History Of The New York Knicks
1946-49: The Original BAAThe Knicks and 10 other franchises had their beginnings on June 6, 1946, at the Hotel Commodore in New York City. A group of arena operators met to discuss the formation of the Basketball Association of America, the forerunner of the NBA. The original teams were divided into two divisions. The East consisted of the New York Knickerbockers, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia Warriors, Providence Steamrollers, Washington Capitols, and Toronto Huskies. The West was composed of the Pittsburgh Ironmen, Chicago Stags, Detroit Falcons, St. Louis Bombers, and Cleveland Rebels.
On November 1, 1946, the Knicks played the first game in the new league's history, beating the Huskies, 68-66, in Toronto. Neil Cohalan was coach, and the starting lineup consisted of Ossie Schectman, Stan Stutz, Jake Weber, Ralph Kaplowitz, and Leo "Ace" Gottlieb, who was New York's high scorer with 12 points.
Madison Square Garden had a crowded schedule of hockey and college basketball games for the BAA's inaugural season, so New York played most of its home games at the 69th Regiment Armory. The Knicks got off to a 10-2 start in November, which would remain one of the best months in franchise history. In their debut season they posted a 33-27 record.
Future Hall of Famer Joe Lapchick replaced Cohalan as coach for the franchise's second season, and he led the Knicks to the second of nine consecutive playoff appearances. From his first season at the helm the club showed steady progress, improving from 26 wins to 32 and then 40 in successive campaigns.
1949-51: Knicks Reach First NBA FinalsPrior to the 1949-50 season the BAA merged with the National Basketball League to form the National Basketball Association. The BAA took in six teams from the NBL, bringing its total to 17, and went to a three-division format. New York remained in the Eastern Division.
The Knicks reached their first NBA Finals in 1950-51 despite backsliding to a 36-30 record and a third-place finish in the East. The season also brought more opportunities in the sport for minorities; New York had opened the door to one of the first African-American players in the league, 6-7 Nathaniel "Sweetwater" Clifton.
In the playoffs New York got tough and dumped Boston and the Syracuse Nationals in the early rounds. Then the Knicks met the Rochester Royals in the Finals. Rochester won the first three games; New York stormed back to take the next three. The decisive game was a pitched battle. The score was tied at 75 apiece with 40 seconds left when Rochester's Bob Davies made two foul shots. The rules called for a jump ball after a successful free throw in the final three minutes of a game; the Royals controlled the tip, held the ball, and scored at the buzzer for a 79-75 victory.
1951: New York's First SuperstarsAlthough military service caused him to miss the 1951 run at the crown, the Knicks' star in the early days was Carl Braun, a deft 6-5 shooter who averaged 13.5 points in a career that spanned 13 seasons. As a first-year player in 1947-48 he scored 47 points against Providence, a team rookie record that still stands 47 years later. Braun retired as the Knicks' career scoring leader with 10,449 points, although he was later surpassed by Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, and Patrick Ewing.
Braun, rebounder Harry "the Horse" Gallatin, and 6-foot playmaker Dick McGuire were perennial All-Stars for the Knicks in the mid-1950s. Gallatin and McGuire were eventually enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Gallatin was a ferocious 6-6, 215-pound rebounder who collected 5,935 boards and played in a club-record 610 consecutive games. He led the NBA in rebounding in 1953-54, when he pulled down 1,098 boards for an average of 15.3 rebounds. That same season, in a game against the Fort Wayne Pistons, Gallatin set a franchise record (tied by Reed in 1971) by collecting 33 rebounds. His prowess on the boards earned him All-NBA First Team honors.
McGuire enjoyed eight standout years with New York. He led the team in assists for six consecutive seasons, from 1950-51 through 1955-56, and scored 8.0 points per game as a Knick. He was a five-time All-Star and was named to the All-NBA Second Team in 1950-51. After his playing days McGuire remained affiliated with the franchise as a head coach, assistant coach, chief scout, and director of scouting services. The Knicks retired his uniform No. 15 in 1992, and the following year he was elected to the Hall of Fame.
1951-53: Those Darn LakersNew York made three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals in the early 1950s. After being defeated by Rochester in their first grab for the ring in 1951, the Knicks went 37-29 in 1951-52 and played the Minneapolis Lakers for the title. The teams split the first six games, but the Lakers, hosting Game 7, rolled over New York for the crown.
The 1952-53 Knicks had a stellar season, going 47-23. They got off to a blazing start but cooled off toward the end of the year when various injuries dogged the lineup. In a rematch of the previous year's Finals, they lost to the Minneapolis Lakers and George Mikan in five games.
