“We are only what we are; not what we would be; nor every thing we hope for.”Herman Melville in Mardi, 1849
“For tho’ we know what we ought to be; & what it would be very sweet & beautiful to be; yet we can’t be it.”Herman Melville in a letter to Sophia Hawthorne, January 8th, 1852
Losses: DeAndre Jordan, Lance Thomas, Mario Hezonja, Emmanuel Mudiay, Luke Kornet, and a few other guys I’m not going to bother with here.
Additions: They drafted R.J. Barrett and Iggy Brazdeikis. They signed Julius Randle, who might be a great get for them. They picked up Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock, who can shoot it. They picked up Elfrid Payton. They also picked up a bunch of power forwards that they will most likely trade over the course of the next year or so: Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson.
Likely Starters Guard: Dennis Smith Jr. Wing: R.J. Barrett, Kevin Knox Big: Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson
Predicted Record: 25–57 | 27th in NBA | 13th in East
Herman Melville was born in New York City, and he died there—just a block down East 26th St. from the site of the first two Madison Square Garden locations—72 years later. Over the course of his life, in spite of—or, perhaps, because of—his prodigious talent, he was a commercial failure as a writer. His life is an endless procession of bursts of genius followed by misunderstandings, failure, disappointment, you name it.
Melville’s history of passionate obsession, enormous expectations, and dashed hopes feels somehow Knicksian to me. And yet Melville managed to quietly recede into himself, spending the last 30 years of his life writing poems and working as a customs official in New York City (where he had a reputation as an honest man amidst a great deal of corruption). There might be a small victory in this, considering the above quotes. There is something to be gained, perhaps, in coming to terms with whatever it is we are.
The failures of the Knicks over the past 20 years can in many cases be attributed to a comical lack of self-awareness. The terrible decisions of the Knicks can almost always be traced back to deeply delusional readings of the state of the franchise in a given moment. We don’t need to litigate those decisions here; suffice it to say that the events of this offseason have been more of the same.
Beneath the delusions, you can start to see the vague forms of a competent plan. The Knicks did, after all, engage in a rebuild, finally, after years of buckling under the idiotic conventional wisdom that said Knicks fans would never embrace a rebuild. They have a clean cap sheet, and are now stocked with a roster of decent, tradeable players who don’t fit together in the context of actual basketball games. I could go on.
I won’t though, because it doesn’t matter. The Knicks are owned by James Dolan, and they will be a misguided and delusional mess of a franchise until that changes. It’s hard to read the events of this summer—KD and Kyrie choosing the Nets first and foremost among them—as anything but an indictment of Dolan. Why would you want to play for that guy? In what universe could you convince yourself that your interests appear anywhere in the cosmic map of shit he cares about?
Herman Melville died at the end of September in 1891. A few months later, Dr. James Naismith invented the sport of basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts. I like to think that Melville would have liked basketball, that he would have appreciated the intricate teamwork at play and the constant movement. He was sad New York office worker who for the last, long stretch of his life went home at the end of the day and wrote poems. Poor bastard would have definitely been a Knicks fan.