY with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. At 23 years old, Grant was the second four-year senior off the board after Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky. The Hawks received the No. 19 pick from the Washington Wizards in a separate trade earlier on Thursday. New York will sends shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. to Atlanta in exchange for the pick.
Grant arrived at Notre Dame as a four-star recruit out of Maryland and immediately made an impact as a freshman, averaging 12.3 points and five assists per game. By his senior year, he was one of the best players in the country. Grant can come in right away and relieve Melo of some of the scoring load. He’s also an excellent passer, so the Knicks are getting lauded for that pick, but folks remain bitter about Porzingis and the fact that the average fan has no connection to him.
As far as being a bright lights, big city guy, Porzingis has expressed a deep interest in playing in NY and proposed that he, Rihanna and Jay Z and Beyonce go on a double date — so he has some verbal swag. If he has the game to match, then Knicks fans will have to apologize to Zen Master. How he continues to build through free agency is crucial, but when Knicks fans calm down and truly access the pieces Phil acquired in these beginning stages of constructing a :”championship caliber” team, we have to let the genius be the genius, fall back, relax and watch the pieces fall into place. Maybe he’s taking a wild gamble because our situation is so destitute we truly do need a miracle. I tend to figure that it’s Phil knowing what everyone else doesn’t, which is obviously what helped him acquire 11 championship rings and become the guy Knicks brass had to pursue.
It’s still early in the game Knicks fans. Let’s not jump off the ledge yet. We might miss Phil Jackon’s finest moment.