With a massively bloated payroll, a losing record and a recent history of questionable moves, the New York Knicks are an easy target for NBA critics. Goodness knows, I've exhausted more harsh words about the Knicks' operation than about any other team the past couple of years. It's perplexing: How can an organization with the ingrained cultural and economic advantages that go with playing in the so-called “mecca of basketball” go four decades without a championship?
Although it's true that the Knicks enjoy a bit of an edge by playing in New York, it's even more true that, in the NBA, there is no substitute for careful planning and smart management. Teams that throw money at their problems generally fail, at least when the excess is practiced without the benefit of a logical underlying blueprint. Too often, the Knicks collected names instead of building teams, and too often that strategy has failed.
It seemed the cycle had been broken a half-decade ago, when former general manager Donnie Walsh cleaned house and scrubbed the payroll, which in turn led to the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony just under three years ago. But, lo and behold, after the franchise's best season in years in 2012-13, here the Knicks are again -- capped out and going nowhere.
It gets worse: Anthony, the end product of Walsh's rebuilding and greatest hope for New York's return to NBA prominence, can opt out of his contract after the season. But if the Knicks manage to hang on to Anthony, they might not have the flexibility to upgrade a roster that might not even be playoff-worthy, much less in the championship conversation.
But we know all of this already, so today we grudgingly put on Steve Mills' hat as the Knicks' current GM-on-the-spot and attempt to chart a course leading out of New York's current quagmire.