Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Moments after the original NBA Draft Lottery, back when the basketball gods or conspiracy or whatever you want to believe gifted Patrick Ewing to the Knicks, Dave DeBusschere talked about how antsy he got before it all played out.
"I couldn't listen to the commissioner; I was very nervous," the then-Knicks exec said on the television broadcast.
Sound like a familiar feeling, Knicks fans? Can't blame you if you're experiencing another sensation, too -- painful twinges in the stomach. That's probably your favorite team's checkered lottery history kicking you in the gut.
Sure, it was all glory in 1985, when one of the Best Knicks Ever came to Madison Square Garden. DeBusschere described the Knicks as "very delighted" and had brought a No. 33 jersey pegged for Ewing to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. "I think everyone knows who our No. 1 pick is going to be," DeBusschere added.
But Ewing was a Knicks fixture a long, long time ago. He hasn't been a Knick since 2000, gone nearly 20 years.
And while this year's lottery, which sorts itself out on Tuesday, holds the promise of drafting Duke's Zion Williamson at No. 1 -- this draft's Ewing -- it also looms as just another installment of disappointment for the folks who flock to the World's Most Famous Arena.
Since Ewing was the prize, the lottery hasn't been kind to the Knicks. They have either remained in the slot their record dictated or fallen in the draft. They've watched superstars go elsewhere, traded picks, drafted duds and even selected someone specifically for a system, only to have that system's guru depart not long afterward.
And the Knicks' timing couldn't have been worse to be the worst: They were 17-65 last season, but changes to the lottery system, give them only a 14% chance to get the No. 1 pick, same as the Suns and Cavaliers. If the Knicks had the worst record a season earlier, they would've had a 25% chance of getting the top spot.
Ewing will be the Knicks' rep at the lottery, a clear attempt to inject mojo into the team's Tryin' for Zion hopes. Hopefully for the Knicks, Ewing is bringing DeBusschere's famed horseshoe to Chicago for added luck. Maybe he's even watched YouTube clips of the fist pump DeBusschere unleashed after he knew he'd landed Ewing.
Will Patrick be able to unleash his big grin after getting No. 1 news? The Knicks sure need it -- Williamson would be a tremendous addition to the max free agents the team hopes to add in a frenzied summer.
Or maybe the No. 1 pick would help them pry Anthony Davis away from New Orleans in a trade? Either way, getting the top spot is vital to a team needing a makeover as badly as the Knicks, especially since most agree that Williamson is a clear No. 1, no matter how much you like Ja Morant's all-around game.
If they do get Williamson, expect a cacophony of conspiracy theories, much like the frozen envelope or bent corner charges that sprouted after the Knicks landed Ewing. If they don't, well, this draft could be another lost lottery for the Knicks.
Remember those? There's a few.
They took Kenny "Sky" Walker fifth in 1986 and while his leaping ability lived up to his moniker, he was not an impact player. In 1987, they had traded what became the No. 5 pick to Seattle in a deal for Gerald Henderson and the No. 18 pick, which they used to select Mark Jackson. Seattle took Scottie Pippen at No. 5 and then traded him to the Bulls. Let that sink in.
In 2002, they picked Nene Hilario at No. 7, but then used him in the Antonio McDyess trade. At No. 9 in '03, the Knicks took Michael Sweetney, who lasted two of his four undistinguished NBA seasons at the Garden. Channing Frye was the eighth pick in 2005 and was dealt two years later. They swapped their 2006 and 2007 picks to the Bulls in the Eddy Curry deal and those picks later became LaMarcus Aldridge and Joakim Noah.
In 2008, they took Danilo Gallinari sixth, one pick after Kevin Love had been drafted. But they later used him as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade. In 2009, the Knicks hoped Steph Curry would fall to them at No. 8, but the Warriors took the Davidson star one pick earlier and the Knicks were left with Jordan Hill. Their 2010 pick was part of the Stephon Marbury trade and the picks in '14 and '16 were part of the convoluted 'Melo deal.
In 2015, the Knicks dropped two spots from second, but that turned out OK -- Kristaps Porzingis was there, though he heard boos from some Knicks fans on draft night.
In 2017, they took Frank Ntilikina in part because he'd fit snugly into the Triangle. But that offense's mastermind, Phil Jackson, split with the Knicks, so that Triangle might as well be in Bermuda. Ntilikina seems like a project and every Knick fan seems to remember they could've taken Donovan Mitchell, who went 13th, five picks after Ntilikina.
Last draft, the Knicks chose ninth and took Kevin Knox, who showed scoring chops, but also shot only 37% from the floor.
We'll see what happens this year. The worst the Knicks can do is fall to fifth overall, which might sound better than it actually is, considering the prize waiting at No. 1. That's the kind of frustration Knicks fans are used to by now.
But maybe Ewing gets to echo what DeBusschere said back in 1985, when the lottery helped change the Knicks: "It's just a wonderful thing, having the No. 1 pick."