Throughout the 1990s the New York Knicks were a constant presence in the NBA playoffs, although they failed to turn their ubiquity in the post-season into a championship.
The Knicks were beaten twice in the NBA Finals over the course of the decade, first losing to the Houston Rockets where they allowed a 3-2 lead to slip. Five years later, the club were brushed aside with ease by the San Antonio Spurs – the first of Gregg Popovich’s five titles.
Since then, New York have known nothing but failure and a lack of stability in the organisation, with seven permanent head coaches having come and gone since Van Gundy’s departure in the 2001-02 campaign.
Former Chicago Bulls head coach Phil Jackson was brought to New York in an attempt to provide direction at the top as team president. However, the improvement in the Knicks’ fortunes has only been marginal, and they are currently on their second head coach under Jackson’s tenure.
Jeff Hornacek is currently on the sideline following the firing of Derek Fisher last year, although his future is far from certain due to the team’s performances this term as the club are on pace to miss the playoffs for the fourth season on the bounce.
It would take a remarkable late surge in the current campaign for the Knicks to secure a post-season berth and even a bigger surprise to win the Eastern Conference, with the club backed in the latest bet365 NBA betting odds at +20000 to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 1999.
At the start of the season that suggestion could have well have been a possibility. The Knicks made serious moves to bolster their roster with talent following their 32-50 record in the 2015-16 term, not only in a desperate attempt to become a force in at least the Atlanta Division, but also to appease star man Carmelo Anthony.
2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose was traded to the Knicks in a multi-player deal from the Chicago Bulls, while two-time All-Star Joakim Noah penned a four-year contract after leaving the Windy City during free agency.
The additions appeared to have some effect early in the campaign as the Knicks started well enough, hovering in and around the .500 mark, which would have left them in contention for a playoff place had they maintained that level of form.
New York’s offense has been playoff calibre with Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Rose enjoying solid seasons, although both of their star men are far from the peak of their powers. The club’s main issue has been their defense, which has allowed 108 points per game this term and been further exposed by a shoulder injury to Noah – whose presence has undoubtedly been missed on the court.
Their collapse in the second half of the season has been alarming and could signal the death knell for Hornacek, given that his team fell from 16-13 to 21-29 in the space of a month. The Knicks won just five out of a possible 21 matches between Christmas and the end of January, dispelling any notion of them competing for at least a mid-seed in the playoffs.
Rose and Anthony will need to roll back the years and have excellent support in around them, but even that might not be enough to bridge the five-game gap to the final post-season spot, extending the Knicks’ playoff drought and further highlighting the club’s decline.