NEW ORLEANS — No way around it. 2017 was a flaming dumpster village for the Knicks.
Phil Jackson re-emphasized his triangle, feuded with Carmelo Anthony, tried to trade Kristaps Porzingis and was fired. Anthony was shipped to OKC and characterized his end with the Knicks as a “Walk Through Hell.” Derrick Rose went AWOL. Charles Oakley was dragged out of MSG in cuffs. Joakim Noah soaked in two surgeries, a PED suspension and roughly one-fourth of a $ 72 million contract. The fact that the Knicks only went 33-52 in 2017 is somehow an afterthought.
The good news: All this disappointment makes it easier to turn the page and focus on the New Year. So here are four suggested goals for the Knicks, who fittingly start 2018 with a record of 18-18 a clean slate of 18s for ’18:
1. ACTUALLY PRACTICE THE PATIENCE YOU’VE PREACHED
There’s been no indication that the new front office tandem of Scott Perry and Steve Mills will abandon their plan to build slowly. But we’ve heard this before from other regimes and success or failure can lead to hasty decisions. Those can include a shortsighted roster move or firing a coach.
2. KEEP BUILDING AROUND PORZINGIS
He’s still inconsistent, but the Latvian is the best thing the Knicks have going for them. Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict injuries, but the 22-year-old seems to have learned from the last two seasons how to safely apply himself. He detailed the process on Friday: “For me it’s extremely important to get my recovery every day, every hour, every treatment. And I lift weights. I lift weights every day. That’s the key for me to stay healthy and to feel good on the court. Obviously this year is much tougher on me than the previous two seasons, but I think with all the things I’m doing that’s helping me a lot to stay on the court and also I think mentally I think it’s a little easier to push yourself through little things when something’s hurting.”
3. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT DRAFT PICK
That doesn’t mean tank. Do not tank. But do the due diligence on this draft because the pick will probably be the only real way to upgrade the roster in the summer. Phil Jackson wasn’t exactly a grinder when it came to scouting prospects, but he still deserves credit for drafting Porzingis. Word is Perry has already attended college games and is taking a very close look at all the potential picks, poring over game films. That’s a good sign.
4. FIND SPEED AND ATHLETICISM
As referenced, the Knicks don’t have many avenues to roster improvement. Cap space in the summer of 2018 will probably be close to zero. But however the Knicks are capable of improving, the focus should be on acquiring players who can play uptempo and aggressive. It’s what they’re missing, more than anything. Jeff Hornacek wants to play faster, Porzingis would benefit from playing faster, and yet Tim Hardaway Jr. (who is out with a stress injury) is the only Knick really suited to push that type of pace.