1953-59: Never a Dull MomentThe Knicks were decent through the remainder of the decade, but from 1959-60 through 1965-66 the club failed to make the playoffs. Consistency was not a characteristic of the franchise; the coaching parade included Vince Boryla, Fuzzy Levane, Carl Braun, Eddie Donovan, and Dick McGuire. Of New York's 12 campaigns between 1955-56 and 1967-68, only one was a winning season.
The Knicks of that era were bad, but not boring. In 1957-58 New York led the league with a 112.1 scoring average while compiling a 35-37 record. Hard-nosed Richie Guerin, a 6-4 shooter out of Iona, was terrific. A fiery competitor and a high scorer, he made six consecutive All-Star Teams. Over an eight-year Knicks career Guerin scored 10,392 points and averaged 20.1 points, ranking among the team's all-time top five in both categories.
In 1959 Guerin became the first Knicks player to score 50 points in a game when he tallied 57 against Syracuse on December 11. It was one of 11 times in his career in which he scored 40 or more points. Guerin could also pass-on December 12, 1958, he handed out a franchise-record 21 assists against the St. Louis Hawks.
Guerin was well supported by Willie Naulls, a 6-6 forward who played six-plus seasons for the Knicks and averaged 19.3 points over the course of his New York career. The team also featured Kenny Sears. The 6-9 inside threat led the league in field goal percentage for two consecutive seasons, 1958-59 and 1959-60.
1959-67: Seasons of StruggleIn 1959-60 New York averaged 117.3 points, an all-time franchise high, while going 27-48. Guerin ranked among the NBA's top 10 in scoring (21.8 ppg) and assists (6.3 apg). On December 11 against Syracuse the Knicks had their highest-scoring game ever, pouring in 152 points. Opponents, however, usually scored more-the team yielded 119.6 points per game for the season. On January 24 St. Louis set the Knicks' opponent scoring record by tallying 155 points.
In 1961-62 the team struggled again, finishing 29-51. Richie Guerin, however, averaged 29.5 points, a mark that would survive as a Knicks record for 23 years, until Bernard King topped it in 1984-85. Guerin's total of 2,303 points was a franchise mark that would last even longer, nearly 30 years, until Patrick Ewing surpassed it in 1989-90. On February 14 Guerin made 23 field goals against Boston, matching Willie Naulls's team record from the previous year. The Knicks sent three players-Guerin, Naulls, and Johnny Green-to the 1962 NBA All-Star Game.
One of the most legendary games in NBA history was also played in 1961-62, and New York held the dubious distinction of being on the wrong end of the action. On March 2 the Knicks squared off against the Philadelphia Warriors in Hershey, Pennsylvania. By the time the dust had settled, Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain had scored 100 points, the best individual scoring performance in league history. The Warriors won the game, 169-147, despite strong performances from three Knicks players: Guerin (39 points), Cleveland Buckner (33), and Naulls (31).
The Knicks failed to improve in 1962-63, finishing at 21-59. The following season New York upped their record by a single game to 22-58. The franchise's fortunes finally began to change in 1964-65 with the drafting of center Willis Reed of Grambling.
Reed made an immediate impact and was the first Knicks player to be named NBA Rookie of the Year. In March he scored 46 points against Los Angeles, the second-highest single-game total ever by a Knicks rookie. For the season, Reed ranked seventh in the NBA in scoring with 19.5 points per game and fifth in rebounding with 14.7 boards per contest.
Although the team's record that year was still substandard at 31-49, the pieces were being pulled together for future success. Jim Barnes and Howard Komives joined Reed on the NBA All-Rookie Team.
In 1965-66 New York treaded water, finishing at 30-50. For the second straight year the Knicks had a promising youth brigade, and Dick Van Arsdale was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team. The club also acquired Dick Barnett from Los Angeles in a trade for Bob Boozer. The Knicks improved slightly in 1966-67, to 36-45, and Reed was named to the All-NBA Second Team. That season New York earned its first playoff berth since 1959, but the Knicks lost a division semifinal series to the Boston Celtics.
1967-69: New York Hires Holzman In The Knick Of TimeThe team's potential went unfulfilled until William "Red" Holzman replaced Dick McGuire as coach midway through the 1967-68 season. After half a season under McGuire, New York was 15-22. Holzman led the same group of players to an immediate turnaround and a 28-17 finish. They ended with a 43-39 record, the team's first winning season since 1958-59.
In 1968-69 New York won 54 games and finished in third place in the Eastern Division behind the Baltimore Bullets and the Philadelphia 76ers. The Knicks stumbled out of the gate, managing only a 10-14 mark early in the season, then righted themselves and played stellar ball the rest of the way. On December 19 they traded Walt Bellamy and Howard Komives to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Dave DeBusschere. The day after the trade the Knicks pounded the Pistons, 135-87; the 48-point margin of victory was the club's largest ever. New York put together a 10-game winning streak from December 17 through January 4, then had an 11-game streak from January 25 through February 15.
