Digital History: A timeline of pain felt by New York Knicks fans since 2000

It has been a rough, well, 18 years for Knicks fans. New York was a championship team in the 1970s and a perennial contender in the ‘90s. Fans grew up watching Pat Riley’s teams led by Patrick Ewing go toe to toe with Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller, always talked about in the title conversation. And then ... well, things fell apart. 

With the Charles Oakley saga standing as a perfect example of the failed leadership under owner James Dolan, we thought it might behoove us to take a look back at exactly what has gone on since the Knicks’ run to the NBA Finals in 1999, and where it all went wrong. 

Consider this a digital history of the Knicks’ failures since 2000. 

June 11, 1999: The Knicks make a surprise run to the Finals before losing 4-1 to the Spurs. It is the last moment of meaningful joy Knicks fans will have for the next 18 years and counting.

Sept. 20, 2000: The Knicks trade franchise icon Patrick Ewing, along with Chris Dudley and a pick for 33-year-old Glen Rice and picks that became Jamaal Tinsley and Kareem Rush.

Dec. 9, 2001: Longtime successful coach Jeff Van Gundy resigns unexpectedly, citing an inability to maintain focus. Van Gundy had been their head coach for five years.

The Knicks would go on to have 10 different head coaches over a 16-year period.

  • Don Chaney (2001-2004)
  • Lenny Wilkens (2004-05)
  • Herb Williams (2005)
  • Larry Brown (2005-2006)
  • Isiah Thomas (2006-2008)
  • Mike D’Antoni (2008-2012)
  • Mike Woodson (2012-2014)
  • Derek Fisher (2014-2016)
  • Kurt Rambis (2016)
  • Jeff Hornacek (2016-ongoing)

June 26, 2002: The Knicks trade 27-year-old Marcus Camby and rookie Nene to Denver for Antonio McDyess, Frank Williams and the pick that became Maciej Lampe. Camby, who was a key piece of that ‘99 team, would go on to be a four-time All-Defense selection and win Defensive Player of the Year. Nene would become a core piece of an annual playoff team in Denver, and later Washington and Houston.

Two years later, McDyess would be dealt in the Stephon Marbury deal.

2003: The Knicks hire Isiah Thomas as head of basketball operations, after Thomas had:

  • been replaced by the Raptors as executive vice president
  • ran the CBA into the ground inside three years
  • been replaced by the Pacers

Thomas would go on to one of the worst runs of any sports executive in the past 50 years. It’s so bad, there’s a YouTube montage of his era. 

Jan. 5, 2004: The Knicks deal McDyess, Charlie Ward, Lampe, Howard Eisley and a first-round pick for a package headlined by Stephon Marbury.

Marbury’s tenure as a Knick would have high bright spots and a whole lot of awfulness. It got so bad that the Knicks ordered Marbury to stay away from the team after buyout talks stalled

The first-round pick would later become Gordon Hayward.

Oct. 4, 2005: The Knicks trade for Eddy Curry, Antonio Davis and a pick that became Wilson Chandler.

Bulls blog Blogabull would later term it a “pantsing” by the Bulls.

They gave up two picks in the deal.

Those picks became LaMarcus Aldridge and Joakim Noah. Eleven years later, the Knicks would sign Joakim Noah to a $72 million deal when he was a shell of himself. 

2007: Following her dismissal in 2006, legendary former Northwestern basketball player Anucha Browne Sanders filed a lawsuit against the team and Thomas on grounds of sexual harrassment. Trial proceedings brought ugly details to light including an incident involving Marbury and an intern. The case was decided in her favor, with the Knicks eventually settling on a punitive payment of $11.5 million.

Thomas was not found liable for damages.

April 2, 2008: The Knicks hire Donnie Walsh as president of basketball operations. Walsh touches off a new era, marked by stability and sound decision making. His hire was contingent on certain promises regarding team control and autonomy. In news that will absolutely shock you, rumors of powers seeking to undercut him plagued his tenure, while Walsh continued to bring nothing but downright competency to the job. 

Walsh steps down three years later.

May 10, 2008: The Knicks hire Mike D’Antoni, who will go on to make the Knicks at least fun, if not competitive, developing talent like Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler.

Feb. 24, 2009: Stephon Marbury is finally bought out of his contract. He winds up in China eventually, and is featured in a series of live webcam videos, including one where he eats Vaseline.

June 25, 2009: The Knicks land the eighth pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.

Stephen Curry goes seventh.

August 2010: The Knicks attempt to rehire Isiah Thomas as a consultant on the orders of owner James Dolan. The move reportedly angers Donnie Walsh. Eventually the hire is rescinded on account of Thomas’ ongoing position with Florida International University, which is prohibited by NBA protocols.

Feb. 18, 2010: The Knicks trade assets, a first-round pick and the rights to swap first-round picks to Houston for Tracy McGrady in an effort to clear max cap space and pursue LeBron James in free agency.

July 2010: The Knicks pitch James at his Cleveland offices, reportedly promising to make him the first billionaire athlete.

James does not sign with the Knicks.

The team instead signs Amar’e Stoudemire despite concerns about his knees going forward after microfracture surgery.

Fall 2010: Reports begin to surface that Carmelo Anthony wants out of Denver, and that he only intends to sign with the New York Knicks in free agency the following summer.

New York has all the leverage to acquire a franchise superstar.

Feb. 22, 2011: New York, despite knowing Anthony clearly intends to sign with them, trades four starters and two first-round picks to the Nuggets for Anthony.

The Knicks are swept in the playoffs by Boston.

January 2012: “Linsanity” hits as D-League fringe player Jeremy Lin sparks a midseason run that shakes the team out of its malaise and electrifies the sports world.

