It’s only been a week and change since the NBA finals ended, but it feels like a lifetime. Since, the NBA offseason has come roaring in — draft pick swaps! Trade demands! Firings and grumblings! — causing fans to nearly forget all about the shiny championship rings the mighty and powerful Golden State Warriors just won.
That is a beautiful thing, for the most part. As The Ringer’s Jason Concepcion writes, the offseason is “the NBA as pure narrative, without the burdensome toil of games and winners and losers to dim the fun.” The Warriors are the monolith; their dominance should be extinguishing hope league wide. But right now, with each scant, manic bit of transaction gossip, any given team can dream. In the NBA offseason, hope springs eternal.
I say “a beautiful thing, for the most part” because of one soupcon of news that’s hard to believe. According to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the New York Knicks are actually fielding trade offers for their wunderkind, Kristaps Porzingis. Adds Woj, “To that possibility, Jackson had a dinner meeting with Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen on Monday night in New York ... Jackson considers Markkanen, a 7-foot jump-shooting forward, a replacement for Porzingis and is considering selecting him with the team’s No. 8 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.”
This, frankly, is fucked up. Word of bad blood between Phil Jackson — an all-time great coach turned maddeningly middling front office exec — and KP has been burbling since the end of the regular season, when the young man skipped town back to Latvia without sitting for the traditional exit interview. It was assumed to be Kristap’s way of quietly criticizing the team’s perma-dysfunction. (I mean, who really knows. Maybe he was just trying to avoid the particular garbage odor of summertime NYC). And apparently, the team has done nothing to reheat relations: no Knick representative has spoken with Porzingis since he left.
Speaking with ESPN on Tuesday, Kristap’s brother Janis offered a little grab bag of veiled shots and peace-making: "Despite how the Knicks are treating their players, Kris wants to stay in New York. He loves the city and he loves the fans and he wants to win with this team. If he's going to be traded, he's going to play out his contract and decide his future on his own."
When Porzings was drafted by the Knicks in 2015, he was an unknown European, seemingly doomed for self-destruction in the greatest city in the world. Instead, one putback dunk and incongruously smooth jumper at a time, he made it his own. The fans, so long starved, righteously fell in love.
One of the great things about a polyglot place like New York is there’s no one model for legend status. Just within the Knicks fine history, the designation swings between the preposterously dapper Clyde Frazier to the eternally sleep-deprived Jeff Van Gundy. Outside the Garden, we got everything from Rosie Perez to Richard Price, from Kenneth Lonergan to the Montauk Monster, from Fiorello La Guardia to the great Prodigy (RIP). A 7’3” Latvian who dunks hard and loves trap music fits right in.
Phil! We say this with all the sympathy in the world. What the hell are you doing?