I am a new Knicks fan. I wasn't there for Patrick Ewing, John Starks' dunk heard round the world, or Spike Lee getting into the face of Reggie Miller. In fact, to this day Reggie is still one of my favorite players, I still hate John Starks, and I cheered so hard against Ewing when he played the Chicago Bulls I used to make bets with my teacher in 6th grade with extra homework on the line. This means I'm not a typical fan. When my friends that are life long Knickerbocker fans talk about the pain and suffering the team and organization has caused them, I shut up and take a back-seat (learn a lesson here you post-lockout hockey fans).
The Knicks team I fell in love played between 2008 - 2010. They were a rag-tag group of players nobody expected to play well, and were all there simply filling space until the massive free agency rush of 2010 began. But these players, guys like David Lee (I still have an unworn jersey from him), Wilson Chandler, and Danilo Gallinari were fun to watch. They weren't big time names, but they played hard every night, and maybe my passion for lovable losers from my Buffalo sports teams made me latch on. Who knows.
One of the reasons I love all my other sports teams is that they have these epic players that spent so much of their career playing hard for the franchise and have become a staple of that team. Sure, not all of them spent their entire careers in Buffalo, but they played long enough to make a major impact in the mind of the fans. They WERE Buffalo Bills. They WERE Buffalo Sabres. They WERE Chicago Cubs. We all loved Jeremy Lin quiiiiiiite a bit, but as soon as we all fell for him, like Keyser Soze, he was gone. Does his half year stay in New York register as anything more than a blip on the radar screen? I'm not sure
Using the lovely basketball-reference.com, I compared the 2010 rosters to the current rosters of every NBA team to see what players still remain on all of these teams from three seasons ago. Keep in mind a few things before I show the numbers: there are still a decent amount of free agents, some of which will re-sign with their teams from last season, but very few of these players actually played on the same team from 2009-2010 as they did last year. Either way this could slightly alter the numbers. I also chose not to include players like Kirk Hinrich and Goran Drajic who were with a respective team in 2009-2010, but then left for other franchises, only to end up back at their original team this season (in fact from what I can tell, these are the only two that fit that mold). Finally, some of these players still may end up being traded from these rosters. Players like Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, and Anderson Varejao could still very likely be on their way to new teams, but as of now, they stay where they are. This should off-set the current batch of long-term free agents who may return to their original teams. And of course, every year we see players retire and rookies join the league, but since the NBA has the smallest draft in all of sports, this is hardly that big of a deal. Shall we begin?
After the Knicks and Hornets, there are two teams with only ONE player remaining from the roster. The Minnesota Timberwolves have premier player Kevin Love, and the Houston Rockets have Kevin Martin. The latter of which is being shopped by his current franchise, so the Rockets may be joining the oh-so-impressive zero player remaining club soon enough.
Next, there are the squads with just two players remaining. EIGHT teams have this dubious distinction: the newly rebuilt Brookyln Nets (Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries-Kardashian), Cleveland Cavaliers (Daniel "Breasty" Gibson and Anderson Varejao), Washington Wizards (some guys named Cartier Martin and James Singleton), Denver Nuggets (Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson), Utah Jazz (C.J. Miles and Paul Millsap), Phoenix Suns (Channing Frye and Jared Dudley), Portland Trailblazers (LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicholas Batum), and the Los Angeles Clippers (Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan). I counted Griffin even though he missed the entire 2009-10 season with injury because he was still technically on the roster. This of course means that 11 out of 30 NBA teams only have two or less players on their rosters from just three seasons ago. Consistency!
There are another eight franchises with just three players remaining from '09-'10, some of which are top title contenders over the past three seasons and some that are the garbage dump of the league: the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic, Charlotte Bobcats, Golden State Warriors, and the 2011 NBA champions the Dallas Mavericks. If you consider that an NBA roster can keep up to 15 players, this group has only kept 20% of their roster in tact. In some cases it makes sense. The Boston Celtics have Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo as cornerstones of the franchise and continue to build around them, just as younger teams like the Pacers are trying to do the same with Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger, and Tyler Hansbrough ... ok nevermind that last one ... and the 76ers have done with Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, and Thaddeus Young (maybe). You also have once dominating franchises falling apart at the seams, like the Magic, who - once they lose Howard - will be dumped to the two player category, and the Dallas Mavericks, who I was sure only had two players left until I remembered famed soccer player Rodrigue Beaubois.
This leaves us with five teams with four players remaining (Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Lakers, and Sacremento Kings). Two teams with five, which of course are the ever-aging San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat, whom I was shocked to see with so many leftovers from before the Lebron era. How soon do we forget they brought back perennial role-players like James Jones, Udonis Haslem, and Joel Anthony. Barf. And then there's the most surprising find of my research in the awful Detroit Pistons who have six players remaining, only ebat out for the top spot by, not-so-surprisingly, the young Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder, the only teams who've retained seven players remaining from their '09-'10 rosters. These guys should be commended because they have built successful teams through the draft, underestimated free agent signings, and minor trades.
Overall Analysis? 20 out of 30 teams, or TWO-THIRDS of NBA franchises have kept only 20% OR LESS of their players from three seasons ago. An even better way to look at it is that only 94 out 450 players, or about 21% of all players from the league in 2009-2010, still remain with the same team. I might be over-reacting, but that blows my mind. No wonder fans can't keep up with their teams and the league had an effed up lockout last season. How can fans build support for any team when they have an almost constant carousel of players coming and going? I can imagine the jersey sales for the franchises are fantastic with this concept in place, but how can fans develop real admiration for their players? Maybe I'm wrong about all of this though. Maybe we are simply supposed to just follow the machine and not the cogs that make it up. After all, we have recently learned, again, that building up our heroes too much can lead to major disappointment when they fall. And, by no means are any NBA organizations actually trying to become worse with these roster shuffles (although Michael Jordan is making a solid case for this in Charlotte). Yet, with all of these numbers before me, I can't help that - as a Knicks fan from Buffalo - I'm simply cheering for a color scheme or, even worse, a complete ass-hat of a human being in James Dolan.
This is definitely going to plague me in the upcoming season. I still plan on cheering for the Knicks, mostly because I'm stubborn and once I decide on something I rarely back down, but also because I'm very much a New Yorker now and I do like guys on the roster like Iman Shumpert, Ray Felton, and Tyson Chandler. But, lingering in the background of my mind, there's that constant visual I'm getting of douche-bag James Dolan sitting behind a desk, counting money and throwing darts at a Jeremy Lin picture on a chalkboard. Does he or, more importantly, the NBA really care about fans? Or is it all about the money?
Dumb question. We all know the answer already.
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