Rumors  run rampant that Anthony is uncomfortable with Lin’s ascension.

Lin is injured just weeks later.

February 2012: Mike D’Antoni resigns suddenly as coach, citing differences with the front office. D’Antoni’s conflict with Anthony is widely cited as the root of the disagreement.

May 1, 2012: In a first-round series vs. the Miami Heat, Stoudemire punches a fire extinguisher in frustration following a Game 2 loss. He would miss Game 3 as the Knicks would go on to lose the series 4-1.

July 2012: Jeremy Lin is signed to an offer sheet by the Houston Rockets. The Knicks elect not to match him as a restricted free agent.

2012-13: The Knicks experience a dream season, winning 54 games despite a midseason slump. Roy Hibbert would go on to block Carmelo Anthony at the rim in emphatic fashion in the second round as the Pacers ended the dream abruptly.

They would win just 37 games the following season.

2013: The Knicks re-sign J.R. Smith to a four-year, $24.5 million deal.

July 1, 2013: New York, for some reason, trades Marcus Camby along with a first-round pick to the Raptors for first-round bust Andrea Bargnani.

Bargnani’s defining moment with the Knicks -- shooting with New York up two points with under 15 seconds to play on one crucial late possession, and plays just 71 games with the Knicks while earning $23 million.

May 17, 2014: The Knicks hire Phil Jackson to be the new president of basketball operations. He vows to install the triangle offense and return the Knicks to their former glory.

June 10, 2014: The Knicks hire Derek Fisher, despite his complete lack of coaching experience, having just finished his playing career with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

July 9, 2014: The Knicks re-sign Anthony to a max contract, despite facing an obvious rebuilding season.

A no-trade clause is included in the deal.

June 25, 2014: The Knicks trade former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler to the Mavericks for a package of players, all of whom will not be on roster two years later.

Jan. 5, 2015: The Knicks trade young wing Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to Cleveland for Lance Thomas and various other pieces. A first-round pick is included in the three-way deal but does not go to New York.

Smith and Shumpert become pivotal pieces of the Cavaliers’ run to two consecutive NBA Finals appearances, including a championship in 2016.

Feb. 8, 2016: The Knicks fire Fisher abruptly, amid a flurry of unsavory rumors.

June 23, 2016: The Knicks trade for Derrick Rose despite questions about his health after multiple knee surgeries, his impending free agency in 2017 and an impending civil rape trial in which he was eventually cleared of all liability.

July 2, 2016: Knicks sign Joakim Noah to a four-year, $72 million contract, despite widespread concerns about his knees and ability to be effective, or on the court at all.

In February, Noah undergoes knee surgery which will keep him out the remainder of the season.

2016: Tensions escalate between Jackson and Anthony through the media. Jackson casts aspersions on Anthony’s willingness to pass and effectiveness, while also angering Anthony with racially charged comments regarding the business associates of Anthony’s good friend, LeBron James.

Trade talks eventually begin to pop up in rumors, with Anthony’s no-trade clause and refusal to play for anyone but a major market or the Cavaliers as a serious impediment.

Jan. 10, 2017: Rose does not arrive at Madison Square Garden for a scheduled game. Team officials are unable to reach him and concerns arise about his safety. Rose later resurfaces in Chicago, with vague references to a family situation. Later reports indicate difficulties with his emotional state.

Feb. 8, 2017: Knicks legend Charles Oakley is forceably removed from courtside at Madison Square Garden during a nationally televised game against the Clippers. Oakley is later handcuffed, arrested and charged with multiple counts. A media firestorm ensues over the rift between Oakley and owner James Dolan, prompting commissioner Adam Silver to get involved along with Michael Jordan to help settle the feud. 

Takeaways

  1. You notice a pattern, and it all comes down to a lack of accountability. That starts with Dolan. He has empowered the wrong people, and every time he has looked to rectify that problem, he has then undermined it, as he did with Donnie Walsh. 
  2. The Anthony trade was just brutal. Giving up those assets made zero sense, when he was going to sign there all the time. Even if you say they had to make cap space for him, you could have easily done that in the summer if Anthony agreed to sign; Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton (at the time) and Wilson Chandler were all valuable assets. Giving up the picks was just extra pain they didn’t need to suffer. 
  3. It cannot be overstated how bad the Isiah Thomas era was. Beyond the lawsuit, Thomas constantly made big swings while mortgaging talent. Those kinds of move was made more commonly at the time, and the reaction from NBA front offices in recent years is tied to seeing how those decisions played out. 
  4. Jackson seems to have no real plan, either. He started out looking to build a foundation, but he gave up on Fisher early, has constantly pushed the triangle and keeps supporting Kurt Rambis as defensive coordinator even though the Knicks’ defense is their biggest issue. 
  5. Van Gundy’s resignation kind of stands as a watershed moment, if you look back. If Van Gundy had stayed, and the Knicks had just sought to empower him, he might have grown into a position of managing the chaos. Losing Van Gundy hurt. 
  6. One thing not covered above is the CAA influence in the Knicks. The powerful agency represents not just Anthony, but several executives who were hired before the trade for Anthony. The perception is that there’s a whole cadre within the Knicks which seems to operate separate of the rest of the basketball operations team. These kinds of internal politics aren’t out of the ordinary for a team, they just seem to exacerbate a problem that already exists within the team. 
  7. Man, Marbury. Just ... man. 
CBS Sports Writer

Matt Moore's colleagues have been known to describe him as a "maniac" in terms of his approach to covering the NBA, which he has done for CBS Sports since 2010. Moore prides himself on melding reporting,... Full Bio

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