By Jason Keidel
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Are the Knicks the worst team in NBA history?

The fact that this is a valid, vital debate says much about the team, town and folks who inhabit them.

Remember when Phil Jackson was the savior, the Zen Master messiah who came home to fix his first team?

You must love how this recent salary purge was always part of his master plan. If dumping bloated contracts was his brainchild, then why was his first move giving Melo $124 million? It’s the exact inverse of cleaning house. It’s salary-cap clutter and carelessness. You couldn’t give Carmelo Anthony away now.

I turned four years old when the Philadelphia 76ers went 9-72 in 1973. So my source matter is a bit opaque. But there’s nothing vague about the Knicks’ historic incompetence.

Since there was nothing gripping on the tube before the Ravens played the Patriots, I had the great misfortune of watching the Knickerbockers play the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets are perennial doormats (15-24), run into the NBA grave every year by Michael Jordan, the greatest player in the history of the hardwood and one of the most inept owners. Two years ago, Charlotte went 21-61. The year before, they went 7-59.

The Knicks were down to the Hornets by 45 points. FORTY-FIVE points.

Let’s look at some of the team highlights so far…

They outscored the Hornets by 17 points in the fourth quarter and still lost by 30. (28, to be exact.) At home, no less.

Last week the Knicks played a game during which no starters attempted a free throw. To give you an idea of how atrocious that is, it hadn’t happened to the Knicks in 13 years.

They’ve lost 15 straight games, the longest losing streak in franchise history.

They don’t have one player on the rise, not one prospect on whom they can pin the future of the franchise. Unless you adore Tim Hardaway Jr. or Cleanthony Early.

The Knicks are 5-35.

Think about that.

5-35.

If the Knicks go 1-6 next week, their winning percentage would improve.

In their last 26 games, the Knicks are 1-25.

The Knicks have won one game since November.

November was by far their best month, when they went 3-13.

The Knicks still have a top-five payroll. They are virtually tied for fourth with the Rockets at a few bucks over $83 million. Houston, however, is 27-11.

The Knicks are on pace to win 10 games.

If the Knicks were a hockey team they would be contracted. Or they’d be cast so deep into Canadian tundra you’d need NASA to find them.

While their game is guttural, they still have the gall to gut your wallet. The Knicks still charge an arm, leg and other unprintable organs for a seat inside the World’s Most Overrated Arena. According to Forbes, only the Cavaliers and Lakers charge more per ticket than the rancid Knicks, whose median price is $157.

According to CNBC, the Knicks have paid $8 million per win.  Philadelphia, considered by some to be as bad as the Knicks, average just $3.5 million per win. And out of recent, wretched teams, the 2008 Miami Heat were the worst, paying $4.8 million per win. No team has ever averaged over $5 million per victory. Until now. The Knicks will surely smash that mark. Just to avoid having the worst payroll-to-victory ratio, the Knicks would need to win 17 games, which won’t happen.

The Lakers are old, but they can at least live on their aging icon and recent splendor, winning 10 – 10! — titles since the Knicks last won one. And at least Cleveland sports the sport’s savant-in-residence, LeBron James.

Look at other teams in other sports. Angels owner Artie Moreno lowered ticket prices even when his team wasn’t tanking, and the Halos flaunt the game’s best all-around player. Even the Mets get it, making their price palate far more plausible than the Yankees do, despite both teams missing the playoffs last year.

The only good news for the Knicks is that the 1972-73 76ers were 4-39 at the same point in their appalling campaign. But the Sixers went a sizzling 5-9 in February, which matches the Knicks’ win total for this entire season.

Does it really matter? Does this form of relativism apply to this team? When you consider the team and the town, the game and the gravitas of New York, this is indeed the worst team in NBA history. That is, of course, assuming the Knickerbockers keep playing this historically poorly.

Let’s assume they will.

Let’s add to the cliché: Death, taxes, another Knicks loss.

Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonKeidel

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