Don Nelson’s tenure as Knicks coach lasted less than one year, and he’s rather sure it’s because of an idea which was considered outrageous at the time: Trade Patrick Ewing. The notion seemed rather ridiculous to New York’s front office. Ewing not only was the face of the franchise for over a decade, but he had guided New York to the Finals just two seasons prior.
Nelson was considered an out of the box figure while in the Big Apple. His up-tempo offensive style directly conflicted with the Knicks bruising defensive identity. At one point he was ridiculed for attempting to use Anthony Mason in a ball handler role similar to how the Warriors deploy Draymond Green.
During the 1995-96 season, the Knicks went 34-25 before firing Nelson in-season for Jeff Van Gundy. According to Nelson, the Knicks gave him his pink slip after news got back to Patrick Ewing that Nelson suggested trading him for Shaq.
Ironically, later on in the summer of 1996, the Knicks hatched a plan to land either Shaq or Michael Jordan in free agency but were unable to trade Patrick Ewing’s salary. It’s a wild scenario to digest as the Knicks would have immensely changed the trajectory of the NBA if they were successful.
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