Months of dreaming were destroyed in minutes.
Nine years after coming nowhere close to landing LeBron James — and 2010’s other A-list free agents — the Knicks again cleared cap space for two max-salary players, then watched another acclaimed crop of All-Stars bypass the long-suffering franchise.
Even worse was knowing that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving wanted to be in New York, but wanted to be Nets.
“It doesn’t change anything. It’s all about what you have in house and I think we have a very solid team,” former Knicks guard John Starks said of Brooklyn’s signings at a press event Thursday at Madison Square Garden. “The Nets did well last year in making it to the playoffs. This year, I think it’s gonna be our year. As we continue to improve and get on that winning track, we’re gonna be as enticing as any NBA team out there. I’m not concerned about what the Nets are doing. All I’m concerned about is what we’re doing over here and we’re moving in the right direction.”
After trading away their disgruntled franchise player (Kristaps Porzingis) for the chance to sign household names, the Knicks filled this summer’s cap space with the low-profile additions of Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis, Wayne Ellington, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock.
Disappointment was only natural for a long-frustrated fan base clinging to any hope. But Starks believes that feeling could be fleeting.
“Be very supportive of this team because I think this team is going to shock the world,” said Starks, the Knicks’ alumni relations and fan development adviser. “You hear reports that they’re gonna [only] win so many games, but it’s really up to them, what they’re gonna do. … I’m getting goose bumps right now. I’m truly excited about this season.”Before last season, the Nets had endured four straight losing campaigns, and bookmakers set their over/under win total at 32½. Brooklyn followed by going 42-40.
The Knicks win total for next season is set at 37½ — lower than just six teams in the Eastern Conference — with third-overall pick RJ Barrett, part of a 21-and-under crew including fellow one-and-done lottery picks Kevin Knox and Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina and All-Rookie second team center Mitchell Robinson.
“There’s a lot of upside. The whole team is so young,” said former Knicks forward Larry Johnson, who also works in alumni relations. “They’re gonna be exciting, energetic and that’s what you need. We’ll worry about winning games when that comes, but we want to get the fire back, we want to get New York basketball back, and I think we’re on the way there.”