That season the Knicks' emphasis on stifling defense paid off. The club allowed only 105.2 points per game, leading the NBA in that category. Willis Reed asserted himself even more and set a franchise record by grabbing 1,191 rebounds (14.5 rpg). Walt Frazier was third in the NBA in assists (7.9 apg), behind Oscar Robertson and Lenny Wilkens. In the NBA Playoffs, New York swept Baltimore in the division semifinals but then fell to Boston in a six-game division finals series.
1969-70: Reed's Heroics Lead Knicks To ChampionshipIn 1969-70 the Knicks won 60 regular-season games for the first time, including a then NBA-record 18-game winning streak from October 24 through November 28. They started at 9-1 and never looked back. New York built its success on pressure defense and a selfless passing game.
In the playoffs New York defeated Baltimore in seven games and bounced the Milwaukee Bucks in five. The NBA Finals pitted the Knicks against a Los Angeles Lakers team led by Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain. The games were filled with drama as the teams traded victories. The two clubs split Games 3 and 4, both of which went to overtime.
The seventh contest, on May 8, provided one of the most stirring moments in NBA history. Reed, the Knicks' captain and center, had injured his leg in Game 5 and had sat out Game 6 as the Lakers won easily, 135-113. He was not expected to play again during the series, and his absence seemed certain to doom the Knicks. Instead, Reed limped onto the court at the last minute before the Game 7 tipoff, started the game, made the first two baskets, and provided the dose of adrenaline that his teammates needed. Frazier scored 36 points, handed out 19 assists, and was a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line. The Knicks beat the Lakers, 113-99, for the title.
Reed was the regular-season NBA Most Valuable Player, the All-Star Game MVP, and the Finals MVP. Reed and Frazier were selected to the All-NBA First Team, the first Knicks to earn the honor since Harry Gallatin did so in 1953-54. Red Holzman was named NBA Coach of the Year. But the key to the Knicks' success was teamwork.
1970-72: Stars Of The Seventies
Frazier averaged 19.3 points over his 10 seasons with New York. Although he finished his career in Cleveland in 1980, the Knicks retired his uniform No. 10 in 1979. Frazier was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1986.
Dick Barnett, at 6-4, was known for his unique jump shot, in which he contorted his body into a question-mark shape and leaned back at a seemingly impossible angle before releasing the ball. He spent his first five NBA seasons with Syracuse and Los Angeles, before being acquired by New York in 1965. He averaged 15.6 points in nine years with the Knicks. The team retired his uniform No. 12 in 1990.
Willis Reed was the backbone of the Knicks' championship teams. The 6-10, 240-pound Grambling graduate played 10 seasons in New York, appearing in seven All-Star Games. He was Rookie of the Year in 1964-65, NBA MVP in 1969-70, and Finals MVP in both 1970 and 1973. When he retired, he was the club's all-time leader in rebounds (8,414) and points (12,183, since surpassed by Walt Frazier and Ewing). He averaged 18.7 points during his career. In 1976 the Knicks retired Reed's uniform No. 19, making him the club's first player to be so honored. He coached the team for 11/2 years during the late 1970s and later became an executive with the New Jersey Nets. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1981.
Dave DeBusschere, at 6-6 and 235 pounds, was a workmanlike player who provided the final ingredient in the Knicks' championship mix when he was acquired from the Pistons in 1968-69. He earned NBA All-Defensive First Team honors six times for New York and played in five NBA All-Star Games as a Knick (and eight overall). After his 12-year playing career DeBusschere filled executive roles for the Nets and the Knicks and served as commissioner of the American Basketball Association. The Knicks retired his uniform No. 22 in 1981, and the next year he was elected to the Hall of Fame.
Bradley was smart off the court, too-he had been a Rhodes Scholar in college and later had a successful second career as a U.S. senator from New Jersey. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982, and two years later the Knicks retired his uniform No. 24.
New York fell off to 52-30 in the 1970-71 season, which was still good enough for first place in the newly formed Atlantic Division. The club started hot, at 31-11, then hovered around .500 for the final three months of the year. On February 2 Reed tied Harry Gallatin's all-time club record by hauling in 33 rebounds in a game against the Cincinnati Royals. Reed, Frazier, and DeBusschere all played in the All-Star Game, Reed and Frazier as starters.
The Knicks beat Atlanta in five games in the opening round of the playoffs, then fell to Baltimore in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Game 7 ended with a two-point Bullets win at Madison Square Garden.
