The New York Knicks struggled to mount a successful charge for the post-season in the 2016-17 campaign, falling short for the fourth term on the bounce.
Phil Jackson opted to fall on his sword following a disastrous run as head of basketball operations for the past three years, failing to produce the magic that he inspired to the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers when he won 11 Championships as their head coach.
Jeff Hornacek was appointed by Jackson as the club’s third head coach in as many years in a bid to return to the Knicks to the playoffs, but they took a step back in his first term, winning one fewer contest than the 2015-16 season.
New York were unable to make progress, despite a heavy outlay on new players. Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee were signed to lucrative deals during free agency, while the club traded to acquire the services of former league MVP Derrick Rose from the Bulls.
The Knicks made a decent start to the season and were in contention for a playoff place at the turn of the year, but their form in 2017 was disastrous and saw them slide out of the reckoning, leaving them 10 wins off the pace by the end of the campaign.
The departure of Jackson should allow the Knicks to rebuild and try to rebuild their roster with a focus on youth rather than injury-prone veterans, but there could be further strife ahead for the club before their situation improves.
The Knicks were handed a raw deal on the opening day of the season, facing off against the reigning champions – the Cleveland Cavaliers – on the day they would drop their title banner at the Quicken Loans Arena. They were hammered in the contest as Kyrie Irving scored 29 points in a comfortable victory for the Cavs on home soil.
However, New York were able to bounce back in their second game, defeating the Memphis Grizzlies as Carmelo Anthony and Noah delivered fine performances to guide their side to their first win. Two defeats on the bounce followed the victory, but Kristaps Porzingis found his range with a 27-point outing against the Bulls at the United Center.
A run of five victories in six matches highlighted the quality of the roster as Porzingis and Anthony thrived in and around the net, with the latter putting in an outstanding display to lift his team past the Charlotte Hornets in overtime, notching 35 points and 14 rebounds.
December began extremely well for the Knicks, reeling off five wins in their opening six matches and their only defeat coming at the hands of the Cavaliers. Anthony and Porzingis continued to operate at a high level, while Rose began to click into gear. Porzingis enjoyed one of his finest moments of the term to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers, scoring 26 points and collecting 12 rebounds.
Towards the end of the month the wheels began to come off the Knicks’ season, with the club freefalling from 14-10 to 16-17, which would send them on a spiral of negative momentum in the second half of the campaign that cost them a place in the playoffs.
Hornacek’s men started 2017 with a poor outing on soil, suffering a 12-point defeat to the Orlando Magic as their star men failed to fire in and around the basket. The Milwaukee Bucks were the next outfit to leave Madison Square Garden with a victory, edging out the Knicks by a single point.
Anthony ensured that his side avenged their defeat in the return fixture two days later, claiming victory at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. However, a run of three defeats on the bounce halted any potential positive momentum, including a one-point loss at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers.
A victory over the Boston Celtics was a rare high point for New York in January, with Rose enjoying a rare scoring spree in the final third of the court. The Knicks were not able to string together wins to get themselves back into contention even though Anthony put in a heroic 45-pointer in an overtime defeat to the Atlanta Hawks at the Philips Arena.
A four-game losing streak at the beginning of February marked the beginning of the end for Knicks’ playoff hopes, although an impressive victory over the San Antonio Spurs broke the run of losses.
Guillermo Hernangomez became more influential towards the end of the season as injuries began to mount on the roster. The 23-year-old flashed his defensive potential, while Porzingis took on the mantle on offense as Anthony wore down towards the end of the season. The franchise claimed only five wins in March, but the performances of the young duo were a cause for hope in the future.
The Knick signed off their campaign with a win over the 76ers, taking them to their 31st win, but it was an underwhelming season to say the least.
Following Jackson’s departure, all of the responsibility for building the roster will fall in the lap of general manager Steve Mills, who has reportedly outlined his desire to build a young team.
As a result, Porzingis and Hernangomez will play a significant role in the future of the club, although it was suggested that the Knicks were ready to move on from the former had a trade offer been deemed acceptable.
However, Porzingis remains on the roster for now and Hornacek at least wants to him to remain for the long term after he averaged 18.1 points per game last term in 72 appearances.
His development will be key in returning the Knicks to the playoffs and he has all the attributes to become a perennial All-Star for the years to come.
Hernangomez is another vital player for the club’s future, with just two years separating him and Porzingis in age. They will be crucial in taking New York through the next few seasons as Anthony approaches the end of his peak, while Rose is unlikely to be re-signed.
The Knicks used their first-round pick to select Frank Ntilikina and he may have to make an immediate impact in his rookie season, although he may an obstacle in transitioning from the French league into life in the NBA.
Hornacek certainly has a mammoth challenge on his hands to take the club forward in the coming seasons – therefore it would be a surprise at +50000 with SkyBet to see the Knicks lift the NBA title next season. In the United States, punters can check out this list of bookmakers – https://www.sbo.net/country/us/ – in order to get the best odds for next term.