Last Friday, the New York Knicks did one of the Knicksiest things ever, which is saying quite a bit. On the day they trimmed their roster down heading into the regular season, they handed the 15th and final roster spot to Chris Smith, the undeserving brother of J.R., a decision made with nothing but nepotism and corporate interests in mind.
Knicks Twitter exploded after the cuts were announced, and who could blame them? The Knicks’ fanbase is knowledgeable and saw right through the B.S.: the team had made a mockery of one of its 15 valuable roster spots. Not to mention the fact that the Knicks actually have a recent, successful track record unearthing talent at the furthest end of their bench (see Lin, Jeremy and Copeland, Chris). On that hand, it’s understandable that Knicks fans feel cheated. On a practical sense, however, it likely doesn’t matter much in the long run. Throughout the preseason, the candidate that emerged as the next “End of bench diamond in the rough” was Toure Murry, and he made the squad. Smith’s inclusion meant that either Ike Diogu or Jeremy Tyler were left out, and while the Knicks could use front court help, it’s not likely that either would have made a real impact (they did keep big man Cole Aldrich, for what that’s worth). Frankly, if the Knicks are sitting around in say, February, and wishing they had Ike Diogu, things probably aren’t going too well.
But a lot of Knicks fans are so disenfranchised at this point that the on-court aspect of the move doesn’t really matter. Even the most knowledgeable, those who don’t think Ike Diogu was all of a sudden turning into an in-prime Charles Barkley, dislike the move because it further validates the idea that the organization doesn’t truly care about winning. The Knicks aren’t a basketball team, they’re an entertainment company run by a spoiled brat who wants to placate his corporate buddies and keep the money flowing. Whether this is a narrative that’s been pushed by the media or it’s entirely true, nobody really knows (except those deep inside the walls of MSG, and despite what you may think, Frank Isola or Stephen A. Smith aren’t among them). It’s probably a mix of both; the Knicks/CAA partnership is seemingly dead obvious, but at the same time the Knicks employ a lot of players who aren’t CAA clients. If it was such a crucial partnership, nothing more than a corporate scheme, wouldn’t they have more?
Either way, the fact that these types of conversations are had, that these questions are asked, that fans wonder about crap like this is kind of the whole point. Fans of a sports team should never care about what agency a player is represented by. They shouldn’t have to worry about the possibility of a former disgraced coach and executive lurking in the shadows making back room decisions as a de-facto general manager. But Knicks fans do worry about these things, and it’s especially easy to concentrate on them when there aren’t actual basketball proceedings to digest.
As a fan, though, I feel it’s important to separate the business from the games – even if one affects the other. Every single sports franchise in the world is a business. Do the Knicks make it more obvious than most that it’s about money? Sure, and that quite frankly sucks. But on Wednesday the Knicks tip off their 2013-14 season with a game against the Milwaukee Bucks. I’m going to root my face off for the Knicks because I root for the colors. When I watch the 82 regular season and however many playoff games, I don’t worry about what player is with what agency. I don’t worry about the dollars and cents, but the points on the scoreboard at the end of the 48 minutes. And if Wednesday’s game comes down to a last-second shot by Carmelo Anthony, whether or not it goes in has nothing to do with Leon Rose, Worldwide Wes or Creative Artists Agency. It has to do with Carmelo Anthony, who I root for because he’s a Knick, and will stop rooting for the day he wears another jersey or retires.
If the Knicks miraculously win a title this season, that means James Dolan won, too. And you know what? I’ll take that, as awful as a JD and The Straight Shot celebration concert might be. They probably won’t though, and then we’ll have to endure another off-season with free agency, trades, perhaps a coaching change, all stuff that will bring the shady things happening behind the scenes at MSG back into focus. But for now we’ve got at least 82 games to watch before all that, and I’m going to enjoy them as much as I possibly can. Not thinking about what’s up Dolan’s sleeve makes that a lot easier.