Monroe was a consummate showman, a flashy ballhandler, and an imaginative shotmaker. He popularized the reverse-spin move on the dribble. After four seasons in Baltimore he spent nine with New York; he averaged 16.2 points as a Knick and made two All-Star appearances. When he retired in 1980, Monroe ranked fifth (and is currently sixth) on the Knicks' career scoring list with 9,679 points. The team retired his uniform No. 15 in 1986, and he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989.
Monroe's initial effect on the team was disruptive. He was not able to modify his game easily, so his teammates had to adjust, and New York slipped to 48-34 in 1971-72. After a shaky start the Knicks began to come together again, winning 12 of 17 games in February, and in the playoffs they easily handled Baltimore and Boston. In the Finals against Los Angeles, New York won the opening game, 114-92, at the Forum but then lost four straight to the Lakers.
Walt Frazier and Dave DeBusschere led New York's stifling defense, which allowed only 104.7 points per game, third best in the league. Both players were rewarded by being named to the All-Defensive First Team at season's end. Frazier was also selected to the All-NBA First Team.
1972-76: First A Title, Then A DeclineThe 1972-1973 Knicks won another NBA title. They finished the regular season with a 57-25 record, second in the Atlantic Division to the blazing Boston Celtics, who were 68-14. New York ripped through the first four months of the campaign, compiling a 43-13 mark before cooling off at season's end. The Knicks eliminated Baltimore and Boston in the early rounds of the playoffs, then for the third time in four seasons faced the Lakers in the NBA Finals. In a reversal of the previous season's outcome, the Knicks lost Game 1, then won four straight. They claimed their second NBA championship with a 102-93 victory in Game 5.
For the rest of the 1970s, however, the pendulum swung back to leaner times. The 1973-74 squad still managed a 49-33 record, leading the league in defense for the fifth time in six seasons, but they lost to Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals. Willis Reed retired after the season, and his departure sent the team into a tailspin that would last into the next decade.
New York's 1974-75 record was 40-42, the team's first losing mark in eight seasons. It would be followed by two more subpar campaigns. Walt Frazier made the sixth of his seven All-Star Game starts and earned the game's MVP Award. Earl Monroe joined him in the East All-Star's starting backcourt. In addition, Frazier was selected to the All-NBA First Team, for the fourth and final time.
In 1975-76 the Knicks stumbled to a 38-44 record. The only bright spot was Bradley, who broke his own free-throw percentage mark, averaging .878. The following season was more of the same, with the Knicks matching their 1974-75 record of 40-42 and finishing out of the playoffs.
1976-78: "Red" Out, Reed InCoach Red Holzman, who had guided the Knicks to both of their championships, was replaced by Willis Reed before the 1977-78 season. Reed brought the Knicks back above .500, if only slightly, to 43-39.
During the late 1970s the Knicks had well-traveled, 6-10 Bob McAdoo on the roster. As he did everywhere he went, McAdoo put up impressive numbers, averaging 26.7 points during his tenure with New York, the highest scoring average of any Knicks player who performed at least three years for the team. In 1977-78 McAdoo scored 2,097 points (26.5 ppg), at the time the second-highest Knicks season total in history, behind Richie Guerin's 2,303 in 1961-62.
1978-83: Reed Out, "Red" InNew York started the 1978-79 season at 6-8, prompting management to relieve Reed of his coaching duties and bring back Holzman, who didn't fare much better, guiding the Knicks to a 31-51 record. For the first time in team history no New York player made the All-Star Game roster.
This was an era of losing seasons and missed playoffs for the most part, but Holzman did manage to get one overachieving campaign out of the Knicks, winning 50 games in 1980-81. The team got out to a solid 25-13 start, slumped slightly at midyear, then finished with a 19-10 mark over the final two months. In the playoffs the Knicks were quickly ousted by the Chicago Bulls. For the season, Mike Glenn broke Bill Bradley's club free throw percentage record, with an average of .891. Richardson set a club mark by picking up 9 steals against Chicago on December 23.
In 1981-82 the team dropped to 33-49. Cartwright set a franchise mark for most free throws without a miss when he canned 19 straight against the Kansas City Kings on November 17. Richardson matched his own club record with seven triple-doubles on the year.
After the season Red Holzman retired as the winningest coach in Knicks history (613-484). He had led the franchise to two NBA titles (in 1970 and 1973) and had been named 1969-70 NBA Coach of the Year. His 696 career victories ranked him among the top 10 winningest coaches in NBA annals (he currently ranks 11th).
The early 1980s saw a brief upswing for New York. In 1982-83 new coach Hubie Brown led the team to a 44-38 record. The Knicks started slowly, remaining below .500 through January, then caught fire and played 26-11 ball for the remainder of the schedule. The team was tough on defense again, leading the league by allowing only 97.5 points per game. Marvin Webster and Bill Cartwright combined for 258 blocks. New York advanced to the postseason but was swept in the conference semifinals by Philadelphia, the eventual NBA champion.
