Just 15 games into an abysmal season, the New York Knicks couldn’t even blow up their horrible roster if they wanted to.
Are things really all that bad? Yup—that bad and more. The Knicks’ lowly record stands at 3-12—bad enough for second-to-last place. There’s just two teams in the entire league with marginally worse records—the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz are vying for dead last with two glorious wins apiece.
Well, at least the Knicks can tank and reign supreme at the 2014 draft, right? There before their eternally boisterous hometown crowd, scooping up Andrew Wiggins or the like! Oh, but wait. They can’t. They dealt their 2014 first-round pick to the Denver Nuggets as part of the three-team blockbuster trade that brought Carmelo Anthony to the Big Apple in 2011.
So, there’s that. Melo, of course, is now talking about free agency, the Knicks are in free fall and nobody seems able to put all the pieces back together. It’s a mess. The Knicks had a chance to snap their losing streak against the Nuggets Friday night—Anthony missed a jumper at the buzzer, and Denver hung on for a 97-95 victory.
OK, so the Band-Aid’s been ripped off. Let’s stop whimpering and figure out how to fix this thing.
First, we need some cap room. Anthony may leave, but there’s plenty of other fish in the ocean. According to ShamSports, the Knicks only have $30,720,014 in roster payroll without options next season. That sounds promising! Oh, but wait—those particular options actually bring the total to $90,625,957. That’s casual.
And it works like this: Amar’e Stoudemire has a player option for $23,410,981 for next season. Anthony also has a player option for $23,333,403, and not to be forgotten—Andrea Bargnani, who arrived via trade this summer, also has a player option for $11,500,000. That’s a total of $58,244,384, which just by itself is right in the wheelhouse of an entire team roster.
Metta World Peace also has a player option—at just $1,661,550. The Knicks better hope he opts in—he’s one of the few bright spots in an ever-darkening sky.
Arash Markazi for ESPN Los Angeles recently wrote about the Knicks’ woes, including a few choice snippets from the ever-sunny Peace: "We're not struggling, World Peace said. It's part of life. You know how life is. We had a bad hair day, you know?"
Is it possible that players could look beyond their hair and simply decide to walk away from their contracts? Well sure, if they think they can make more on the open market or, perhaps, have a chance at a ring.
'Melo could indeed decide to take a hike—he’s still one of the league’s elite players and is pretty much dominating the free-agency conversation these days. Stoudemire’s a whole other story, though—nobody in their right mind will pay that kind of scratch. With 12 years in the league and a host of knee issues, he’d be wise to play out his contract. And in case you were wondering, the Knicks can’t amnesty him—they already used their one-time provision on Chauncey Billups.
Still, there’s always the ability to swing a trade, somehow, some way. The Knicks have been one of the elite franchises in professional basketball for a very long time. Certainly there’s a solution.
Maybe there is, maybe not. When it comes right down to it, the Knicks contracts are either top-heavy, too long or not tempting enough for another team to bite. Iman Shumpert is certainly attractive to other teams, but his contract brings up the other side of problematic—it’s so small that it creates challenges for the Knicks. Unless, of course, it’s packaged with just the right person.
So basically, the choices are limited. The Knicks can trade ‘Melo while they can, or fire Mike Woodson and hope that somehow a new coaching hire can light a fire—the good kind of fire, not the kind of Hades that existed during the Isiah Thomas era.
The Knicks will start their December schedule by hosting the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday night. There’s always hope, right? Even if there are no real solutions?