NBA Offseason: Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks Fine Without Jeremy Lin
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This offseason for the New York Knicks wasn't so much about the moves they did make as much as it was about the single move they did not make in failing to re-sign Jeremy Lin.
I happen to be of the school of thought that they were right in not matching the Houston Rockets' $25 million offer to Jeremy Lin, which pays him an astounding $15 million in year three.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, by the way, is either going to look like a genius in the 2014-15 season or a complete idiot for now promising Lin and former Chicago Bulls reserve center Omer Asik the same contract.
Morey is going to be paying them $30 million total in that third year. That's a lot of money for players who merely have a lot of upside but who are still widely regarded as unproven.
Yes, even Lin is still untested. He started only 25 games in his entire career, and now he's making $25 million. When he actually was tested against the best of the best last season in a game against the Miami Heat, he coughed up as many turnovers (eight) as he did points. And after missing a few months because of injury, let's hope his body can hold up for an entire season, let alone a career in the NBA.
As for Asik, well, for Morey's sake, I hope Asik goes from averaging three points last season to becoming the greatest Turkish big man ever in a matter of 36 months.
But I digress.
The Knicks failing to match the Rockets' offer for Lin was what got all of the attention this summer, not only for the Knicks and Rockets. It gave all NBA fans something other than Dwight-freaking-Howard to talk about for a minute.
Not matching Lin's offer also stole the spotlight from some of the other interesting moves and tweaks the Knicks made to their roster this offseason.
I'm sorry. I know you're saying, "Raymond Felton!? That's who you consider to be the Knicks' greatest offseason move!?"
Yes. The man deserves some respect.
Bringing him—or anyone, for that matter—in to replace Jeremy Lin is like telling your wife you cancelled the trip to the Maldives and instead planned a trip to Italy. Once the disappointment subsides, you're still left with a pretty nice option.
Or perhaps a comparison more appropriate for Felton, who admittedly still has some baby fat: it's like choosing the porterhouse over the filet (for those who think Lin really is the prime cut of point guards).
Lin personified what people love about sports. His "Linsanity" was arguably one of the most exciting moments in the history of sport. Bold statement, I know. But, really, think about that stretch. It was pretty incredible to watch unfold.
I get it. We all get it.
But Felton has proven himself year after year since being selected fifth overall in the 2005 NBA draft. By and large, his numbers are virtually identical to what Lin put up last season.
If you're the Knicks, do you pay Lin $25 million or Felton $10 million?
In Lin's 35 games with the Knicks, the closest he's come to a full NBA season, he averaged 14.6 points, 6.2 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 3.6 turnovers. He shot 42 percent from the field, 32 percent from three and 78 percent from the charity stripe. Those numbers are respectable and he's obviously full of upside.
Felton, over 534 games in his career, has averaged 13.4 points, 6.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 2.6 turnovers. He's also shooting 41 percent from the field, 33 percent from three and 78 percent from the free-throw line.
Felton also had his best season when he last played in New York, averaging 17 points, nine assists and nearly two steals per game. Yes, I know—he played under D'Antoni, who is famous for making average players look great offensively.
But all of Felton's success in New York can't be attributed to the coach.
He obviously plays well with Amar'e Stoudemire, which is huge for the Knicks as they look for him to rebound from a disappointing season that ended with him severing his hand after punching glass around a fire extinguisher.
Can the same be said about Lin? We'll never know. He barely played with Stoudemire. But we do know how well Felton and Stoudemire run the pick-and-roll together.
Here's the big difference between the two guards. Felton is getting paid $10 million over three years. Lin would've received $25 million over three years.
The Knicks have always been criticized for "Dolan" out money based on promise, potential, upside or past accomplishments. They never seem to get a good deal, a steal or pay what's appropriate.
For those who care about popularity, it's a jab to the heart that the Knicks drew the line on Lin, but it was the right decision.
Felton knows what he's getting into by coming back to New York this time. People are disappointed he's not Jeremy. But he's driven.
He said in an interview with Jonah Ballow of KnicksNow at the Vegas Summer Camp that he's looking forward "to this year and shutting up everybody's mouth.” The New York Post quoted him as saying that "[I] came in out of shape one year and that's all everybody wants to talk about."
The reality is, Lin or Felton wouldn't be enough to move the Knicks that much in either direction. They're not franchise players. But Lin's salary is much closer to that of a marquee player. Signing Felton is part of a rebuilding process.
In short, what began as "Lisanity" for the Knicks ultimately turned sour over "Linsalary."
That brings me to the other strategic moves the Knicks made this offseason.
Ronnie Brewer is a great pickup for the Knicks. He's a young, solid defender who will pair nicely when Iman Shumpert returns in January.
The Knicks need strong perimeter defense. Melo won't play it, Shump can't do it all and Smith is unreliable. Brewer is a smart piece to add to what is still very much a puzzle in New York.
Bringing back Marcus Camby is also big for New York. He was a fan-favorite in the city when the Knicks made a run to the Finals in 1999, losing to some guy named Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.
Will he be the Camby of old? No.
But he's a veteran shot-blocker, and opposing teams won't see any relief when he fills in for Tyson Chandler. If Knicks head coach Mike Woodson has Camby sub for Stoudemire, look out: Chandler and Camby are as intimidating a frontcourt as Duncan-Robinson. There, I said it.
Away from the court, Camby will provide exactly the kind of veteran leadership the Knicks need. This current team looks like a bunch of misfits at times. Camby knows what it takes to win in New York, and he knows how great it is when a team wins in the media capital of the world.
He needs to show the locker room—Carmelo included—what it takes to win big in a big city.
The arrival of Jason Kidd should have the same impact. He's a Hall of Fame point guard who knows how to win. He took the Nets to two Finals, including the franchise's first, and won it all as starting point guard for the Dallas Mavericks.
Kidd is one of the craftiest players to ever play the game, so don't think that just because he's 39 he can't be effective. Pairing him with Carmelo, Amar'e and J.R., who will be salivating on every possession for Kidd to throw a no-look ally-oop, is an interesting core and one that should not be taken lightly.
Re-signing Steve Novak was also smart. But here's the caveat with this guy: Novak needs to do more than hang out on the three for him to really prove to be a smart, long-term investment for the Knicks.
He needs to learn how to dribble. If he can get himself free and run through a few screens rather than just catch and shoot, he'll be much more effective.
We all saw his no-show against Miami in the playoffs. If he dribbles and creates his own shot by pulling up for a jumper, he'll score more than eight points per game. We're talking about some basic, fundamental skills he needs to learn.
And is it too much to ask for a professional basketball player who stands 6'10" to post up on nights when he's being guarded by a weak defender? God forbid he score four points in the post. Still, I'm glad the Knicks brought him back—but he can do more.
Lastly, I heard this Pablo Prigioni is pretty good. Ditto for James White, who can definitely throw down. But they're untested in the NBA, so I'm not going to judge them yet.
The Knicks will be just fine without Lin. As exciting as certain points were last season, it seemed like New York had four seasons rolled into one. This next year, while it most likely won't see anything close to Linsanity again, will be stable for the Knicks. Melo, Chandler, Amar'e, Felton, Shump, Camby and Kidd are the core.
Sounds sane to me.
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