Walt Frazier was the coolest athlete to ever play in New York. Clyde dressed extravagantly and commandeered the NBA with his point guard skills, leading the Knicks to NBA titles in 1969-70 and 1972-73.
The current Knicks do not have the identity of the 70s teams. Frazier, Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, Dick Barnett and Earl Monroe (who Frazier teamed with for the "Rolls-Royce Backcourt") are distant names.
"It's no longer a sexy place where guys want to go," Frazier says. "Guys turning down LA, turning down New York. They seem to be enthralled with winning championships now. They’ll go anywhere to try to do that."
The Knicks were not expected to make a Broadway-sized pickup this offseason, but adding an established player former Pistons center Greg Monroe seemed reasonable. He chose the Bucks over the Knicks.
"He went to Milwaukee of all places," Frazier says. "Who ever heard of that, a guy turning down New York to go to Milwaukee?"
The Knicks ended up signing role players such as Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, Derrick Williams and Kyle O'Quinn to team with superstar Carmelo Anthony.
"The Knicks were handling a lot of adversity," Frazier, the Knicks' color commentator on MSG, says of the offseason. "They had $30 million, but $30 million is not what is used to be. We didn't really acquire a real superstar with that money. We got a lot of good role players to fill in, but those guys are going to have to have career seasons for the Knicks to make the playoffs."
The Knicks finished with the NBA's second-worst record in 2014-15, 17-65, two years removed from the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 54-28. The rebuilding effort is headed by team president Phil Jackson, Frazier's teammate on the Knicks' championship teams.
"To me, the biggest weakness for the Knicks, is defense -- lack of defensive intensity, too many guys literally walking to the basket, so they have to improve in that respect," Frazier says. "They were [among] the worst in the league at defending the two and the three-ball, so they've got to tighten up their defensive [and] hope Melo can come back healthy. Obviously, he's their catalyst. The other players that Phil acquired, they have potential, but they haven't done anything."
At least the veteran additions Jackson made have been on an NBA floor. Most American fans haven't even seen Kristaps Porzingis of Latvia, the fourth overall pick in the draft, play live.
"Porzingis is a tremendous talent," Frazier says. "[He's] 7-3 (the Knicks list him at 7-1), has the three-ball in his arsenal. He can block a shot without leaving the floor, so he can be an intimidator there. The downside: he's young, he's a rookie, only 19 years of age (he turned 20 in August), has to get stronger, gain experience in order to be a bona fide player."
Porzingis will get his first look at NBA action soon enough. The Knicks open the preseason Oct. 7 at Madison Square Garden against Paschoalotto/Bauru of Brazi. New York starts the regular season Oct. 28 at Milwaukee.
Before Frazier broadcasts those games, he will focus on his beard. Frazier and Keith Hernandez appeared in a recent Just For Men ad for the second time. The duo will award the title of "Best Beard Ever" on Oct. 15 based on beards uploaded on social media with the hashtag #beardspotting.
The winner of the contest will receive a trip for two to Brooklyn to join the judging panel at the National Beard & Mustache Championships. All entrants will be in the running for Frazier and Hernandez autographed memorabilia.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.