1983-85: King Rules Over NBA
The Knicks went 47-35 that year. Coach Brown guided the team to a memorable first-round playoff victory against Detroit. The teams swapped wins before New York took the decisive Game 5, 127-123, in overtime. King averaged 42.6 points in the series. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals the Knicks pushed the eventual NBA-champion Boston Celtics to seven games before succumbing. King was named to the All-NBA First Team, and Darrell Walker made the NBA All-Rookie Team.
Then on March 23 his season (and, many feared, his career) came to a crashing halt. In the season's 55th game at Kansas City, he crumpled to the floor with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He missed 24 months of action while enduring painful physical therapy and rehabilitation.
The team as a whole was going backwards. It set a franchise mark for consecutive losses, dropping 12 straight games from March 23 through April 13. New York had its worst month ever in April, going 0-7, and for the season the club declined by 23 games in the loss column to 24-58.
1985-89: New York Wins League's First Lottery
The 1985-86 Knicks went 23-59. Ewing had a standout rookie season but missed 32 games because of a knee injury. Still, he led all rookies in scoring (20.0 ppg) and rebounding (9.0 rpg); was named to the NBA All-Star Game, although the injury kept him from playing; and was chosen NBA Rookie of the Year, making Ewing the first Knicks player to win the award since Willis Reed in 1964-65.
The next year was also grim, ending at 24-58, but after three abysmal seasons things began to improve. In 1987-88 the postseason dry spell ended with the hiring of Rick Pitino as head coach.
The Knicks showed a 14-game improvement in the win column, finishing 38-44, and they snuck into the playoffs on the final day of the season. New York lost in the first round to Boston, three games to one.
The 1988-89 New York team, buoyed by a club-record 26-game home winning streak, posted a 52-30 record, the highest victory total since the championship season of 1972-73.
Running and gunning in Pitino's fast-paced, open-court scheme, the Knicks won the Atlantic Division for the first time since 1970-71.
They filled the basket at a rapid clip, raining in 116.7 points per game, but also gave up 112.9 per contest. The club advanced to the postseason and eliminated Philadelphia in the first round before falling to Chicago in the conference semifinals.
1989-91: Charles Is In Charge, But Knicks Aren'tTo give Ewing some relief on the boards, the Knicks had acquired rebounding specialist Charles Oakley from Chicago prior to the season in exchange for center Bill Cartwright. The Bulls immediately reaped rewards from the deal as they claimed three consecutive NBA championships. But Oakley, who had led the league in total rebounds for two years, helped the Knicks. On January 3 he set a club mark by pulling down 14 offensive boards against Boston. For the season, he ranked sixth in the NBA in rebounding with 10.5 boards per game.
For the season, Oakley averaged a career-high 14.6 points and was poised to finish second in the NBA in rebounding (11.9 rpg) when he broke his hand near the end of the campaign. His 61 games played failed to qualify him for inclusion among the season's rebounding leaders.
Patrick Ewing had a prodigious year. His 2,347 points (28.6 ppg) broke a Knicks record that had survived nearly three decades. (Richie Guerin had amassed 2,303 points in 1961-62.) Ewing's .567 field-goal percentage was the second best in franchise history, and his scoring average was the third highest ever for the club. Ewing also set a New York record by scoring 20 or more points in 28 consecutive games from January 25 to March 27. He posted a career-high 51 points against Boston on March 24 and set a team single-season record for blocked shots with 327. Ewing finished among the NBA leaders in scoring, rebounding, blocks, and field goal percentage, and was named to the All-NBA First Team.
The club regressed again in 1990-91, finishing 39-43 and losing in the first round of the playoffs. Jackson was replaced by John MacLeod early in the season, but the move didn't seem to help.
Ewing, however, continued to play the superstar role, ranking among the league's top five in scoring (26.6 ppg), rebounding (11.2 rpg), and blocked shots (3.19 per game). Charles Oakley ranked third in the league with 12.1 rebounds per game, the highest average for a Knicks player since Bob McAdoo's 12.8 in 1977-78.
1991-92: Stand Pat? Nah, Hire Pat
In 1991-92 Riley brought the Knicks back to prominence with a 51-31 record, tying Boston for first place in the Atlantic Division. In a March 31 game against Chicago, 6-5 guard John Starks set a franchise mark by making 8 three-point shots. The volatile Starks was a fan favorite because of his unlikely route to the NBA. As an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State, he was signed by the Warriors but was waived following the 1988-89 season. After a year in the Continental Basketball Association he signed with the Knicks in 1990-91. The next season he emerged as a valuable sixth man, with three-point range and a competitive temperament.
