When Kevin Durant speaks these days, a whole lot of people cringe. He is not exactly the most popular figure on social media, and his habit of getting into it with virtually anonymous fans has never been a great look.
But sometimes, he says things that are right on the money.
Remember: earlier in the 2018-19 NBA campaign, some felt that Durant heading to the Knicks with Kyrie Irving was a foregone conclusion. The Nets didn’t even look like an option.
But as the offseason drew closer in May and June, whispers of Durant and Irving teaming up in Brooklyn rather than Manhattan grew louder and louder until the two ultimately signed with the Nets at the onset of free agency.
Well, apparently, it was a relatively easy decision for Durant, as the superstar forward told HOT 97 that he never really considered the Knicks, noting that younger players in the NBA today never really saw New York when it was good.
Durant even put a dagger through the heart of Knicks fans everywhere, saying “the cool thing now is not the Knicks.”
But you know what? He is absolutely right.
At what point is the Knicks’ front office going to realize that the allure of New York means absolutely nothing to players in today’s game? It’s not about that anymore. It’s about a good culture, which is something the Knicks simply do not have.
Let’s face it: New York’s organization has been a virtual dumpster fire for the better part of the last two decades.
The Knicks have made the playoffs just four times since 2001 and have won just one playoff series during that span. And it’s not even like New York has such rich history like the Boston Celtics or the Los Angeles Lakers. The Knicks have won just two championships.
So, they don’t win, they don’t draft well, they hand out bad contracts and James Dolan has been arguably the worst owner in pro sports since assuming the role as the franchise’s leader in 1999.
Why, then, would free agents even want to come near the Knicks?
Now, to be fair, a similar thing can be said about the Nets, who have never won an NBA title and have been a laughing stock for quite some time, but it became obvious last season that Brooklyn is building something while the Knicks are, well, not.
I mean, New York drafted Kristaps Porzingis, a guy who was probably the organization’s best draft pick since Patrick Ewing, in 2015. The Knicks then traded him three-and-a-half years into his tenure with the franchise.
Of course, Porzingis was recovering from a torn ACL and was not at all happy with New York, but the Knicks traded Porzingis to clear enough cap space to sign both Durant and Irving this past summer. And what did they get? Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton. Not quite the same.
Again, I understand there was more to the situation between Porzingis and the Knicks, but New York made virtually no effort to smooth things over for the simple fact that it thought for sure that Durant and Irving were coming, so it traded its franchise player for peanuts.
Honestly, the Knicks’ decision to move Porzingis was a moment of unbridled arrogance. “KD and Kyrie are coming anyway, so why do we need Porzingis?”
Neither Steve Mills nor Scott Perry may have said that verbatim when they decided to send the Unicorn packing, but they may as well have, because that was the primary reason they did it.
When star players see that type of stuff from a basement-dwelling franchise, it is more of a turn off than anything else.
Seriously: what made the Knicks think that they, the team that just won 17 games and has not made the playoffs since 2013, had the clout to snag two of the top free agents on the market?
This is what Durant is talking about.
New York thinks that its “brand” is going to attract players. What the Knicks have failed to realize is that they are not the Yankees. They don’t have a bunch of championships under their belt. They don’t have a stable front office. They don’t have a clear direction.
While New York is nice in theory, it really only matters if the team is well-run, and the Knicks are definitely not.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is up for free agency in 2021, and New York is already clamoring for that summer, with fans seriously thinking that the Knicks can land him.
If New York couldn’t bring in either Durant or Irving, what on earth makes you think the Knicks will be able to sign Antetokounmpo, who currently seems perfectly happy in Milwaukee?
It’s comical at this point.
The only way the Knicks are ever going to become serious players in free agency is if they start showing they are capable of being a competent front office, which was something they didn’t show this summer when they scrambled and handed out a bunch of multi-year deals to players who are either average or below average.
The funny thing is, if New York would have held on to Porzingis, it would actually have a really nice foundation. Instead, it traded him, because that’s just the Knick way of doing things.
Now, the Knicks have to hope that one of RJ Barrett or Kevin Knox is a franchise player, probably just so they can trade them in a couple of years when Antetokounmpo comes off the books.
Durant can be moody, mercurial and sometimes downright whiny, but this time, he hit the nail on the head.
The Knicks will never learn.