Watching the Knicks limp to the finish line with 12 losses in their last 14 games has been painful, especially because it casts the very real improvements of the season into a new light. There's been an undeniable sense of direction established after years wandering in the wilderness, and that's resulted in at least seven more wins than they had last year.
But as the losses mount, the still gaping holes of the team are cast into a sharper relief. There aren't many players on the roster with a real future with the team, and those that do will need the increasingly unlikely arrival of LeBron James to make the team worth much of anything in the long run.
That's the problem with the close the wallet and pray strategy. If it doesn't pay off, the Knicks are going to be left with a mish-mosh of second-tier stars who can't lift them into the upper echelon of the NBA. The best way to hedge against that is the draft, but the improvemed results have made it harder to climb to the top of the draft lottery. With Blake Griffin leaving Oklahoma and entering the draft, that really burns.
Griffin would slide easily into the role occupied by Amare Stoudemire when Mike D'Antoni coached the Suns. The big man who clears the glass on defense, hits the point guard and then runs the floor like a stallion to finish with a dunk at the other end. His presence would make it much easier to say goodbye to David Lee, saving money for the big 2010 push, and would provide the team its surest building block.
Alas, ESPN's Chad Ford pegs the Knicks with a 2.8 percent chance of winning the lottery, which means they'll likely be watching Griffin trying on another team's cap while shaking hands with David Stern. He's the only surefire prospect in the draft, the only player whose NBA future you can bank on and exactly what the Knicks need. Never has winning left such ambivalent feelings.