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SportsColumnistsBarbara Barker

Knicks missed out on Zion Williamson, but that shouldn't leave fans cryin'

Duke forward Zion Williamson warms up before an

Duke forward Zion Williamson warms up before an NCAA Tournament Elite Eight game against Michigan State on March 31 at Capital One Arena in Washington. Credit: Icon Sportswire via AP/Tony Quinn

Did you really expect anything else?

Did you really expect that just this one time that the ball would bounce the right way for the Knicks, that nearly two decades of bad breaks, bad planning and just bad basketball would be suddenly erased in one night?

OK, maybe you did. Maybe dreaming of Zion Williamson is the only way you could have made it through the Knicks’ 17-win season. On those long nights when it felt like the Knicks were shooting 14 percent with a bunch of young players no one has ever head of, it seemed more like symmetry than self-delusion to pin all your hopes on their 14-percent chance of ending up with the No. 1 pick in the lottery.

And now, like a guy who just spent his paycheck buying 500 Powerball tickets, you are feeling more than a little silly. Williamson, the player you lusted after all season, is going to end up wearing a New Orleans Pelicans uniform. And the Knicks are going to end up with the No. 3 overall pick.

The Pelicans won the right to take Williamson despite having the seventh-best odds. And by doing so, they may have also gained the ability to keep Anthony Davis, a player the Knicks had talked about trading for.

Yet, while the reality of having watched a season of horrible basketball in order to add a good young player instead of one who has been labeled as a franchise transformer isn’t ideal, the situation isn’t all that dire. Far from it.

The Knicks will end up with a pretty good player at No. 3 — either Williamson’s Duke teammate RJ Barrett or Murray State point guard Ja Morant — and they are still poised to make some major noise this offseason.

Knicks management had no control over what ping-pong balls were plucked out of the lottery container Tuesday night, but they have a lot of say in what happens next. What kind of sales job they are able to do over the next seven or so weeks may determine just how quickly this team is able to push the reset button.

“Look, tomorrow is another step in our building process as an organization,” Knicks general manager Scott Perry said in a radio interview on ESPN on Monday.

The Knicks head into the offseason with a mountain of cash to spend and — fans hope — a laserlike focus to bring Kevin Durant to Madison Square Garden. Every day, it seems like another prominent radio host is citing well-placed anonymous sources as guaranteeing that the Golden State star is coming to New York.

In other words, Durant is the Knicks’ to lose. And his coming here will be a complete game-changer for the franchise, which can also add another maximum contract player. The team is also targeting Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving. And it’s possible that they could put a trade together for Anthony Davis, even though he might now be less inclined to leave the Pelicans.

Though this past season may have been one of the worst in Knicks history, this offseason has the potential to be one of the best. Without a doubt it is the most important. The Knicks cannot whiff like they did in 2009 when LeBron James decided to take his talents to Miami. Knicks management has to deliver this time.

Knicks fans will live through a 17-win season if they think it can take them somewhere. But they won’t live through two of them.

New York Sports