By Sterling Bennett, lead writer at BushLeagueSports

The New York Knicks are a historic franchise that leads the NBA with a $4 billion net worth. The likes of Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Walt Frazier, and Carmelo Anthony are just some of the legendary players to roam the court of the greatest venue in sports-Madison Square Garden.

Following New York’s sixth consecutive playoff-less season and the 46th year of their infamous title drought, the 2019 NBA Offseason loomed over the head of owner James Dolan.

Despite the harsh recent history, the Knicks had reasons to believe the sun may shine once again.

Duke star Zion Williamson was labeled the ‘Next Knicks Superstar.’ His ferocious dunks and unparalleled athleticism were to glisten in the big city lights. He was the supposed to save the Knicks.

Williamson was not the only star that was reportedly headed to New York, as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s names floated in a vat of speculation. To some, the deals were said to be done, and all throughout the season statements were nailed down as reporters shouted their 95 theses.

“From what I’ve been told, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the New York Knicks is done deal.”

Fast forward to the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery. Knicks’ fan’s hopes and dreams of a big three died that night as New York received the number three overall pick.

The Zion Williamson fantasy was over.

After a night of beers and drunken tears, New Yorkers picked themselves up with a shimmer in the eye in the form of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Draft night came and went with New York selecting RJ Barrett, Williamson’s teammate out of Duke. A new big three formed in the hearts of Knicks’ fans.

“Barrett, Durant and Irving, now that’s a team I can get behind.”

Still, favorites to sign Durant and Irving and reclaim the Eastern Conference, the glimmer of hope began to fade.

Kevin Durant suffered a torn Achilles in Game Five of the NBA Finals. No longer was the discussion about the Knicks signing KD. It was now about the possibility of Durant staying in Golden State.

While there was not much validity to the conversation, a bigger debate was being had.

“Is it possible that the Brooklyn Nets, the second-tier New York team, are the new favorite to sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.”

The question itself is not asinine enough to require a scoff, but this is the Knicks we are talking about. The most lucrative team in the NBA with the best arena located in the largest market in all of sports.

Material needs were the Knicks’ pitch to Durant and Irving, while the Nets pitched immortality, or so we thought.

The New York Knicks were expected to offer Durant a full max contract. A deal that Durant would have been foolish to turn down. Owner, or newly implemented term ‘Governor,’ James Dolan had other thoughts.

According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the New York Knicks were not prepared to offer Kevin Durant a full max contract due to concerns over his recovery from the Achilles injury.

History resides with the Knicks when it comes to signing players after suffering an Achilles injury. In fact, for once the Knicks made a smart, calculated decision instead of rushing to sign a marquee free agent for name’s sake.

When it comes to an Achilles injury, 18 players have suffered one similar to Durant’s. Only one player has ever returned the same or close to it-Dominique Wilkins. The former Atlanta Hawk and NBA Hall of Famer’s career looked to be in jeopardy following his Achilles that was said to have ‘snapped’ in 1992 against the 76ers.

A year later, Wilkins played 71 out of 82 games and averaged almost three more points, the same amount of rebounds while maintaining a field goal percentage of 46 and making the All-Star team for the eighth consecutive season.

His comeback unlike no other, Wilkins, chimed in out Durant’s injury stating, “He’ll be fine.”

Positivity is easy when you are the only player to ever recover at such a rate like Wilkins. From the outside looking in, Durant’s injury may have put his best years behind him.

Chauncey Billups, Wesley Matthews, Rudy Gay, and Kobe Bryant’s careers can explain a more reasonable career projection for Durant. All the players listed above returned from their respective Achilles injuries. Three of them are still in the league, albeit averaging fewer points, shooting at a less efficient rate and while seeing their minutes reduced.

The two retired players (Bryant and Billups) only played two more seasons and saw their effectiveness diminish. The 35-year old Bryant, well past his prime, shot 36.4 percent from the field and 28.7 percent from the three-point line. Billups played just 41 games after returning from his injury, averaging 6.2 points in 17.7 minutes per game.

Both retired two years later.

Durant underwent successful surgery to repair his Achilles on June 12th, with the return time listed at over 12 months.

On Sunday, Durant signed a four-year, $164 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets to play alongside Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan.

Now the new powerhouse in New York, the Nets saw their title odds skyrocket to 12/1 giving Brooklyn the fifth highest odds. Despite Brooklyn’s higher odds to win a championship, the Knicks were able to save $164 million and reduce the risk of trotting out a surgically repaired superstar hoping for a miracle.

For the first time, James Dolan has led the New York Knicks to the right side of history in over 46 years.

Listen to Episode 28 of the BushLeagueSports Podcast

Written ByBushLeagueSports

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