In early April, it didn’t seem to be that big of a deal, but the New York Knicks did something foolish: They won back-to-back games on the road.
On April 11, the Knicks beat Orlando 80-79 thanks to a late Tim Hardaway 3-pointer, and 19 points and 14 rebounds from Cole Aldrich.
Two nights later, the Knicks – who had been tanking all season, essentially from December – stunned the #1 seed in the East, Atlanta, 112-108. The Hawks were nearly at full strength, starting four regulars (Paul Millsap missed the game). The Knicks shot 52 percent on 3-pointers, and undrafted rookie Langston Galloway, seen celebrating above, scored 26 points (6-for-6 on three-pointers).
An eternal optimist viewed the meaningless wins as building blocks – young guys getting quality minutes and picking up pivotal experience.
NBA realists knew the two wins were disastrous: The team jockeying with New York for the worst record in the NBA was Minnesota. The Timberwolves lost their final 12 games of the season and “passed” the Knicks to “earn” the worst record in the league.
New York finished 17-65. Minnesota finished 16-66.
Five weeks later, they’ve been rewarded: The Timberwolves won the NBA Draft lottery and will have the 1st pick in June’s draft. The Knicks? Those two wins “helped” them fall to 4th, meaning they’ll miss out on potential franchise players like Jahlil Okafor and Karl Anthony Towns.
The Knicks could have certainly used a low-post building block, but hey, they have Cole Aldrich! Instead, they’ll likely decide between guards Emmanuel Mudiay and Justise Winslow, or take a gamble on 7-foot-1 forward Kristaps Porzingis from Lativia, a 19-year old who is being called a much more athletic Dirk Nowitzki.
You can be sure Knicks fans, who have had to deal with Andrea Bargnani for the last couple years, will not be happy if that’s the direction the franchise goes.
Phil Jackson is probably already on the phone trying to trade the pick.
Either way, it’s going to be a long summer in Gotham for Carmelo Anthony.