BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Everyone dubbed the Knicks as the favorite to get Donovan Mitchell since they had more to offer in the name of draft picks that would satisfy Jazz CEO of basketball operations Danny Ainge. It was no wonder Knicks fans were giddy about the possibilities.
The Knicks knew they had to get Mitchell if they want to be known as a team to reckon with.
It turned out to be a cruel joke for the Knicks. Of course, it was. It’s the Knicks. Nothing goes right with them. It was the Cleveland Cavaliers that acquired Mitchell on Thursday.
Same old Knicks. It never fails. As a Knicks observer going back to the Pat Riley days, the story of this Knicks franchise was offering hope just to have their fans be disappointed.
Prior to the James Dolan era when good times rolled, the Knicks would fall short of a championship no matter how close they got, especially in the 90s.
Under Dolan, they can’t even get a star through free agency or even the NBA Draft. They struck out getting LeBron James and Kevin Durant, and they were a pick too little too late to get Stephen Curry in the 2009 NBA Draft as Golden State Warriors general manager Don Nelson beat the Knicks by drafting him out of spite with the No. 7 pick (the Knicks fired Nelson after 59 games in 1996), so they settled for Jordan Hill, who only lasted 24 games until the No. 8 pick was traded to Houston Rockets for the washed-up Tracy McGrady. They did not win the draft lottery that could have had them draft Zion Williamson or Ja Morant in 2019, so they settled with the No. 3 pick that turned out to be RJ Barrett.
This recent setback just adds a long list of frustrations that the Knicks fans have on their woebegone franchise.
It turned out Ainge liked what the Cavs offered by giving up promising forward Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, Collin Sexton, three unprotected picks of 2025, 2027 and 2029 and two pick swaps (2026 and 2028). The Knicks only wanted to offer two unprotected picks for Mitchell, and they weren’t crazy about offering Quentin Grimes and Barrett to the Jazz.
In other words, Rose wanted to beat Ainge in a stakes of poker by not offering much for Mitchell. He got burned. Plain and simple. This was about him being the smartest man in the room by showing hubris and arrogance.
Sure, Rose and Knicks fans can offer this excuse Ainge had no interest in having Mitchell play for the Knicks. This does not pass the smell test because the Knicks really had no interest in giving up that many first-rounders to get a star. They did not pay the price while the Cavaliers did. This is why Mitchell is in Cleveland, not New York.
Here’s the bottom line: Rose and the Knicks failed this offseason. Getting Jalen Brunson wasn’t enough. He wasn’t going to make the Knicks a playoff team. They needed to pair a star with him to be a player in a loaded Eastern Conference. That star was Mitchell. They had to do whatever it took to get him here, even if they had to pay a ransom, which is often the case to get a dynamic talent. Opportunities to get a player like him don’t happen often, and that’s why the Knicks blew it.
Go ahead and say the Knicks were not going to win a championship with Mitchell with so many other teams being better than them. Guess what? Not only they are not winning with a championship without Mitchell, but they may not make the playoffs without him. Right now, they are not a playoff team with the way the roster is constituted. At least, the Knicks would have had a puncher’s chance to make a run if they acquired the Jazz star.
What reason is there to be excited about the Knicks heading to this coming season?
Let’s not make Brunson be the next coming of Chris Paul. If he was that good, the Dallas Mavericks would never let him leave as a free agent. Barrett? Knicks fans are overrating him. Sure he is a serviceable player, but he hasn’t been a game-changer like Morant has for the Memphis Grizzlies. If he was, the Knicks would have made the playoffs last year. Grimes, Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley have been meh at best. Sure they played well in garbage time and when the season was a lost cause, but that means nothing. From the eye test, it does not appear they are going to be dynamic talent.
Mitchell would have changed everything. He is one of the top 10 players in the league. He is everything that a basketball fan want from a superstar. A player that will make the big shots. Just exactly who on the Knicks roster can do that?
It’s been two years since Rose took over the Knicks. He had one playoff appearance, and it was a short one after the Atlanta Hawks dispatched the Knicks in five games. His team followed that up with 37-45 season. It hasn’t been good enough. The Knicks are not back whatsoever. This is why they needed Mitchell in the worst way. By acquiring him, he would have changed the perception of the Knicks.
We can get romantic about draft picks, but what draft pick has develop into a star with the Knicks? What about this coaching staff and this front office that make a Knicks fan think a draft pick can be developed? Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau loathes to use rookies since he knows they are more of a liability in his quest for winning. If he had his way, Mitchell would be playing for the Knicks. Remember the Knicks head coach has been pining for a superstar since he was hired.
Rose failed his head coach, and he failed the Knicks fans. There’s no argument about that. Yet, Knicks fans bizarrely defend Rose, and it’s hard to understand why. What about him that has made earned the benefit of the doubt? He hasn’t exactly been great as people make him out to be.
I do know this. If Dave Checketts or Riley ran the Knicks, Mitchell is here. Both would have paid the price because they have an appreciation of what superstars mean in the NBA. The Knicks don’t have a superstar.
If Rose had aversions of dealing Barrett, Grimes and draft picks for Mitchell, that’s a bad look. He was hired to bring superstars to the Knicks. He has yet to do that here.
From watching the Knicks president of basketball operations work, he has more of a resume of failed Minnesota Timberwolves executive David Kahn than a wheeler-and-dealer. Outside of hiring Thibodeau, what moves he made worked out for the Knicks? Stop being excited about Grimes, Toppin and Quickley because of hope. Hope is a terrible reason to be feel good about players since potential is always a crapshoot.
It would be nice to hear what Rose is thinking, but talking to the media is beneath him. He doesn’t feel he owns an explanation to Knicks fans.
It’s been amusing to see the Knicks president of basketball operations act like the smartest person in the room with nothing to show for it. He has become a laughingstock along with the team he is running.
From what’s written here, Rose is no better than Phil Jackson and Steve Mills.
Meanwhile, Ainge got what he wanted in adding more draft picks to his arsenals and Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman achieved his objective of getting a star.
Rose was hired to do what Ainge and Altman did. He has yet to make the Knicks better.
Dolan and Knicks fans should feel cheated rather than holding out hope Rose can perform a miracle.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6
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