I regret to inform you that the Knicks are Knicksing again. It would seem that Kristaps Porzingis — New York’s large adult son and the kind of generational talent you tank a decade for — could be replaced, perhaps by Lauri Markannen, otherwise known as Shorter and Nowhere Near As Good Porzingis. What little perceptible order there was at Two Pennsylvania Plaza was destroyed Wednesday night when Phil Jackson announced that his young big-man-who-shoots-3s is possibly on the block — maybe for the crime of not coming to an exit interview at the end of the season. It was all good, or at least not all bad, as recently as two days ago.
By the way: This is what it feels like to follow soccer. Just put yourself in the shoes of an AS Monaco fan. You cheer for an overachieving team in France’s Ligue 1, full of gleaming young talent that came within one Juventus of a Champions League final appearance. Your best player is Kylian Mbappé, a prolific striker, your crown jewel, and at 18 years old, the youngest to do pretty much everything. So naturally, because you can’t have nice things (other than maybe living in Monaco), he is “linked” with every top club in Europe. When he bleaches his hair, it’s a foretoken. When he likes an Arsenal player’s photos on Instagram, it’s the end of the world. In the summer, in soccer, it’s the “end of the world” every morning.
In that respect, this Porzingis trade rumor is starting to take on a uniquely European Soccer Transfer Saga feel. Watch enough soccer and basketball and the parallels between the two reveal themselves. Stare alternately at HoopsHype and The Sun long enough, and you begin to realize that Silly Season and Eyeballs Emoji Season are nearly one and the same. This is why we get to say that soccer and basketball are year-round sports, despite the absence of any actual basketball or non–Confederations Cup/MLS soccer being played right now.
Let’s start by looking at the frenzy-to-substance ratio. There’s an outsize amount of BREAKING NEWS in both European soccer and the NBA reported by people you’ve otherwise never heard of — each with sources they can’t name — compared with the players actually, finally changing teams. We talk a lot about personnel moves that are close to happening. Chelsea has been closing in on dogged, two-way Monaco player Tiemoué Bakayoko since March; dogged two-way Bulls player Jimmy Butler has been going to the Celtics since last summer.
When the teams aren’t chasing the players, the players are chasing the teams, acting with whatever agency they have. If there’s a Reggie Jackson moving from OKC to Detroit, thank you God, there’s a Julian Draxler forcing a move from pretty-good German club FC Schalke 04 to less-good VfL Wolfsburg. (Draxler eventually did the same from Wolfsburg to very-good French club Paris Saint-Germain.) Paul George is setting a course for his hometown of Los Angeles in two years’ time, making his next team a stepping stone on the way to the Lakers. Cristiano Ronaldo suggesting he might leave the Bernabeu ad nauseum in order to improve his situation there is something LeBron might do.
But procedurally, spectacle-wise, Porzingis leaving on summer vacation without taking an exit interview, getting “hacked,” and communicating all subsequent wishes and demands through his older brother is peak NBA-as-European-football-rumor. The clumsiness, the hearsay, the intrigue.
There’s something about the summer, when a lot of soccer players return to their own countries, that seems to afford them the specific freedom to say what they actually mean. For example, after a 31-goal season at Liverpool that saw him win the Football Writers Association’s player of the year award, Luis Suárez went home to Uruguay and admitted to 890 Sport that he loved the Merseyside — truly, madly, deeply — but Real Madrid are Real Madrid and should the Spanish giants come knocking he wouldn’t not answer. (He ended up at Barcelona, who loved, or at least valued him, in kind; warts, incisors, and all.)
Here’s another one for you: David de Gea, who I once considered to be my large adult son. De Gea, Manchester United’s erstwhile first-choice goalkeeper, had been the club’s player of the year each of the past three seasons. He almost left for Real Madrid in summer 2015, but the wheels came flying off the transfer at the literal last minute. The next few days brought plenty of statements and retractions about file formats, but mostly about faulty fax machines (it is actually soccer that is the best, thanks).
However, de Gea didn’t play in the Red Devils’ biggest game this season, and had been consistently dropped in the other important matches leading up to it. In March, Spanish journalist Eduardo Inda said that de Gea’s Spanish friend had told him, in Spanish, what de Gea thought of Manchester: It’s “hell because every day is black,” reportedly. Direct translations are always well, direct, but that statement is either something that can’t possibly have been made up or something that could only have been made up, and I’m not sure which. Either way, Madrid club president Florentino Pérez is again publicly denying the move could happen, which conversely means it’s back on.
All else being equal, it might be better to be young and rich in Madrid than young and rich in Manchester. By that token, being the cornerstone of a franchise more committed to success than implementing the triangle is a future worth peering into. New York is dope, but not that dope.
I would actually like more Silly Season on my NBA free agency, please, not less. I would like beat writers posting flight information to Twitter for elite role players too, not just LeBron James. I might even prefer it if there were a wholesale change to the European transfer model.
Want Paul George to secure Warriors-Cavs Part IV, Cleveland? You can have him if you’re willing to spend ALL OF THE MONEY — the jersey sales will cover the cost, anyway. What if, instead of stockpiling future Brooklyn picks, Boston stockpiled actual promising youth prospects and then sent all of them out on loan? After a full summer of speaking exclusively through Instagram and his agent, Paul Pogba announced his return to Old Trafford with an Adidas-produced music video featuring Stormzy. Picture Porzingis mawkishly crip-walking into the Staples Center in a Clippers jersey while G Perico performs “Gets My Staccs.” JUST PICTURE IT.
Anthony Davis can never leave New Orleans, though. He has to retire there. He is excluded from all hypotheticals. You can’t have him.