Zion could boost Knicks’ prospects

USA TODAY US Edition - - SPORTS - AJ Neuharth-Keusch

Close your eyes. Imagine, just for a mo­ment, that you’re sit­ting court­side at Madi­son Square Gar­den.

It’s the first round of the 2020 play­offs, and the Knicks are still play­ing bas­ket­ball. The lights go down for player in­tro­duc­tions. The si­lence is deaf­en­ing. Kyrie Irv­ing, Kevin Du­rant and Zion Wil­liamson are lined up on the side­line, ready to make their way to the court.

Irv­ing and Du­rant are met with heavy cheers as their names are called. But Wil­liamson? The Gar­den erupts like it hasn’t in years. The run­away Rookie of the Year spent all sea­son cap­tur­ing the hearts of the Knicks’ faith­ful. New York bas­ket­ball is fi­nally rel­e­vant again.

OK, open your eyes. It’s April 2019, and the Knicks are wrap­ping up the worst sea­son in fran­chise his­tory. They haven’t been to the play­offs in six years, and the con­sen­sus No. 1 over­all pick just fin­ished play­ing his first and only NCAA tour­na­ment run with Duke.

In a few short months, he could be don­ning the or­ange and blue.

Yes, this is strictly hy­po­thet­i­cal. Not only are the Knicks not guar­an­teed the No. 1 pick (they’re tied with the Suns and the Cava­liers for the high­est odds), but there’s al­ways the chance Wil­liamson doesn’t meet his sky-high ex­pec­ta­tions. And the Knicks aren’t the hottest free agency des­ti­na­tion.

But what if the Knicks land Wil­liamson and strike gold in free agency?

Even if the lat­ter doesn’t hap­pen, he would be one heck of a con­so­la­tion prize. Wil­liamson — all 6-7, 285 pounds of him — is ar­guably the most-hyped prospect ever. More im­por­tant, he brings hope — some­thing that has been hard for Knicks fans to come by, es­pe­cially af­ter the fran­chise traded bud­ding su­per­star Kristaps Porzingis in Jan­uary.

Keep in mind: While Wil­liamson has said he would “love” to play for New York, he doesn’t need the Knicks. He’s al­ready his own brand.

The Knicks, on the other hand, need Wil­liamson. For more rea­sons than one.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.