Heading into the offseason, the New York Knicks were frequently mentioned as a potential landing spot for some of the NBA‘s top free agents; guys like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Kawhi Leonard. Ultimately though, the Knicks whiffed on the top-tier players and were forced to construct a less star-studded roster.
Though the Knicks front office has put on a brave face since free agency and acted as though they weren’t bothered by being spurned by the league’s elite, the opposite is apparently true. According to a report from The Athletic, the Knicks brass was “stunned and depressed” when they learned that Durant and Irving would both be signing with New York’s other NBA team.
Following an abysmal 2018-19 campaign, the Knicks had also hoped to land the top pick in the ’19 Draft in order to select Zion Williamson. However, the ping-pong balls didn’t bounce in their favor, as they ended up with the third pick in the draft and thus had to settle for Williamson’s teammate at Duke R.J. Barrett.
From The Athletic:
“The Knicks dream scenario last spring following a 17-win season was to win the Draft Lottery and select Zion. They had the best chance but the NBA’s revised lottery system had other ideas as New Orleans defied the odds.
When free agency approached, the Knicks were optimistic that the worst season in franchise history would be saved by Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant coming to the Garden. The two marquee free agents also had other ideas and chose the Brooklyn Nets.
While the Knicks have spun this notion that they didn’t want meetings with either player — as well as Kawhi Leonard — a team source insists that management was ‘stunned and depressed’ when they learned that Irving and Durant picked the other team in town.”
For what it’s worth, Durant admitted recently that he did consider signing with the Knicks, but not very heavily.
“I thought about it, yeah, just a thought,”. “But I didn’t really do any deep, full analysis on the Knicks.”
Durant then went on to explain that a lack of perceived coolness was hurting the Knicks’ ability to land free agents.
“It’s hard to get the best players to play here,” Durant said. “It’s hard … I think a lot of fans look at the Knicks as a brand and expect these younger players who, in their lifetime, don’t remember the Knicks being good. I didn’t grow up with the Knicks. I’ve seen the Knicks in the Finals, but kids coming up after me didn’t see that. So that whole brand of the Knicks to them is not as cool as, let’s say, the Golden State Warriors or even the Lakers or the Nets now… It’s like the cool thing right now is not the Knicks,”
Landing Durant – and/or Irving – obviously would have provided a big boost to a long dormant Knicks franchise, but perhaps they can still learn something from getting spurned, and Durant’s subsequent comments: if you built an organization the right way, by employing a competent front office and coaching staff, grooming young talent and making smart moves, good players will be interested in the organization. This concept has eluded the Knicks for the past couple of decades, but perhaps they can get back on the right track moving forward.