Patrick Ewing was superb in 1991-92, ranking among the NBA's top 10 in scoring, rebounding, and blocked shots. His 24.0 points per game put him in fifth place, his 11.2 rebounds per contest were good for eighth, and his 2.99 blocks per game ranked fourth.
In the NBA Playoffs, with newly acquired Xavier McDaniel providing the muscle, the Knicks engaged the defending NBA-champion Chicago Bulls in a physical conference semifinal series. The series went the distance before Chicago prevailed in Game 7, 110-81.
1992-93: Knicks Win 60 But Are Bulled Over AgainThe 1992-93 Knicks featured seven new players but still managed to turn in the second 60-win season in franchise history (1969-70 was the first). Before the season the Knicks engineered a three-team trade with the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Clippers that sent Mark Jackson to the Clippers and brought Charles Smith, Doc Rivers, and Bo Kimble to New York. The Knicks also acquired veteran Rolando Blackman from Dallas and drafted guard Hubert Davis from North Carolina. Xavier McDaniel departed for Boston via free agency.
Coach Pat Riley did a masterful job molding the new players into a cohesive unit, especially on defense. New York led the league and established a franchise record by allowing opponents only 95.4 points per game. At season's end, Riley edged out the Houston Rockets' Rudy Tomjanovich for the NBA Coach of the Year Award.
For the season, Ewing hauled down 980 rebounds, the most by a Knicks player since Bob McAdoo's 1,010 in 1977-78. He finished seventh in the NBA in rebounding (12.1 rpg) and sixth in scoring (24.2 ppg).
As the Knicks entered the 1993 NBA Playoffs many felt that the club, which had finished 60-22, finally had what it would take to unseat the Chicago Bulls in the East. The Knicks eliminated the Indiana Pacers and the Charlotte Hornets and then took a two-game lead over the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Michael Jordan-led Bulls, however, stormed back to take the next four games and leave the Knicks just shy of a Finals berth.
1993-94: The New Beasts Of The EastWhen Michael Jordan announced before the 1993-94 season that he was retiring from the NBA, the mantle of Eastern Conference favorite fell squarely onto the shoulders of the Knicks, who for four straight years had been unable to get past the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls.
The Knicks suffered a setback in December when starting point guard Doc Rivers was lost for the season with a knee injury, but they averted disaster with the subsequent acquisition of Derek Harper from the Dallas Mavericks. At midseason Ewing and John Starks represented the Knicks at the 1994 NBA All-Star Game, Starks for the first time in his career.
In the playoffs New York defeated the New Jersey Nets in four games to set up a rematch with the Bulls in the conference semifinals. This time the Knicks prevailed, four games to three, and then needed seven games to drop the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. The NBA Finals pitted New York against the Houston Rockets in a bruising series in which neither team cracked 100 points in a single game. Harper practically won two games for the Knicks single-handedly, but the club's offensive woes eventually proved its undoing. The series went the limit, with the Rockets triumphing in Game 7 to claim the title.
1994-95: Offensive Woes Haunt Knicks; Riley Steps DownThe New York Knicks were unable to return to the NBA Finals in 1994-95, although they enjoyed a successful campaign. The team finished at 55-27, two games behind the Orlando Magic in the Atlantic Division and with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. New York began the playoffs by ousting the Cleveland Cavaliers in an unsightly, low-scoring first-round series.
The series went the distance, but as time expired in Game 7, Patrick Ewing missed a driving layup and a chance to tie the contest, giving the Pacers the victory. The Knicks had played stifling defense throughout the year, but their offensive woes hurt them in the postseason. Head Coach Pat Riley took the loss especially hard and resigned the day after the Finals ended. Don Nelson, who earlier in the season had stepped down as head coach of the Golden State Warriors, was soon named as Riley's successor.
The regular season was not without its moments. Forward Anthony Mason won the NBA Sixth Man Award after averaging 9.9 points and 8.4 rebounds while shooting .566 from the floor. Ewing was banged up for much of the season but held his own, finishing in the league's top 10 in scoring, rebounding, and shotblocking. John Starks had a mercurial season; his average of 15.3 points per game was second best on the squad, but he shot just .395 from the floor and .355 from three-point range. Taking advantage of the closer three-point line, Starks did set new NBA records for three-pointers.
1995-96: Nelson's Stay a Short OneThe Knicks of 1995-96 were a team of many changes, yet still highly competitive in the Eastern Conference. Many of the team's key components were playing what would amount to their final season in New York, en route to a 47-35 record, the first time in five seasons the team failed to reach the 50-win mark.
