Guest Post by Matt Sloustcher
On Monday, the New York Knicks cut rookie forward Patrick Ewing Jr., the 6'8" second-round pick out of Georgetown and son of the most famous Knick in history.
According to team president Donnie Walsh, the decision took into account the Knicks’ troubled shooting skills. Other sources point to Jerome James, a fragile $30 million center that didn’t play one minute this pre-season.
Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: Knicks fans are not happy.
Over the course of his twenty-five minutes of action this pre-season, Ewing Jr. energized Madison Square Garden with a performance that included two dunks and a 3-pointer last Friday. Fans even chanted his name, reminiscing back to the days when his father regularly led the Knicks into the playoffs.
Make no mistake. This emotional outpour is significant given that fans witnessed an abysmal 23-59 season last year, haven’t enjoyed a winning season since 2000-2001, and had to endure an embarrassing Isiah Thomas scandal.
All in all, the decision brings an interesting question to light: How big a role should PR play in sports management decisions?
My immediate thought is “not much” given that weighing PR heavily doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of pure competition, but for a struggling organization like the Knicks, why not give something back to the fans? Jerome James’ 2008-2009 prospects are shaky at best, and Ewing Jr. showed promise in the little time he was afforded this pre-season.
Clearly PR and sports have become more closely aligned as team payrolls and revenues skyrocket. David Beckham’s gargantuan $250 million contract with LA Galaxy – more than 50 times the league average – is evidence enough.
Hopefully, for the sake of Knicks fans, team management looks a little more closely at the PR implications of its decisions in the future.
Interesting post Matt. I believe that the best PR any Basketball team, or any team for that matter, can practice is winning…honorably.
No one can be 100% of the intentions of the Knicks organization in letting a popular young player go, but the idealist in me hopes that it is because they thought they would have a better chance to win without him, either because he does not have the necessary skills or because they can find more talent with the money freed up.
If they were right, and the Knicks go on to do well and Ewing Jr. never takes off, then their PR troubles are over (or at least momentarily on pause).
As a USC fan I am thrilled that PR does not take a priority in every decision. Pete Carroll was universally dismissed as a lousy choice when hired, by pundits and alumni alike… Winning cures all ills.
By the way, don’t think the Knicks are the on NY sports organization to diss there stars: Joe Torre, Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams, and even Yogi was pised for awhile, and now Patrick Ewing Sr. Will be pissed at the Knicks.
Steve, As a Basketball fan, I don’t even think the NBA deserves a mention as being Basketball. The case of Ewing is a perfect example of business over what’s best for the game. I would truely prefer any College game over the NBA anyday, as you can see the purity of the game. I am not in the PR field, however if I was I would try to Brand more players like Ewing Jr. and get rid of some of the Rif-Raf. Again, I think the NBA is forgetting where they came from????