A Culture Change in the Mecca of Basketball: Are the Knicks Up Next?


New York is often referred to as “the mecca of basketball,” so it seems fitting that it would live up to that title with a good NBA team year after year, right? Well if you thought the answer would be yes, you are awfully mistaken.

The New York Knicks in the past four seasons have combined to win a mere total of 109 games, while the Golden State Warriors have won an astounding 125 games in just two seasons. Recently, the Knicks have been a laughing stock of the NBA. New York has all the tools to put out a great team: the most passionate fans, the most famous arena in the world (MSG), and a huge market to attract players.

So what’s the problem? Why can’t the Knicks seem to figure it out? The solution is building a culture in which a clear plan is laid out for the franchise. This way, fans can rally behind the direction of the team and the core that the team builds. A formula being used by many teams successfully is building through the draft, developing players, and sprinkling in those big name free agents (players you are able to sign during the offseason).

You see other franchises have implemented this technique and have found great success. For example, the Celtics have tons of home grown talent such as Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart. Then they went out and brought in big time stars such as Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Another example of a team following this formula is the Philadelphia 76ers. With the home grown talent in the likes of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, and Dario Saric, they paired that with the veteran signings of JJ Redick and Marco Belinelli. Yes, both these teams have matched the formula of building through the draft to develop talent and pairing that with free agent pickups, but the major component that starts this process is the culture.

This day in age in the NBA, culture is everything. Having a toxic clubhouse with selfish players is detrimental to a team’s success. Both the Celtics and 76ers have players who have created a positive atmosphere with the city, fans, and the coaches. In addition, the management and coaches need to contribute significantly in this process as they need to make the players believe and buy into this system.

Shifting back to the Knicks, a major culture shift has recently occurred over the summer. With the hiring of David Fizdale, a coach who players love to play for and work hard for was a major step in changing the culture. Also, Scott Perry and Steve Mills (Friends Academy alumni) have made it very clear that the Knicks primary focus is developing the young talent such as Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, and Allonzo Trier. To add, Perry and Mills have also cleared up tons of cap room to be able to sign that superstar free agent in 2019. The correct formula is being followed here and it all started with the culture change.

Thankfully there is once again a certain buzz surrounding the New York Knicks heading into the upcoming season. I do not expect the Knicks to contend, maybe the 8th seed is reasonable; however, a clear plan is in place that the fans can rally behind. I expect in the upcoming seasons that the Knicks will indeed snag one of the top free agents, whether they do it in 2019 or 2020. If the Knicks develop their players the right way and be aggressive in the off-season, the Knicks could very well be serious contenders for the NBA title in 2020 and beyond.