The Knicks have been terrible for a while. With the exception of the 2012-13 season, they haven’t been a contender since maybe the 2000-01 season.
So why have the Knicks been so bad? More recent fans would say Phil Jackson, but honestly, all his errors have been erased. Glen Grunwald? He was bad, but not terrible. Donny Walsh? He was worse than people thought, but no, it wasn’t his fault either. Isiah Thomas…it had to be him! No, by all means he was bad, but he didn’t completely ruin the Knicks. Fine, it’s James Dolan, it definitely has to be him! Nope, only a few owners can completely ruin a franchise (shoutout Dan Snyder!).
So who is it then? Well, it was someone who was fired before you were probably born: Scott Layden.
Scott Layden was the GM in 1999! Yes, this guy started over 20 years ago. For context, the 1998-99 season was one where the Knicks completely overachieved. They lost in 5 to the Spurs in the NBA Finals despite being the 8th seed.
So what do they do? Draft a guy who played the same number of games I have played in the NBA (that’s zero) despite people like my father yelling at the TV to draft Ron Artest. Not a great start after a Cinderella run. But they made the Conference Finals again and they were doing fine.
Then Layden made his first splash. The Knicks had not missed the playoffs in 13 seasons, under their star Center and Franchise icon, Patrick Ewing. Though Ewing was 38, he was still somewhat productive and a fan-favorite. Ewing was being paid a lot, and was not worth the money at that point of his career. Despite only having one more year left on his contract, he was traded. Though Ewing wanted out due to his inability to win a championship, there were better ways to deal with him. Instead they got Glen Rice’s terrible contract and two firsts which they never even used.
So they got nothing for Ewing, but were still a good team. Now here is where it gets really bad.
Allan Houston was a star, but was over 30 and his career went down-hill after that. The contract was an albatross and screwed up the Knicks for years. And remember Glen Rice, his terrible contract became 2 terrible contracts. The Knicks had a bad season in 2001-02 and HC Jeff Van Gundy quit 19 games into the season. The interim, Don Chaney — who lost twice as many games than he won that season — got an extension! So the Knicks rewarded sucking.
But luckily this poor performance gave them a lottery pick in a pretty solid draft. Hell, they got a solid player in Nene. But it’s the Knicks, so they traded him that same night along with their starting center, Marcus Camby (who only got better) and Mark Jackson for Antonio McDyess. McDyess played 18 games for the Knicks over a season and a half. The Knicks were mediocre the next season and got the 9th pick and got nobody notable. He randomly traded Latrell Sprewell and that’s about it. He was fired in December 2003.
Scott Layden saw the Knicks fall and gave Isiah Thomas everything he needed to hurt the Knicks even more. Isiah also made moves that looked decent on paper, but had dismal results. Layden made moves that made no sense, plain and simple. There was a championship roster there, but Layden killed it, then tried to reopen the window when it was too late. They were aggressive for no reason.
This theme has carried on for over a decade: Trying to find a star instead of making one. I’m not saying the Knicks have had any GM or President who was good in this millennium, but Layden’s idea of finding the star rather than building the star remained well after he was gone.
While the Knicks are in a bad position themselves, the Timberwolves are also in a critical position regarding their future.
The Andrew Wiggins-era has recently ended, as was traded for D’Angelo Russell. Russell would have possibly been an All-Star if the Warriors’ stars weren’t injured. Though, if the Timberwolves can’t make the Russell-Towns duo work, I think we can establish that Layden has ruined another team.
The Wolves clearly lost the Jimmy Butler trade and got nothing substantial in return. The Wolves in the 2016-17 had 3 20-point scorers who were 21 years old each. That core looked like a young Thunder team with Harden, Westbrook and Durant. Once again, Layden made a win-now move when he really shouldn’t have that had a negative effect on the future of a team. If this Russell trade fails, the Wolves will need to blow it up.
That would truly be a sad ending to a roster we thought prior to Scott Layden, could have yielded a championship.
Photo: Russ Isabella / USA Today Sports