Last year New York City sports fans rooted for a potpourri of teams that were dull, inauspicious and almost comical in their athletic abilities. From the New York Mets, Yankees, Giants, Jets, Nets, Knicks, Rangers, and Islanders, fans were greatly disappointed with sub-par performances of overpaid players representing the Big Apple.
As we begin 2014, New York City sports fans continue to have little to cheer about while they listen and witness the drama that has been created by narcissistic players. Thus far, the New Year has been eclipsed from the New York Yankees slugger, Alex Rodriguez soap opera saga that continues to embarrass Major League Baseball to New York Knicks player, J.R Smith attempting to untie his opponents’ basketball sneakers.
Despite the fact that J.R Smith is playing footsies on the court and also has a penchant for acrimonious tweets, the Knicks organization is making an effort to change their winless seasons. After winning their division and making the playoffs during the 2012 to 2013 season, but losing in the second round to an underrated Indiana Pacers team, the NY Knicks went searching for the missing pieces for their quest of a NBA championship.
As a result of being physically outplayed by the Indiana Pacers, the Knicks management decided that their team needed another seven-footer, who could shoot from the three-point line and increase the team’s overall shooting percentage. The New York Knicks franchise therefore, acquired Andrea Bargnani on July 10, 2013, from the Toronto Raptors for Steve Novak, Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson, along with a future first round draft pick, and two future second round draft picks.
They decided Andrea Bargnani known as Il Mago, (The Magician) would fill this void; however, he has not showed any magic on the court. Bargnani has been inconsistent at best, and continues to be outplayed by many of the center/power forwards in the league. At the same time, the team in general is playing more like a Division III team than a professional NBA basketball team.
The NY Knicks have not won a championship since 1973, and they were hoping that Andrea Bargnani, the former center of the Stella Azzurra Roma and Benetton Treviso, who later became the 2006 first round draft pick for the Toronto Raptors, would finally be the missing link. Many believed that Bargnani’s presence would ignite a spark and give the team a little extra in the scoring column.
When the news circulated around the league about the trade, players and fans alike were convinced that Knicks management made a great decision for obtaining a player who could potentially bring the franchise one step closer to a NBA championship. Knick fans were elated by the new acquisition and calling many of the local sports stations to profess that the team finally made a good trade.
After playing in forty-two games, Bargnani has averaged 13.9 points in 29.9 minutes. He is the team’s second leading scorer next to Carmelo Anthony. Unfortunately, this is where the lauding of Bargnani’s performance by NYC fans ends and their critical eye of him begins. He is not a physical force for a seven-footer playing most of the time the forward position. He lacks basic defensive skills that does not fit with Coach Mike Woodson’s defensive style and Andrea appears to be confused on the court.
The tempo of NBA games are much faster and Bargnani, after being in the NBA for nearly eight seasons, still plays like many European players. His strength is his scoring ability but he is unable to understand his role on defense and how to effectively be more physical in the post for a seven-footer. In addition, the Italian league does not have players that can match up with many of the NBA players and their offensive/defensive systems are less complicated than in the United States.
Once again and in defense of Andrea, his new teammates also seem mystified on the court and are being outplayed almost every game leading to the team’s 16 wins and 27 losses. Many NBA commentators like former NY Knick player and now a Madison Square Garden announcer Walt Clyde Frazier, are also observing players on the team not performing at a level that is required for a championship team.
Recently, there have been rumors around the city that many of the Knick players do not want to play for Coach Woodson, something that he is trying to downplay when asked by reporters.
To make matters worse and to add to an already horrendous season, Bargnani last week suffered a torn ligament in his left elbow during a Knick loss to Philadelphia. The injury occurred while Andrea was trying to time a dunk over two players, but was fouled hard and landed well short of the rim. As a consequence, his failed dunk attempt was laughable and was immediately posted on the Internet, becoming a fan favorite.
In essence, the trade has not worked out the way some sports analysts, coaches, former NBA players and fans had predicted during the off season. Nonetheless, no one could have foreseen the NY Knicks abysmal beginning and Bargnani’s less than magic contribution to a team in desperate need of not only another winning season but a chance at qualifying for a championship.
Playing in the Atlantic Division, however, is the only bright side to the Knicks season. Through their uninspiring performance on the court this season, the NY Knicks still have a chance to make the playoffs and hopefully Bargnani will develop a better understanding of his role on defense and make better decisions on offense.
While the Knicks could still realistically make the playoffs, New York Knick fans are very knowledgeable and have seen enough of this season, even with Carmelo Anthony scoring 62 points, to realize before their team can compete with the Indiana Pacers and the defending NBA champions Miami Heat, there are still pieces to the puzzle that remain unresolved.