My fake Knicks would never feud with Spike Lee

But we sure do love losing the draft lottery

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

A once-proud franchise reduced to the smoldering ash of free agency failures and draft busts. The fans wipe soot off their forehead and looks to the sky for salvation. Words rise up first as guttural sounds and then, with a stark clarity, turn into a mantra.

lottery. Lottery. LOTTERY.

You may learn probability, and you surely can visualize flipping a coin, but in the moment when 25% means everything but a 75% chance at sadness, you truly appreciate the cold rationality of mathematics. NBA history rises and falls with the cruel machinations of ping pong balls and frozen envelopes in the draft lottery, where one team always wins no matter the odds.

My Knicks in the previous post pulled the rip cord on a failing Carmelo Anthony experiment, meme-trading him for Nick Young and draft assets. NBA 2K16 rewarded my vision by cratering my team’s production, injuring Kristaps Porzingis and ending the season 29-53, far from playoff contention.

All hope for proving I’ve earned my Twitter scorn and decades of Dolan mocking rides on the simulated draft lottery. Ride or die.

Setting the stage

While I may have planned to lose, the real Knicks supposedly tried to win. They went 31-51 and faced another rebuild on the horizon. Dropping to the eighth pick in the draft, the Knicks took a flyer on a project in Frank Ntilikina, a tentacle-arm terror on the defensive end with worrisome passivity on offense.

Steve Mills, freshly back to power after ownership fired Phil Jackson after the draft and right before free agency. Mills quickly used his newfound power to bring back Tim Hardaway Jr. on what was seen at the time as a hilarious overpay for a likely role player.

After getting bored, they too let 2K fill their bench with random veterans, adding Michael Beasley, Jarrett Jack, and Ramon Sessions to a mismatched roster with incongruent parts.

Right before the season kicked off, the Knicks decide to finally part ways with Carmelo Anthony and embrace a Kristaps-centered rebuild. They end up moving Melo to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and the 2018 2nd rounder that eventually became Mitchell Robinson.

At the time, the move appeared controversial. SB Nation’s Kristian Winfield and Matt Ellentuck tried to understand the Knicks’ thinking:

Anthony really forced the Knicks’ hands to make a deal before the start of training camp, and the threat of circus to start the season was surely there if they didn’t. That’s why this deal was done so quickly, and for a return that doesn’t make much sense on paper.

In Kanter, the Knicks gets an offensive-minded big, who struggles defensively, and a three-point specialist in McDermott, who only fired at 36 percent a season ago. They are also receiving a second-round pick, but this can’t be the return New York had hoped for.

No one could predicted that that second rounder would eventually become Mitchell Robinson, a foundational piece that now makes the trade far more palatable, or that Melo would flame out spectacularly for both the Thunder and then the Rockets before “sitting” a year out and returning competently for the Trail Blazers in this current season.

Vegas pegged the Knicks as a candidate for a slight decline, putting their over/under at a half game under the previous season’s win total at 30.5.

Don’t do this at home, kids

My fake Knicks tanked proudly and loudly, trading away Carmelo at what appeared to be his highest value and rebuilding fully around our young bigs, Kristaps Porziņģis and the pre-ascension Joel Embiid. We end the year with 29 wins, the worst record in the league (and currently four games ahead of what the moribund real Knicks are projected to hit by FiveThirtyEight).

We enter the draft lottery with a 25% chance at the top pick and meet this smiling specter of hell, put here only to crush my soul.

He soon does.

The Knicks drop to the third overall pick, eerily replicating the failed Zion sweepstakes of this past draft. Losing out on the top two leaves our desperate squad with Omar Esparza, a promising point guard who apparently went to “Mexico College”.

Omar’s sunken, haunted visage will plague my nightmares for decades; he’s somehow both 21 and 89, and joins a long list of New York point guard fever dreams.

Free agency brings a ragtag collection of talent that barely fits what you’d call a traditional team build; I already have two giants in Kristaps and Embiid, but the only superstar-level talent for our cap space is perennially injured but high-upside Blake Griffin.

Scared money don’t make money.

I pull the trigger on Blake on a max contract, the famous last words for any general manager after 2014, and add the equally gigantic Bojan Bogdanović as an oversized 2 to sprinkle in extra perimeter shooting. Fully assembled, my Monstar squad dwarfs conventional wisdom and any other team, starting one PG, two PFs, and two Cs; all have range, all might not be able to stay healthy, and yet, you know you’d watch.

Bully-ball szn is back!

We’re living in a simulation

Bully szn is canceled.

My squad, 27-27 through the all-star break, never gets to fully gel properly. Omar, my promising rookie star, gets badly hurt; a returning Jeremy Lin runs the show but can’t recreate his last magical run in the Garden.

I end the year 41-41, the picture of mediocrity. We sneak into the playoffs as the eighth seed, aiming to dethrone the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers (minus LeBron, of course, who left last year to join the Magic).

My mismatched squad of giants somehow overwhelm the champs and pull off the upset, sparking a brief flicker of hope in my long-dead sports fan heart that I’m recreating the “WE BELIEVE” Warriors.

We end up mirroring those guys all too well by losing in the next round, getting quickly swept by the LeBron James-led Orlando Magic.

A look around the Warm the Bench fictional universe

Kevin Durant’s MVP winning season ends in misery, as the Orlando Magic beat the Thunder to win the title. LeBron once again wins a title in his second season with a South Florida squad, while Durant and Westbrook barely miss joining the ranks of legendary threepeat squads.

My beloved Knicks rookie Omar ends up making the first-team All-Rookie squad, joining someone named Leslie Hickman, whose fake name tells me he time-traveled from 1954 to thrive for the 76ers.

How’d I do compared to the real life Knicks?

The actual Knicks also produced a first-team rookie, with their second-round pick Willy Hernangomez making the 2016-17 squad. Our similarities end there, though.

New York goes 29-53, going under the Vegas projections and ending up 11th in the East. A promising year for young Kristaps Porziņģis ends in tragedy, as he tears his ACL while dunking over current MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Without KP, the rudderless Knicks limp to an anti-climatic finish that costs head coach Jeff Hornacek his job. A despairing franchise places their hope in his replacement, David Fizdale, and a successful rehab for their franchise cornerstone.

What can go wrong?

I aimed for five seasons. I can only take three.

I initially planned for this series to be a five-parter, catching up to 2020 and comparing the state of the real vs fictional franchises in present day. Yet, the actual Knicks pulled off something so cataclysmically dumb that nothing I could do or try could ever come close.

My fake squad could lose every single game, and still not pull off something as embarrassing as what happened in the last few days.

In two days, the Knicks hired a new team president officially, upset the Houston Rockets behind some great performances from their young core, and then immediately screwed it all up by publicly feuding with their most famous fan, Spike Lee. Mike Vorkunov breaks down the timeline nicely here.

What’s the point in fixing past sins when the team you begrudgingly watch will just continue to score own goals and destroy any remnants of credibility left? If they can’t treat their most famous and unendingly loyal fan with respect, what do you think they view you as?

No timeline will ever be darker than the one we’re on now. Not even NBA 2K can simulate something this stupid.

Sell the team.