I recently read a piece online by a 76ers fan, defending Philly’s choice to tank this season. In it, he argued that tanking is the only mechanism of protecting smaller-market teams from being doomed to permanent mediocrity. The idea is that certain teams, such as the Lakers or the Celtics, have certain intrinsic advantages (in that they have the capacity to generate more revenue and therefore afford to pay more for their players) and that the only thing that afford small market teams any ability to contend is their ability to tank and therefore get high draft picks, which often (although as Kwame Brown will tell you, not always) translates to having stars. Obviously this doesn’t make the playing field 100% level, as the Celtics’ and Lakers’ 33 combined championships show, but it at least helps.
(Here’s the piece: http://www.libertyballers.com/2014/3/18/5521818/john-rawls-inequality-and-the-ethics-of-tanking-jabari-parker-andrew-wiggins-politics. I highly suggest reading it if you have time.)
In general I agreed with the author, but couldn’t help but notice one major exception to the idea that larger-market teams with strong followings generally win more championships: the New York Knicks, who haven’t won since 1973. At first I was puzzled, but I think I’ve got it figured out now: the reason the Knicks are bad is that they are so afraid to be bad. Even with the intrinsic advantages that teams like the Knicks have, they still have to tank sometimes. In fact, this very year, the Celtics and Lakers themselves have much worse records than the Knicks. The Knicks still seem to have it in their head that it is possible to be good every year, and that is exactly why they are never that good. They consistently trade away draft picks for players, effectively mortgaging their future to try to stay afloat from season to season. This policy hurts more this year than most, with what is supposed to be one of the best draft classes in a while coming up. As a Knicks fan, I would much rather the Knicks just retain their draft picks and be bad for a little while, than continue to scratch and claw their way into low playoff seeds that obviously won’t translate into legitimate title contention.
So to conclude, a message to Knicks management: Seriously, just be bad. Let Melo go. Don’t make any huge signings. Retain some cap space. Let Toure Murry and Jeremy Tyler play. Keep your draft picks. I know it can be painful to lose a lot of games in a season, but I promise you’ll forget all about those losses when we hear Adam Silver announce on draft day that the next big thing will be coming to New York.