2018-04-12 14:18:04
New Coach? New Players? Prayers? How to Fix the Knicks (and Nets)

14:18, April 12 27 0

As a public service to basketball fans in New York, not to mention the team owners, we asked a range of people to take on the seemingly impossible: fix the Knicks and the Nets. Answers have been edited for clarity and condensed to spare the agony of reliving the teams’ disappointing seasons too much.

Sorry, James L. Dolan is unlikely to sell the team, but …

The team needs a deeper sense of direction — and for that it needs a new owner. In a perfect world, the Halal Guys team up with some tech billionaire type and save the city. They give a long-term contract to a head coach who believes in the power of analytics, the 3-point shot and giving the young guys serious minutes.

Then they trade everyone over 25 for draft picks galore and just start running and gunning! The Golden State Warriors can be our inspiration: They ended their 40-year championship drought just five years after they were bought by a Silicon Valley executive — and they did it by making smart draft picks. So we’ll nab a budding star in this year’s draft, kick off next season’s tank-a-thon by retiring Charles Oakley’s jersey on opening night and all will be right with the world.

— Stefan Marolachakis, a 20-year Knicks fan and co-host of the Open Run podcast

Keep Kristaps Porzingis healthy (who doesn’t like a challenge?) and get some top free agents. It’s New York. They should want to play here.

The Knicks have been one of the more incredible stories in sports: a team with that much money and in that market but that is not a destination for elite free agents. They’ve done it to themselves with the way they operate. This season, they probably would have been at least on the periphery of the N.B.A. playoffs had Porzingis not gotten hurt. Without him — and you probably won’t see him completely back until the season after next — they at least have a chance to add to the young talent they have, get high draft picks this season and next, and then maybe, if Porzingis is on the court by late next season, become attractive enough so they can add a couple of free agents.

—Marv Albert, radio and television voice of the Knicks for many years before moving on to NBC and now Turner Sports.

Start playing defense. It is rumored to be an essential part of basketball.

No matter what pieces they add, they need to play defense. They are a very bad defensive team. We see that now. My two rings (he says, holding up his two diamond-studded championship rings) are symbolic of defense, man. We play defense in spurts: 46 minutes, 45 minutes, you have to do it for 48 minutes to be victorious. And we have some good players.

—Clyde Frazier, a two-time N.B.A. champion with the Knicks. Yes, kids, it really did happen twice, long ago.

OK, Jeff Hornacek is out. But think really hard about that new coach, because there is probably more losing to come.

And after deciding who is their guy, what are the expectations for him? Because you can bring in another guy, your guy, but with that roster, and with Porzingis’s injury, nothing’s going to change for a while. So you’d better be sure the guy you choose is ready to deal with more losing — the way Brett Brown dealt with it in Philadelphia — and you are ready to not overreact when the fans and media start complaining about whoever is the coach, which is going to happen in New York. And then you have to figure out if you’re ready to give Porzingis—and his body does scare me, especially the legs—a max deal before he has come back healthy. You can’t have a plan until those questions are answered.

— Butch Beard, the point guard for the 1974-75 N.B.A. champion Warriors and a Knicks player, assistant coach and broadcaster in the 1970s and 1980s. He was also head coach of the New Jersey Nets for two seasons in the mid-1990s, so you get to hear him again if you keep reading.

It’s not just the coach, it’s gaps in the roster. Keep developing players in the G League.

A lot of people were saying get rid of Hornacek, but the Knicks don’t have a viable roster to compete, plain and simple. Their star player goes down or their second-best player goes down and the Knicks go in the toilet. It happened when Tim Hardaway Jr. went down and it happened when Porzingis went down. The team can’t function. So until you put the players on the court that are right for the coach, you’re not going to succeed.

One of the things the Knicks are doing which is positive is developing players in the G League. Developing players that can actually contribute or that become good trade assets — like Trey Burke — that’s something we weren’t doing before. I was campaigning for us to get Trey Burke on the Knicks because he’s a guard that can get in the lane and create.

— Leon Robinson, who attends a lot of games and has acted in films such as “Cool Runnings” and “Above the Rim.”

Sometimes the only thing to do is pray.

“On bended knee I pray above to da basketball gods to deliver us back to da glory years of da Orange and Blue. Amen.”

— Spike Lee

The Nets already are kind of good. Until the fourth quarter.

They’ve done about as good a job as you can do starting out with nothing. Being left with nothing or starting out with nothing — however you want to look at it — they’ve found ways to come up with some talent after the franchise lost all of those first-round picks in that deal with Boston.

With a break here or there, they would have had 30 wins this season because they’ve lost so many heartbreaking games down the stretch in the fourth quarter or overtime. Win a couple of those and they’re at 30 wins, which is way more than people would have predicted at the beginning of the season.

The toughest thing, I think, in a situation like the Nets are in, is to stay the course and not deviate. Philadelphia was getting killed for a while there. Everybody was making fun of the Process. The Process looks pretty good right now, doesn’t it? You just had to wait through it.”

— Mike Fratello, a former N.B.A. head coach and current Turner Sports analyst, who also served as the longtime color analyst on Nets TV broadcasts.

There’s a wow factor coming, in a good way.

They need to put shooters around their point guard and build some depth. They’re really a young team. But those guys, I’m telling you it’s one of these types of teams that the minute they start to really make some hay, you’re going to turn around and go ‘Wow.’ They aren’t going to win the division next year, but they’re definitely making some strides internally. Sometimes you can’t see success because we are looking at wins and losses from the outside, but internally it’s almost like what Philadelphia did: you have to wait it out, pick up some top draft choices and coach them up. All of a sudden, you win 50 games.

— Nancy Lieberman, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and a coach for the Big3 league.

Keep flying under the radar, which has not really been a problem for this team. And build a better roster, which has been a problem for this team.

The best thing the Nets can do is continue to stay out of the limelight, which goes against the grain of what they’ve always been trying to do because their main problem in their entire existence has been being second-class citizens in their own market. They’ve never had a real fan base. The one thing you can’t say or write anymore is that the arena isn’t worth a damn — I love watching games at Barclays. Same thing with the franchise. Within a few years, if they have any luck building a team, it’ll probably be worth $2 billion. From where they were in Jersey, that’s real progress. So stay under the radar, let all the pressure be on the Knicks, and build your team.

— Butch Beard, a former N.B.A. player and broadcaster, was head coach of the New Jersey Nets for two seasons in the mid-1990s.

The Nets have a hopeful fan. He has had season tickets for four years. He really roots for the Knicks, but supporting the Nets ...

... is something to do and it’s fun. It’s just to be a part of something. And these season tickets are cheaper than with the Knicks. I will always love the Knicks. I am a New York basketball fan. The key is the Nets are trying to build on draft picks, but I think they need to try to do some trades. They have to be able to bring in a superstar. This is a beautiful facility, but a lot of these guys want nice practice facilities out in the country. This whole thing can turn around if we bring in a LeBron. You’ve got Jay-Z. We need a franchise player. I think the Nets will make the playoffs before the Knicks will ever make the playoffs.

— Victor Batine, 55, Queens