By Jason Keidel
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Even when the Knicks do something right — about as frequent as a lunar eclipse — they do all they can to ruin it.
The Knicks drafted a kid we found typically bad. Not only was he not a college star, he wasn’t even from the United States. A lanky string bean of a player who averaged a paltry 8.2 points per game in Italy’s ACB, hardly a hotbed of NBA royalty. No news in that.
But it turned out that Kristaps Porzingis, the 21-year-old, 7-foot-3 freak of athletic nature, is more than a building block or part of the plan. He’s a franchise player, a monolith, as close to a unique talent as the league has right now, someone nearly as big as Yao Ming yet can hit 3-pointers and dart to the rim like a small forward.
And now the Knicks are doing their best to boot the Latvian superstar. Leave it to the Knicks to double down on bad moves and move heaven and earth to reverse the rare good ones. Rampant reports say the Knicks are either shopping their budding stud or are, at minimum, taking calls for his services.
In this case, Porzingis may be overplaying his hand. Not only was it poor form to skip his exit interview with team president Phil Jackson, he also has ignored overtures from his head coach, Jeff Hornacek.
And renowned NBA insider Stephen A Smith is also hearing that it is Porzingis, more than the Knicks, who is putting these rumors on a P.R. megaphone. But not because he’s frothing to flee Gotham, but rather to shove Jackson out the door.
Porzingis’ own brother was quoted as saying that despite the way the Knicks treat their players, Porzingis still loves the taste of the Big Apple.
Of course, the Knicks are reportedly interested in another foreign import, 6-foot-5 point guard Frank Ntilikina, from France. Because that worked out so well, when they plucked Frederic Weis, a biblical bomb who was best known for the Dunk of Death, an immortal moment in hardwood history, when Vince Carter scaled air and the Frenchmen in the 2000 Olympics, dunking so hard on Weis that he suffered a personal and professional death in one play.
The Knicks had drafted Weis with the 15th pick a year earlier, but he never signed, costing New York a shot at Queens native Ron Artest.
No matter whom the Knicks pick, it’s almost universally felt among the media and masses that there’s no one on Thursday night’s draft board who is better than Porzingis. So there’s no move or metric by which the Knicks look or play better by dealing their best player. Doing so would only perpetuate the sense that Jackson is a) only running the Knicks for the paycheck and b) is doing all he can to get canned. And considering that Carmelo Anthony is well past his prime, dealing their lone commodity would give even the most jaded Knicks fans no reason to watch the team next season.
Some of us assured you that Jackson, for all his coaching eminence, would not be nearly as adroit as a personnel man. But too many Knicks fans were blinded by his bling, the aggregate shine of his 11 NBA championship rings as a head coach. Those talents clearly don’t translate. By any objective measure, Jackson has been as bad a GM as any in the NBA.
But even with all the club’s historical ineptitude in mind, it would be wise for Porzingis to handle this in a more muted, professional manner. Heaven forbid the Knicks take him up on the trade he doesn’t want. Then everyone loses.
Except Jackson, who doesn’t seem to care.
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