The Knicks have become a haven for 2nd chances. They are the land of reclamation. The Garden is now officially the place where you come to realize your lost potential.
RECLAMATION PROJECT # 1: Coach Fizdale
Coach Fizdale, who is coming from a situation in Memphis where he had early success when he was named the head coach in 2016. He led them to a respectable 43-39 record and a playoff berth. He was canned after 19 games (7-12) during the 2017 season. There were mitigating circumstances for the slow start by the Grizzlies, Injuries to Mike Conley, Jamychal Green, and Ben McLemore played a big role in the Memphis’s slow start. The biggest reason for his firing was the rift between him and Memphis’s All-Star center Marc Gasol.
The final straw came after Fizdale benched him in the 4th quarter of a game against the lowly Brooklyn Nets. Gasol complained, and Memphis management sided with their star. It was a lesson that coach Fiz had to learn the hard way. You piss off your star, you pack your bags. Ask, Paul Westhead, and Mike D’antoni, how that worked out for them. The only coach with that kind of clout in the league is Gregg Popovich, who had the rings to justify his beef with Kawahi Leonard. Fizdale didn’t have that kind of juice.
The Knicks were more than happy to sign a young coach, who has admitted to the less than stellar way he handled the Gasol situation. He still has something to prove. He has to prove he can develop a team from the ground up. The Knicks are so devoid of experience, depth, and talent in so many areas, you have to wonder why anyone would take that job. This is the perfect opportunity for him to reclaim that swag and luster that made him successful in Memphis during the 2016 season. Good luck coach, you will need it in NY.
RECLAMATION PROJECT # 2: Trey Burke
Burke came into the league as the 9th overall pick in the 2013 draft. He was drafted by the Utah Jazz, where he actually had a decent rookie year, averaging 12.8 pts pg, 5.78 assists, and 3 rebs per game. The problem was, he shot 38% from the field and 33% from downtown. Those are rookie #’s that could have been fixed with some work and practice. The problem was Burke didn’t put in the work. His #’s slipped in all categories, except ppg which stayed the exact same at 12.8 ppg. His assists total slipped to 4.6 per game, his rebound total slipped to 2.7, his fg% was an abysmal 36%, and his 3pt FG % slipped down to 31%. Trey Burke is too talented a player to put up such pedestrian numbers. Fast forward to his trade to the Wizards in 2016, where he hoped to revive what was a promising career. Things didn’t work out much better in DC as he only played 12 mins a game off the bench. The Wizards opted not to re-sign him for the 2017 season, and Burke found himself without a basketball home for the first time since he was probably in elementary school. Thank God for the NBA G-League. He latched on to the Knicks G-League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks, where he averaged 26 pts PG, 5.3 assists, shot a more than respectable 48% from the field, including 41% from 3 downtown. He played 26 games with the Westchester Knicks before the NY Knicks called him up. He has not looked back since. He was one of the few bright spots on the 2017-2018 Knicks. He posted averages of 12.8 PPG, 4.7 assists, shot 50% from the field while converting the 3 ball at a 36% clip. The Knicks rewarded him with a $2.5 m 2 year deal, which he hopes to parlay into a multi-year deal, either with the Knicks, or with another NBA team in 2019. This is a make or break year for Burke. He will be vying for the starting PG spot with reclamation project # 3.
RECLAMATION PROJECT # 2: Emanuel Mudiay
Mudiay is another project who saw his NBA dreams get derailed by injuries, lack of conditioning, and lack of a jump shot. He was the 7th overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Denver Nuggets That’s the same draft which saw the Knicks make the unicorn himself, Kristaps Porzingis the 4th overall pick. Mudiay opted to play overseas in China instead of being a one and done at SMU under Larry Brown. I personally think that was the worse decision he could have made at the time. His game did not develop in China as it would have under one of the best coaches in basketball history in Larry Brown. Mudiay has the size to be the prototypical PG in today’s NBA. He is 6’ 5”/200 lbs and he plays pretty good defense when motivated. His problem is, he has no jump shot to speak of. He has a career 37% mark from the field to go along with a 31% mark from 3. Those are not numbers that will keep you on an NBA roster for long. Couple that with his poor conditioning, and you can see why he fell out of favor in Denver. The Knicks acquired him in a 3 team trade at the deadline last season. He produced less than stellar numbers as a Knick. His line was 8 pts PPG, 3.9 assists, he shot 36% from the field and an unheard of 19% from 3 point land. This is probably his last shot at being a relevant NBA player, so he better here’s hoping he gets it together, and realize the potential the scouts saw him in as a high schooler.
RECLAMATION PROJECT # 3: Mario Hezonja
Super Mario comes to the Knicks as the failed # 5 overall pick of the Orlando Magic in the 2015 draft. He came into the league with the reputation as a very versatile player. He is an athletic 6’ 9” F that has the ability to be a very good 3 and D NBA player. The expectations proved too much for him in Orlando, as he produced pedestrian stats at best. He averaged 6.9 pts PPG, 1.3 assists, 2.8 rebounds, on a slash line of 41%/33%/83%. He never carved out a role in Orlando’s line up, only averaging 18 minutes per game. He came on at the end of last season when he got significant playing time, averaging 13ppg on a slash line of 42%/42%/81%. That piqued the Knicks interest this past offseason. They inked him to a 1 yr deal worth $8.6 M. With his athletic ability, and the opportunity to play meaningful minutes, I think Super Mario has a chance of redemption with the Knicks.
RECLAMATION PROJECT # 3 Noah Vonleh
Vonleh is considered a bust form the 2014 draft class. He was picked # 9 overall by the Charlotte Hornets ahead of players like Zach Levine, Rodney Hood, and Clint Capela. He has under impressed during his time in the NBA. His 4.pts, 4 rebs, on a slash line of 44%/29%/66% doesn’t give much hope for a resurrection of his career in NY. The Knicks were probably the best landing spot for him considering the lack of big man depth they have on the roster. He stands 6’ 9”/245 Lbs. Maybe with extended playing time, he can provide some value and jump-start what was once heralded as a promising career coming out of college.
So there you have it, The Knicks reclamation project. The hope is that if 1 pans out, it would have been a good experiment. Let’s see who steps up and seizes the opportunity to realize the greatness that once made them such a high draft choice.