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Defining Moments of the NBA Season: The Night the Knicks Ruined Everything

How three events on one night at MSG perfectly captured New York’s mess of a season

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The NBA is on hold for the foreseeable future. To help fill the void, we’re looking back at the defining moments of the 65-ish games of the 2019-20 season so far.

Only one year removed from tying a franchise low with 17 wins, the New York Knicks have managed to win more games while sinking even lower.

The blinding optimism of landing Zion Williamson, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant ultimately led the Knicks to use all the cap space they got by trading Kristaps Porzingis to sign approximately 100 power forwards. Ten games into the season, James Dolan summoned Steve Mills and Scott Perry for an awkward, impromptu press conference where the message boiled down to: “We’re not happy with where we are.”

They fired David Fizdale following a 4-18 start, Mills was fired two months later, and about a month after bringing on “Branding Guru” Steve Stoute to rebrand their struggling image, Spike Lee went on ESPN after an incident at Madison Square Garden to blast the organization and announce he was boycotting attending games for the rest of the season.

There’s no one moment that truly captures how much of a train wreck of a season it’s been, even by Knicksian standards, but there is one night that gets pretty damn close. In late January, at home against the Memphis Grizzlies, a remarkable three embarrassing incidents took place: Elfrid Payton’s shove, Marcus Morris’s sexist postgame comments, and Showergate. On the court, in the locker room, hell, even in the away team’s locker room, the Knicks managed to showcase their incompetence. (And please note: The precursor to these events was a 21-point blowout for the team’s 12th loss in 15 games.)

First, the shove. Down by 18 points with under a minute left to play, the game was all but over for the Knicks. Grizzlies forward Jae Crowder, however, took the opportunity to get an extra shot up after stealing a lazy inbound pass from Julius Randle. And Payton, well … he didn’t take too kindly to that.

Though Crowder’s move may have been a display of poor sportsmanship, the Knicks guard one-upped him by throwing his entire body and soul into Crowder, sparking a minor skirmish between the two teams that prolonged an already disastrous game for New York. As the refs convened before handing out ejections, a mellifluous chorus of “sell the team” chants echoed throughout the arena.

Next came Morris’s postgame comments. Frustrated with the loss, and likely doubly frustrated by being one of the three players ejected, Morris didn’t hold back when asked about the play with Crowder. “He’s got female tendencies on the court, flopping and throwing his head back the entire game,” Morris said. “He’s soft. That’s how he carries [himself]. Just very woman-like.”

Morris deservedly got blasted for his comments online, including by WNBA star Liz Cambage, and drew the disappointment of the great Diana Taurasi. Morris almost immediately hopped on Twitter to apologize, claiming that he meant no disrespect to women and that he was heated in the moment. The whole ordeal was a bad look to say the least.

Last, and certainly not least: the cold showers. By far the funniest incident of the night, Grizzlies players returned to their locker room after the game to discover they couldn’t take a hot shower. The Knicks are worth an estimated $4.6 billion, the most in the league, and poor Ja Morant can’t even get some decent water pressure. “This is beyond me,” Morant told reporters. “I’ve taken cold showers before, but at least I had water pressure.” There is perhaps no greater metaphor to wash away the Knicks season than a cold, weak, pressureless shower.

I say this with the bittersweet love of a longtime Knicks fan still watching because of Stockholm syndrome, but if this season does end up getting canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, then perhaps the smallest of victories can be found in not having to watch this team take the court again. A true reset is needed now more than ever, and hopefully a new direction under the leadership of Leon Rose, and the continued development of RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, and Frank Ntilikina (Frank, I just can’t quit you) can finally turn this franchise around. But I’ve seen this movie before, and have foolishly placed hope in false saviors time and time again. Please, in the words of the Beatles, sell the team!