Are the Knicks doomed for failure as long as James Dolan is the owner? That may not even be a question anymore at this point. Since Dolan became the owner, the Knicks have only one playoff series victory and have been getting it wrong from the front office, to the coaches, to the players. At this point, there is no reason to think that Dolan has not been a virus to the winning culture this franchise once held.
The Knicks recently signed Tim Hardaway to a 4-year deal worth $71 million. The first thing to come to mind once the deal was confirmed was “What in the world are the Knicks doing?!” Hardaway was originally drafted by the Knicks and spent his first 2 years with the team before Phil Jackson traded him to the Atlanta Hawks during the 2015 draft for the rights to Jerian Grant. That trade ended up backfiring due to Grant’s lack of production with the Knicks leading him to be traded to the Bulls. Hardaway developed to become a better player with the Hawks although not enough to be worth $17.75 million per year. Hardaway averaged a career-high 14.5 points in 27 minutes per game last season although it could be argued that the slight success that he’s been having with Atlanta is a product of Mike Budenholzer’s system. The same system that birthed 4 All-Stars in one season and granted the team with the best record in the East during the 2015 campaign. It is hard to say that Hardaway will be more productive with the Knicks or if he can even be just as productive as he was with the Hawks while playing under Jeff Hornacek. Tim Hardaway is the only player the Knicks have been able to successfully sign this offseason so far which is bad news for Knicks fans who desperately need a star or 2 in order to compete in today’s league with many super-teams being developed.
Prior to the signing of Tim Hardaway Jr. the Knicks made a more intriguing and actually somewhat positive adjustment as James Dolan relieved Phil Jackson of his duties. This came after Phil made it known that he was listening to trade offers involving Kristaps Porzingis and he would make a move if any offer was enticing enough. For Phil to listen to those types of trade offers makes zero sense from the outside eye as everybody knows drafting Porzingis was the only positive act the Knicks were able to accomplish during his tenure as President of Basketball Operations. It was assumed that the addition of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Courtney Lee to the team would bring them into win-now mode and push them back into the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-2013 campaign. To say that it backfired would be an understatement. The Knicks regressed and they are still continuing to go down the wrong path towards even more failure. Dolan has yet to hire a replacement for Phil and we are 11 days into free-agency. Until then, Steve Mills is calling the shots for the organization. Steve Mills may become Phil’s permanent replacement (or temporary depending how long he lasts) but ultimately, nobody does anything without consulting Dolan because he wants to have a say in every decision that is made for the team if not just make the decision completely by himself. Dolan may as well hold every front office position to himself.
Dolan’s management on the team has been questionable since he took over the team in 1999. The most questionable aspect to Dolan is his personality. He is abrasive and controlling. A prime example of how bad of a person he can be is the Charles Oakley incident. In February of this year, Oakley was enjoying a Knicks game in MSG, in which he had to pay to get into regardless of being an ex-player, when security confronted him and asked him to leave. There did not seem to be a reason to kicking him out and the situation eventually escalated to the point where Oakley was unceremoniously kicked out of the arena. Dolan was nearby the situation as it was occurring although chose not to interject and save Oakley which shows he was most likely the reason Oakley was removed from the premises. Days later, Dolan was speaking to ESPN Radio as he commented on the incident stating: “He was a great Knick and we hope he gets some help soon. We were trying to be kind, right, and it obviously didn’t come off that way,” Dolan stated. “But I do think that Charles needs help. He can’t want to have the things that have happened to him, particularly since he retired as a player. They aren’t good. He has had many physical altercations, right. He has been arrested. He’s had a lot of trouble. And it all seems to stem from his anger. That can’t be something that he intended to have happen. Maybe he doesn’t remember it. I think he is somewhat in denial.”
That incident followed by those unprofessional remarks comes from a shallow man with a vain intention to ruin someone else’s reputation in order to protect his own. That is what Dolan has done his entire tenure as Chairman/Owner of the Knicks. It has always been in the back of minds that Dolan is the real reason to the Knicks failure to win more than one playoff series since 2002 but Dolan does a decent job of hiding while the GM or Head Coach take all the heat from the press and fans. He found a way to hide after signing Allan Houston to a 6 year contract worth $100 million and Houston ended up retiring 4 years later due to injuries with $40 million left on his contract. He found a way to hide when he signed Larry Brown to a 5-year $50 million contract and fired him after one losing season. He found a way to hide when the commissioner at the time David Stern blasted the Knicks in 2007 stating they are not a “model of intelligent management” after the team lost sexual-harassment case in which Head Coach at the time Isiah Thomas took most of the heat for. Dolan cannot hide anymore. Not after hiring Phil Jackson to a 5-year $60 million deal followed by allowing him to poorly handle his job as the President of the team, and taking too long to fire him. He should not have hired Phil for the job at all let alone pay him a salary of that caliber…but he did. Now all eyes are now on Dolan looking to see his next move and every decision after. He recently had talks with former Cavaliers GM David Griffin to replace Phil Jackson although negotiations fell through because Dolan would not allow Griffin to hire his own team nor make any basketball related decisions. Griffin knew all that was wrong with the front office of the Knicks and wanted to replace them all and that is where negotiations ended. Dolan is botching this search for a new GM as it seems that he’s comfortable allowing Steve Mills make the plays even though the Knicks have not made the playoffs in the ten years that Mills has worked for them (2003-09 and 2013-17). Only somebody like Dolan would pass on the opportunity to hire a GM who constructed the Cavaliers team that has been in the NBA Finals each of the past 3 seasons coming away with a championship in 2016.
After the negotiations fell through, the Knicks decided to turn their focus from hiring a GM and acquiring free agents to trading Carmelo Anthony in search of acquiring a multitude of players including a veteran point guard to take the rookie Frank Ntilikina under their wing and help ease his transition into the NBA. Hopefully this does not take long to accomplish for the fans’ sake. For the Knicks to only make seldom moves throughout this offseason after an abysmal season that held high expectations, it is obvious the front office is in no hurry to turn the franchise around. To be located in the Mecca of the sport, with some of the best fans in all of sports, they should turn up the level of urgency to change the culture within the franchise. The fans deserve better. the fans deserve an owner with more passion and love for the sport.