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Andrew Yang is wrong about the Knicks


Democratic presidential candidate and test-prep millionaire Andrew Yang loves to use the Knicks as a punching bag to get some cheap heat for his campaign, sometimes claiming that he quit the Knicks and at others complaining about their “poor sportsmanship” when it suits him.

The Schenectady, N.Y. native did it again on Friday. “For a Knicks fan these are the darkest times I can remember,” he wrote. "Neither competing nor rebuilding. Punting for free agents when there are none of note in 2020. Signing mercenary vets to 1 year deals who will want playing time over overmatched young players. Going to be a long season.”

On one level, it’s surprising that Yang is ripping the Knicks for “neither competing nor rebuilding.” He typically polls between sixth and tenth among Democratic voters — on the cusp of a low playoff seed, and not bad enough to get a high draft pick. On the other, it’s not surprising that Yang, who once called Sam Hinkie “the smartest man in sports,” would advocate for a complete, Process-style teardown.

That wouldn’t work for these Knicks, and Yang is absolutely wrong about their current roster.

Scott Perry and Steve Mills have created the ideal environment, one where the Knicks will stay competitive while rebuilding. After all, that’s what worked for Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Clippers wanted an end to the Lob City era, but they didn’t want to take a trip to tank town. So after DeAndre Jordan left for Dallas and Chris Paul negotiated a sign-and-trade to Houston, the Clippers rode Blake Griffin for half a season, then traded him to the Pistons for a package headlined by Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley. Los Angeles stayed competitive, finishing tenth in the West that year with 42 wins. They then traded Harris for draft assets and young players midway through the following season and secured the eighth seed in the playoffs, where they won two games in a first-round series against the eventual conference champion Golden State Warriors.

The Clippers took those draft assets from the Pistons, Rockets and Sixers trades, and flipped them over to Oklahoma City, where they pried away Paul George, who was the key to landing Kawhi Leonard. Leonard would have never considered the Clippers had they not fostered a competitive environment. The Clippers are now championship contenders, because they chose not to blow it all the way up, and their roster is composed mostly of tough-nosed, versatile two-way players.

The Knicks didn’t land Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant, and they don’t have nearly the star power to haul in the asset load the Clippers received after trading Paul, Griffin and Harris. But their roster has a similar makeup to the Clippers: players who can do more than one thing, who defend at a high level and who have a low tolerance for nonsense. And if they so choose, they can deal any one of their quality veterans to a contender for draft assets at the trade deadline.

The Knicks will have a competitive team, which history shows is the best environment to cultivate young talent. It’ll also give them a lightyears better chance at drawing marquee free agents in 2021, when Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, LeBron James and Bradley Beal will all be available. Just ask Brooklyn how putting together some semblance of coherence worked for them.

Yes, the Knicks hit rock bottom this summer, and their history of incompetence speaks for itself. They traded Kristaps Porzingis, after all, to create cap space to sign two marquee, max free agents, not four players at the same position. But under Scott Perry, New York has been able to rebound quickly. They’re in a similar position to the New Orleans Pelicans, who could have easily turned the keys of the kingdom over to Zion Williamson, and made him the face of a program headed back to ping-pong ball purgatory.

Instead, the Pelicans chose to bring him on slowly, as evidenced by their decision against trading Jrue Holiday for young players and draft assets. They opted to add quality vets like JJ Redick and Derrick Favors, and bled the Lakers dry in the Anthony Davis trade. New Orleans might not make the playoffs this year, but their outlook is as bright as could be for a franchise that just traded their best player of the decade against their will.

They have a roster of tough, versatile players and budding, young talent while keeping cap flexibility for a blockbuster summer of 2021. If these are the darkest times he can remember, Yang isn’t much of a Knicks fan.