New York was led again by the steady play of Patrick Ewing, who finished in the league's top ten in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. Anthony Mason also shined. Playing a league-high 42.2 minutes per game, Mason was second to Ewing in points and rebounds, and led the Knicks with 4.4 assists per game.
In the playoffs, the Knicks blasted Cleveland three games to none, setting up a bit of a nostalgic rematch between the Knicks and the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. As was the case in the early 1990s, the Bulls were too much for New York, winning the best-of-seven series in five games.
The series would mark the last appearance in a New York uniform for free agents Derek Harper and Hubert Davis, as well as Mason, who was shipped to Charlotte in an offseason trade for Larry Johnson that brought the Knicks new hope as they entered a new era under Van Gundy.
1996-97: New Knicks Storm AtlanticThe new New York Knicks made their debut on Broadway in 1996-97, receiving rave reviews in their premiere season. With the addition of Larry Johnson, Allan Houston, Chris Childs and Buck Williams to complement veterans Patrick Ewing, John Starks and Charles Oakley, the Knicks improved by 10 games to 57-25, and a second place Atlantic Division finish.
Ewing earned his 11th appearance in the All-Star Game with yet another strong season. He finished among the league leaders in scoring (22.4 ppg), rebounds (10.7 rpg) and blocked shots (2.42 bpg). Starks won the league's Sixth Man Award, averaging 13.8 ppg off the bench. Houston (14.8 ppg), Johnson (12.8 ppg, .512 FG%) and Childs (9.3 ppg, 6.1 apg) quickly proved their worth to the New York faithful.
As the postseason unfolded, the Knicks looked poised to make a run at the Chicago Bulls. After a first-round sweep over the Charlotte Hornets, the Knicks took a commanding 3-1 lead over the Miami Heat in the Conference Semifinals. Late in Game 5, a scuffle erupted and four Knicks (including Ewing) received automatic one-game suspensions for leaving their bench area. With the Knicks undermanned in Games 6 and 7, the Heat became only the sixth team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series. It was the first time in six months that the Knicks lost three straight games.
1997-98: Knicks Look at Life Without EwingThe Knicks high hopes for 1997-98 were put to the test on December 20 when All-Star center Patrick Ewing used his wrist to break a fall, and suffered a dislocated Lunate bone and torn ligaments in his left wrist. The collapse many expected never occurred, and while Ewing looked on, New York responded with a 43-39 record and a first-round upset of Miami in the playoffs.
New York was 15-11 when Ewing went down against the Milwaukee Bucks, forcing New York to count on a solid team effort. Stepping up first and foremost were Allan Houston and Larry Johnson. Houston led the team in scoring (18.4 ppg), including 34-point performances against both Portland and Cleveland and scored 32 points against the Lakers in a 101-89 win on March 1. Johnson chipped in 15.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and, like Houston, took a more active role around the basket with Ewing out.
The emotional leader of the Knicks was once again John Starks. Coming off the bench, Starks contributed 12.9 points per game, and made a Knicks' franchise-record 9-of-12 three-pointers against the Milwaukee Bucks on January 29.
Point guard Charlie Ward started every game for the Knicks this season, averaging 7.8 points and team highs in 5.7 assists (5.7 apg) and steals (1.76 spg). Charles Oakley, who passed Ewing to become the Knicks' all-time leader in playoff games played with 113, continued to do everything that was asked of him and more, even filling in at center when backups Chris Dudley and Buck Williams were injured. Oakley led the Knicks in rebounding at 6.4 rpg, while contributing off the bench were Chris Mills ( 9.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg), Chris Childs (6.3 ppg, 3.9 apg ) and mid-season addition Terry Cummings (6.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg).
Ewing reached a few milestones before being injured in late December. On December 16, he scored his 22,000th career point in an 83-78 win over the Detroit Pistons, and moved past Larry Bird into 17th place on the NBA all-time scoring list after scoring 19 points in a 104-84 win over the Vancouver Grizzlies on Nov. 23.
Without their man in the middle, the Knicks scrapped their way to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, earning a reprise of their playoff series with arch-rival Miami. This time New York got the last laugh, prevailing in another hard-fought, low scoring series with a 90-81 win to earn a Semifinal berth with Indiana, and setting the stage for Ewing's remarkable return for Game 2 against the Pacers. New York pushed the Pacers hard, but Larry Bird's troops brought New York's unlikely season to an end in five games.
1998-99: Unforgettable Run to the FinalsThe Knicks made two big trades, yet they barely made the playoffs. While there, they lost their captain to an injury. And they still found a way to become the first No. 8 seed in history to reach the NBA Finals.
Two weeks before the season, New York acquired Latrell Sprewell from Golden State for John Starks, Chris Mills and Terry Cummings. Months earlier, the Knicks got Marcus Camby in a deal that sent Charles Oakley to Toronto. After all the changes, the rotation took time to form and New York stumbled to a 27-23 record in the regular season.
