The trains don’t work. Our planet is hurtling toward climate catastrophe. Donald Trump (and I have to remind myself this every morning) is the president. The two men responsible for protecting New Yorkers from the onslaught of reactionary government and systemic infrastructural failure are too busy measuring dicks to actually help anyone. Oh, and the Knicks are bad.
Well, the Knicks are always bad — that’s pretty much a constant. But at least (and I can’t say this for the rest of the waking nightmare that is 2017) there’s some hope for the Knicks. The hope is in the form of a young Latvian known as Kristaps Porzingis, a center who can shoot threes, has functional hands and great athleticism, and represents exactly the type of player poised to propel teams to championships in the NBA. Unfortunately, because this year is relentless in its awfulness, the Knicks are reportedly interested in trading Porzingis, mostly to settle a disagreement between Kristaps (who is all of 21 years old) and the bruised ego of Knicks president Phil Jackson (age 71), who in three full years in charge of the Knicks has taken an uneven team centered around an all-star in his prime and lost an unholy amount of games.
If the Knicks were to trade Kristaps, it wouldn’t just hurt me as a fan of the Knicks. It would psychically devastate me. I would just give up on all things approaching hope and resign myself to a world that’s debased and debauched and devoid of anything “good.”
I interviewed Porzingis the morning of the 2015 draft in his hotel room in midtown. It was strange to see such a large body filled with the energy of a nervous teenager — he basically bounced off the walls, and instead of stooping over to speak to me, he would answer me from his bed, flopping down on his back and then hopping back up into a seated position. A few hours later, in Brooklyn, the Knicks drafted Porzingis, and because Knicks fans are scared and distrustful people, they showered him with boos. He shook them off. He said he’d have to earn their love. Within just a few games of the 2015–16 season, Porzingis did just that. Even though the Knicks were a middling team in a very bad conference, Porzingis offered nightly highlights, as Carmelo Anthony, the aforementioned all-star, whose own body was quickly giving up on him, soldiered on in the background. The Knicks weren’t good — but there was hope that they were on a slow and steady path back to respectability, and maybe, once Porzingis finally grew into his massive frame, a chance for greatness.
Then Phil Jackson decided to intervene. You see, Jackson has this belief that his offensive system, known as the “triangle,” is what made the teams he coached great. Never mind that during his time in Chicago and Los Angeles, he always had the best player in the league on his team (and a supporting cast usually filled with the second- or third-best players). No — it was the “triangle” that made them great, an obsolete offensive scheme that Jackson was now determined to prove was the reasoning behind the rings. Jackson dumped second-year coach Derek Fisher in favor of his buddy (and Twitter enthusiast) Kurt Rambis, and then spent the off-season filling the roster with over-the-hill veterans. By last season, with yet another new coach (the mild-mannered and relatively well-liked Jeff Hornacek), the Knicks were in full-blown chaos — a starter skipped a game (for no apparent reason), Jackson was antagonizing Anthony on Twitter, and the owner was allegedly ordering assaults on beloved former players inside the arena.
Despite all this, Porzingis continued to improve. Even though the season was perceived as a down year, Porzingis actually built on much of his stats from his first year, and even rounded out his defensive game. But still, the mind of a 21-year-old is a fragile thing, and even the most optimistic of psyches will be broken down by the towering wave of sadness and dysfunction known as the New York Knicks. Porzingis skipped his post-season exit meeting with Jackson, and no one from the Knicks organization has spoken with him since. This morning, the Knicks made it clear they’re taking offers for Porzingis, perhaps motivated by the deterioration of his relationship with Jackson, and his ill fit for the “triangle,” which apparently has no place for a long-limbed shooting center (even though the deciding factor in this year’s NBA finals was JUST THAT). Trading Porzingis for draft picks or young, undeveloped players would be like hitting the lottery and using that money to buy more lottery tickets.
Right now, despite all their dysfunction, the Knicks have hope. They have Kristaps, and they also have the very good (and young) Willy Hernangomez. If they bide their time and wait until someone gets desperate, they can unload Anthony this season for a reasonable haul (even if that means using the dreaded stretch provision). They have the eighth pick, which isn’t good enough to get a franchise player but could result in a very solid (and affordable!) guard. There’s a path forward despite all the ugliness. There’s a way out of this mess.
But there would be no hope if the Knicks were to trade Porzingis. I would beg Phil Jackson, or James Dolan, or even Adam Silver, who could nix a possible trade for mercy, but that would be pointless. They are forces of chaos and greed and care not for those afflicted with the illness of Knicks fandom. If they go forward with the trade, I will attempt to expel this sickness from my body, despite the damage this separation will cause to my psyche. It will be like removing a limb. So instead of the people making the decision, I beg of an uncaring God: Let us keep Kristaps. Let us cling to mindless shreds of hope in a world of sorrow. Don’t let this light go out. [Ed. I am going to buy Max a cookie the next time I see him]