It’s time to take off that John Starks jersey and stick it in the basement with the rest of your childhood toys.
It’s time to grow up and stop praying for a weird kind of miracle, some lucky lottery that will bring meaningful basketball back to Madison Square Garden. It’s time to stop believing that the fact that a team plays in the World’s Greatest Arena is enough to convince the world’s greatest players to sign there.
It’s time to become a Nets fan, though my guess is you won’t.
In what was one of the most disappointing days in Knicks history, it was revealed Sunday that the Nets will sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the two free agents whom Knicks fans have coveted all season. Ouch.
That’s right. The Knicks tore their franchise down to the studs. They traded away Kristaps Porzingis to open up two max spots. They won 17 games, tying a franchise low. And the Nets swooped in and took their cheese.
Consider this: In the last two months, the Knicks lost out on Zion Williamson, Anthony Davis, Irving and Durant. That’s a terrible stretch for a team that has had plenty of terrible stretches in the past 20 years. The one good thing that has happened to them was that they drafted RJ Barrett, but that was a bit of a no-brainer.
Contrast that with the Nets under general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson. Marks took over a team 3 1⁄2 years ago that was bereft of picks and talent. The Nets, who lost in the first round of the playoffs this past season, now have both young talent and star power.
Yes, it will be a full year before we see Durant in a Nets uniform, and there is no guarantee that he will be the player he was before rupturing his Achilles. But if he can be 80 percent of the player he was, he still will be pretty impressive and far better than anyone currently on the Knicks’ roster.
The Nets have the pieces, the coach and the management to become an Eastern Conference contender. The Knicks? They have Madison Square Garden and a blindly loyal fan base that takes a perverse pride in the suffering they have endured in the past two decades.
And there has been so much suffering. In the past 19 seasons, the Knicks have made it beyond the first round of the playoffs once. Some of the biggest names in the history of the game — Isiah Thomas, Larry Brown, Phil Jackson — have been brought in to fix the franchise. And all have left under a dark cloud.
Still, Knicks fans remain loyal. The team somehow manages to sell out mid-February games against lottery opponents, while the Nets remained last in the league in attendance despite having an exciting playoff team.
The Nets have had exciting teams before but still failed to capture the hearts of most metropolitan-area fans. The Jason Kidd teams that went to back-to-back NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003 still couldn’t sell out games in the Meadowlands. They also had trouble drawing during the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce years.
Yet never has the contrast between the two teams been so stark and apparent as it was Sunday.
The Knicks were poised to make waves this summer. They had a chance to make themselves instantly relevant, to bring some star power back to the Garden, the place in which everyone wants to play, we are told. Unlike the lottery, not getting a top player in free agency has nothing to do with how the ball bounces. It has everything to do with how your franchise is perceived.
The NBA’s top players are more interested in playing in Brooklyn than the World’s Most Famous Arena.
Maybe it’s time we started watching them.