New York was matched against top-seeded Miami in the first round. The series went to a deciding Game 5, won by the Knicks on Allan Houston's running one-hander with 0.8 seconds to play. The game-winner bounced off both the rim and backboard before dropping through.
New York swept Atlanta in the second round as Camby emerged as one of the most exciting players of the 1999 playoffs. Camby's playing time was erratic for most of the season, but there was no holding him back after he notched 11 points and 13 rebounds in Game 2 of the Atlanta series. For the remainder of the postseason, his rebounding, shot-blocking and highlight dunks energized the Knicks.
Patrick Ewing's season ended after Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana. The Knicks captain had been playing despite a painful Achilles injury, but was relegated to the sideline after doctors discovered the tendon was partially torn.
The Knicks needed a magic moment in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden, and they got it when Larry Johnson broke a 1-1 series tie with his game-winning four-point play. New York clinched in Game 6 despite losing Johnson to a knee injury in the first half. He was able to play in the Finals against San Antonio, but the injury limited his mobility.
Despite Sprewell's 35 points and 10 rebounds in Game 5, the Spurs wrapped up the title with a 78-77 victory. Sprewell (26.0 ppg) and Houston (21.6) formed a high-scoring duo in the Finals, but the Knicks missed Ewing in the paint and were no match for San Antonio's Twin Towers, Tim Duncan and David Robinson.
1999-2000: Eastern Conference Repeat Falls ShortFor the 12th time in their history, the Knicks notched a 50-win season, going 50-32, good for second place in the Atlantic Division. It's also the second time they'd top the 50-win plateau under Head Coach Jeff Van Gundy.
The Knicks attempt to regain their place atop the Eastern Conference started out well, with New York sweeping the Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and the high-flying Raptors, 3-0. For the third straight season, the Knicks then advanced to play their arch-rivals to the south, Pat Riley's Miami Heat, whom they vanquished in a rough and tumble second round matchup, four games to three.
But their luck against playoff nemeses ended there, with Reggie Miller's Indiana Pacers winning the Eastern Conference crown by downing the Knicks in six games to advance to the NBA Finals against the eventual league champion L.A. Lakers.
Hobbled in early season by Achilles tendinitis, Ewing averaged 15.0 ppg and 9.7 rpg in what would turn out to be the last of his 15 record-breaking seasons in New York.
The Knicks went 33-8 at home -- where they extended their sellout streak at the Garden to 347 consecutive games. They finished 17-24 on road. New York finished second in NBA with .781 FT pct.
The injury bug again bit the Knicks. Marcus Camby (knee) and Ewing (Achilles) were both sidelined for long stretches. New York recorded 196 manpower games lost due to injury, with prospective “Top Eight” players available as a unit for only 33 of the regular season’s 82 games.
2000-01: Ewing Era Comes to an End
After advancing to the Conference Semis for nine straight years, the Knicks are knocked out in the first round by Toronto, 3-2.
The season began with a blockbuster trade that shocked the NBA and Knicks fans when New York traded local legend and certain Hall of Famer, Patrick Ewing to Seattle in four-team, 12-player megadeal. On September 20, 2000, the Knicks sent Ewing to the Sonics bringing Glen Rice, Luc Longley and Travis Knight to New York.
As was their trademark under Head Coach Jeff Van Gundy, the Knicks’ defense led the NBA with 86.1 ppg allowed and .417 opposing FG pct. The Knicks held their opposition under 100 points in post-shot clock NBA record 33 consecutive games, from November 11 - January 21. Knicks also led the league with a club record .796 FT pct. with guard Allan Houston shooting a club record .909 from the line (second in NBA). Marcus Camby was third in the league in FG pct at .524 and Kurt Thomas followed right behind at .511, good for fourth overall.
A veteran of the Jordan wars, Mark Jackson, returned to New York in a trade with the Toronto Raptors on February 22, 2001. He ranked sixth in NBA in assists at eight per game. Houston (18.7 ppg) and Latrell Sprewell (17.7) represented the Knicks in NBA All-Star Game in Washington, D.C.
The Knicks went 30-11 at the Garden, where they kept the longest active sellout streak in the NBA at 391 games. New York was 18-23 on the road and 12-5 in games decided by three points or less.
Jeff Van Gundy passed Pat Riley on Knicks’ all-time win list on March 1 with a 95-88 win over Boston to become third-winningest coach in franchise history. Van Gundy had tallied 238 victories at season’s end.
Again key starters were hobbled by injury, including Charlie Ward (knee) and Larry Johnson (back). The season-long injury bug (284 manpower games) forced Van Gundy to use 19 different starting lineups.
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