Despite James Dolan, an unclear GM and coaching situation and the worst win/loss record in the past 16 years, the Knicks still get talked about every summer in free agency. Why? It's New York City, and you get to play in Madison Square Garden. Small market teams can offer all the basketball perks in the world, but when you're done with a home game in MSG, you leave "the office" and step out into one of the greatest cities in the world.
That magic soon disappears as you walk towards your car knowing there's a painful commute ahead of you. Knicks players have to choose between two evils. Live in Manhattan and have a long commute to the team practice facility in Greenburgh, about 28 miles from Madison Square Garden. Live outside, usually in Westchester County and have a short commute to the practice facility; but in that case, players feel like they play 82 road games a season.
“It’s essentially a road game. Some days it takes me an hour and a half to get to the Garden.”
Elfrid Payton, via The Athletic
Teams used to build practice facilities remote from their arena, usually in a peaceful suburb. That trend has changed as most new arenas have the practice facility and offices within the complex or across the street. The Knicks built their practice facility in 2002 and believed it would help them draw free agents to New York - we all know how that went.
Top free agents are after max-money and a team that can be competitive in the playoffs. Everyone else weighs the quality of life and team opportunities. School districts, practice facilities - we don't take these things into consideration, but players do.
When Kobe started taking a helicopter for home games in LA, many saw it as a superstar flex. Money can help you avoid LA traffic. Kobe saw it as an investment in his playing career. All those NBA miles added up, Kobe was dealing with a broken finger, fragile knees, sore back, achy feet, and chronic agita. Driving to Staples would have a significant impact on his body. The commute to MSG has a similar impact on the Knicks.
“You’re almost tired from that just getting to the game”
Henry Ellenson, via The Athletic