Four Forgettable Years Later, Playoff Basketball Returns to New York


As the crowd filed out of the Barclays Center in May 2015, there was reason for hope. Though the Nets had just been eliminated by the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs, they had overachieved and shown some promise for the future. And Phil Jackson had become the Knicks president the year before, bringing his triangle offense and a coaching résumé that included 11 N.B.A. titles to Manhattan.

Little did New York fans know that it would be four dreadful years before playoff basketball would return to the city. It finally will on Thursday night, when the Nets host the Philadelphia 76ers in a series tied at one all.

While there has been no playoff basketball in the city in the interim, much has happened in those four years. And for Knicks and Nets fans, not much of it has been good.

May 1, 2015 The eighth-seeded Nets fall to the top-seeded Hawks, 111-87. But they take two games in the series, raising optimism. “We were able to secure a playoff spot,” Coach Lionel Hollins says. “Some people will say, ‘Hey, we didn’t deserve it.’ That’s their problem.”

June 25 After putting up a 17-65 record, the worst in franchise history and the league’s second worst in 2015, the Knicks have bad luck in the draft lottery, ending up at the No. 4 spot. Nevertheless, their selection, Kristaps Porzingis of Latvia, will pay off, quickly becoming a star and a fan favorite.

July 8 The Knicks sign Joakim Noah for four years and $72 million. This will not work out. Noah will be suspended for 20 games for a drug violation, be sent to the developmental league and get into a shouting match with Hornacek. The Knicks wind up releasing him in 2018 and paying him anyway.

Feb. 8, 2017 The Knicks legend Charles Oakley is ejected from Madison Square Garden during a game. The crowd sides with the former player, chanting “Oakley, Oakley.” The Knicks say he behaved abusively, and the owner, James L. Dolan, says that Oakley “may have a problem with alcohol.” Oakley sues, claiming defamation and battery.

March 12 Carmelo Anthony gets his 10,000th point as a Knick, becoming the third player to reach that mark with two teams.

April 12 The Nets finish 20-62, the worst record in the league. Once again a potentially high draft pick is gone, as part of the Garnett deal. The Knicks are 31-51.

June 22 The Nets trade their longtime star Brook Lopez to the Los Angeles Lakers for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov. Russell will become a key player in the team’s resurgence.

June 28 The Knicks and Phil Jackson agree to part ways after three years. The Knicks never fully embraced his triangle offense, and Jackson remained wary of the 3-point shot as it became increasingly important in the league. He also could never seem to get rid of Anthony, the team’s aging star who refused to waive a no-trade clause. Jackson also feuded with the player expected to be the team’s future, Porzingis.

Sept. 25 A trade is finally worked out for Anthony, who is sent to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Enes Kanter. He gave the Knicks seven seasons of 20-points-a-game play. Jackson was willing “to trade me for a bag of chips,” Anthony says. He also notes that under new management, “They went from asking for peanuts to asking for steak.”



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