- Ian O'Connor, ESPN Senior Writer
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New York Knicks fans, you do not deserve this, and they most certainly do not deserve you. In a league that sends more than half its teams to the postseason, the Knicks have given you one playoff series victory since Patrick Ewing was traded in 2000. One.
Only you keep coming back for more. Why? Because New York is a great basketball town, and Madison Square Garden is a great basketball building, and you are great basketball fans, that's why. Secretariat had finished off one leg of his Triple Crown the last time you saw a Knicks parade, but hey, you don't ask for much.
You just want a little hope (real or imagined), some spirited defense and the kind of ball-sharing Red Holzman might've drawn up on his chalkboard. Oh, and for the extreme prices you pay, you also ask that the team doesn't embarrass itself, or you, and devolve into what Carmelo Anthony called his Knicks in December.
The laughingstock of the league.
No, Raymond Felton getting arrested on gun charges isn't a laughing matter, especially when reports said the unregistered Belgian-made pistol was loaded when turned over to police by Felton's estranged wife, and that the point guard had used it to threaten her. Felton appeared in court Tuesday evening and was hit with an order to stay away from his wife before being released on $25,000 bail. Before this is all over, he could find out he picked the wrong city in which to play fast and loose with a firearm.
So it isn't funny that Felton might become the first New York athlete to ruin his career with a gun since Plaxico Burress, who blew up the Giants' plans of a two-peat championship in 2008 by accidentally blowing a hole through his leg in a nightclub. It isn't funny that the consequences of Felton's alleged recklessness here could've resulted in something far more serious than a potential prison term.
But that doesn't mean the Knicks aren't a complete joke. Hours before Felton turned himself in to police, J.R. Smith -- the pre-Felton face of Knicks dysfunction -- tugged on Vince Carter's headband during the team's last-second loss to Dallas. The same J.R. Smith who had been fined for tugging on other opponents' shoelaces, who had been suspended five games for a drug offense, and who had been rewarded by his primary enabler, Mike Woodson, in the wake of one insubordinate act after another.
The same J.R. Smith who, like Felton, has had a miserable season on the floor.
Sure, the Knicks gave it the old college try against the Mavericks on Monday night before succumbing to Dirk Nowitzki's lucky bounce, losing for the eighth time in 10 tries. Only here's the thing: The Mavericks were playing their third road game in four nights, and were coming off a free night under the bright lights of Manhattan. Even bad Knicks teams are supposed to win at home in that situation.
And the Knicks are bad, really, really bad. They are 21-36 overall, 12-19 at the Garden, and six games out of the eighth seed in a dreadful conference. Worse yet, in the likely event they miss the playoffs, the Knicks will ensure that the first-round pick they sent to Denver in the Anthony trade becomes a lottery pick in a deep draft.
Yet none of this is Melo's fault. He's never missed the playoffs as a pro, and his most recent performance -- 44 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists -- is fairly indicative of the kind of season he's having. Anthony brings it every night, and it doesn't matter. Felton and Smith can't make a shot, Tyson Chandler doesn't defend like he used to, and the roster is so flawed that the Knicks would buy out another half dozen players beyond Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih if they could.
Glen Grunwald was fired by Jim Dolan after better complementary pieces, including Jason Kidd, helped lead the Knicks to a 54-win season and that first-round victory over Boston, and in retrospect the move should make some sense. Grunwald is the executive who pieced together much of this roster, after all, the roster that might lose 50 games. But at the time of the firing, Dolan thought these Knicks had the makings of a championship team. Really, he did.
And what other organization in pro sports would've signed up for Steve Mills the Sequel after the original was such a smash hit at the box office? Only Dolan's Knicks would do that, and also weaken their appointed head coach, Woodson, the year before by encouraging him to dump his agent for a representative the Garden is far more comfy with.
Woodson succeeded Mike D'Antoni with a stronger emphasis on defense, and with an oft-stated plan to hold his players accountable for their actions. But is it any wonder that the Knicks were so quick to tune out Woodson in Year 2, following a successful Year 1, after seeing him do next to nothing whenever a significant player messed up? Is it any wonder that Woodson was left to make a punching bag of poor Udrih the way D'Antoni was left to scream at another Knick who couldn't hit back, Landry Fields?
Here's a better question: How in the world does Carmelo Anthony return to this? He's been in New York three-plus seasons and pretty soon he'll be working on his third head coach and his fourth GM, from Donnie Walsh to Grunwald to Mills to whichever basketball guy Mills hands the team to. If David Stern were still on the job, surely he would confess to the free agent-to-be Melo that the Knicks are "not a model of intelligent management."
They'll have to manage this Felton arrest, anyway, and good luck with that. No matter what anyone thought of Dolan's decision to pick Felton over Jeremy Lin in the summer of 2012, understand that the owner made the choice personal, and that the bad karma on the back end doesn't exactly come as a surprise.
Before Felton was charged on the gun offenses, Anthony called his own exceptional play "pointless," which bring us back to you, New York Knicks fans. Is it pointless for you, too, the time and energy you devote to this team? As Melo asked himself, is it worth it?
You deserve a lot better than this, that's for sure. The losing, the dysfunction, the embarrassment ... how much more of it can you take?
Today it was Raymond Felton in a courtroom, tomorrow it will be who knows what. And through it all, if this serves as any consolation, New York remains a great basketball town for one reason -- you. The fans. The loyal, knowledgeable, hopeful customers.
The people who ask so little from their basketball team, and get much less in return.