The Knicks sure have a funny way of firing up their fan base.
Maybe you think $71 million is a gross overpay for Tim Hardaway Jr. Maybe you fret there will come a time in the next few years when the Knicks might covet a star and won’t have enough salary-cap room to entice him to the Garden. Maybe you think Hardaway is precisely the piece that will make the Knicks just good enough to stay out of a prime lottery spot, and just bad enough to ensure a lousy one.
In other words: Maybe you’re like most of the folks about town who’ve spent the last few days scratching their heads at this puzzling transaction.
But you know who likes this deal – who, you would think (you would hope) – LOVES this deal? The men who run the Knicks. The owner, James Dolan, who approved the expenditure. The Acting Boss, Steve Mills, who negotiated the deal and brought Hardaway back home. The coach, Jeff Hornacek, who has been paroled from the Triangle Penitentiary and who must figure out how to maximize his new asset.
None of them were at the press conference at Baruch College introducing Hardaway. How is this possible? These are the days that team presidents and head coaches are supposed to live for. You know the newest cliché in sports, right?
“Win the press conference.”
Everyone wins the press conference. Hell, even Phil Jackson won the press conference last summer, on the day he introduced Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings. It was one of the few times, one of the last times, when we saw the version of Jackson we were promised the day he was hired (the Knicks definitely won the press conference THAT day). He didn’t win much of anything else in his time here, but he absolutely won that press conference.
Even a franchise so paralyzed by press paranoia as the Knicks has to realize that, at minimum, there is curiosity attached to Hardaway’s signing. And, yes: The fact that David Griffin turned down the team’s overtures to become GM certainly would have been asked, but any reasonably competent organization embraces that, too, understanding it’s one setting in which you can control even hard-to-rationalize decisions.
Instead, the Knicks punted. We can speculate why, of course, starting with what has long been the team’s motto: “It’s none of your business.” Maybe Dolan doesn’t trust Mills to serve as a spokesman yet, which is only troubling if you consider that he DID entrust him with throwing a pile of money at a shooting guard with a career field-goal percentage of .427.
Wait … is that an unfair statistic to point out? Is it an unfair point to make that the Hawks, who know Hardaway better than anyone, couldn’t have run away faster or further from the offer sheet the Knicks threw at him? Is it unfair to point out that Mills, who made this decision, either stood by and whistled the last three years as Rome burned, or actually held a Zippo lighter himself?
Well, then tell us we’re wrong.
Refute our negativity. Dispute our cynicism.
Or do what you did: Hide in your offices, under your desks, unwilling (or unable) to defend this decision, not even finding it remotely worthwhile to celebrate something that you clearly deem worth celebrating.
You know how many of the other 121 teams in the four major professional sports would have responded this way?
(And because the hockey half of Dolan’s brain usually understands the right thing to do, when the Rangers signed Kevin Shattenkirk there was a conference call and – what a concept! – GM Jeff Gorton was on it. So the answer is: zero.)
Poor Hardaway. On his first day as a Knick he was forced to speak about Carmelo Anthony, as if he has the slightest idea what’s going to happen with him. He was forced to defend his new salary, and his willingness to play defense. This was supposed to be one of the best days of his professional life, and none of his bosses could be bothered to show up.
What a bunch.
“You play here for two years, then you’re gone, then two years later you get a phone call,” Hardaway said. “Wow, like, I wouldn’t expect it coming from them.”
You know, neither would we. Let’s ask someone, anyone in charge what they were thinking with that. Someone? Anyone? Anyone?