Few franchises in professional sports have eschewed patience and prudence for glitz and quick fixes more routinely than the New York Knicks. McAdoo and Marbury, Truck and T-Mac: Stories abound of stars brought in past their primes and teams built on a foundation of arrogance and avarice.
Now that you’ve successfully reattached your heads, allow me to explain: If Melo stays, the mounting pressure only risks making a fast-festering situation worse. But if the Knicks can summon the sense to reverse course—to admit that the whole Big Three gambit was doomed from the get go—they’ll not only be giving Melo a new lease on life; they’ll start the process of mending a broken fan fence as well.
But before we take stock of the how and the when, it’s important to understand the why.
A Move Made in Haste
When Anthony arrived from the Denver Nuggets in March of 2011—a deal that quickly altered the trajectory of both franchises—the criticism from some corners was of familiar stock. By shipping off Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Timofey Mozgov, the Knicks were trading tomorrow for today; might be for right now.
For a time, the deal looked like it might work out for both sides—the Knicks would make the Playoffs the next three years, capturing an Atlantic Division crown and a first round playoff series for the first time in over a decade, while the Nuggets hurriedly assembled their own speedy, scrappy contender out West.
But a combination of questionable moves and injury woes on both sides has suddenly left many wondering whether it might’ve all been for naught. The Nuggets can take solace in young talent and draft picks. New York, on the other hand, is about as hamstrung as it gets, salary cap-wise.
Knicks fans have ingested their fair share of empty roster calories over the years, and as the penalties against tax-paying teams become more onerous, patience may soon be at more of a premium than courtside seats on Saturday.
Owner James Dolan has made a killing off of manipulating loyalty to the orange and blue—pursuing sexy signings and splashy moves knowing full well that, in a city of 10 million, angry fans are never hard to replace. But New Yorkers can only be pushed so far, and if it becomes clear that the team's clumsy troika has bit the dust, don’t be surprised if fan turmoil proves fuel enough to force Dolan's riskiest hand.
Flawed superstar though he may be, Carmelo Anthony undoubtedly remains an enticing piece—particularly for teams looking to take the next step or make a big splash. If the losses and the rancor rise and the Knicks decide to blow it up completely, there are handful of trade scenarios that could help them cut ties today, while setting them up for a brighter future. Even if it means parting with more than one of their Big Three.
|New York gets||Cleveland gets||Chicago gets|
|Luol Deng||Tyson Chandler||Carmelo Anthony|
|Anderson Verejao||Iman Shumpert|
|ESPN.com Trade Machine|
This trade would make the Knicks look better in both the very short and very long term, while rendering next year a patchwork project in the making: Varejao, Deng, and Hinrich would immediately bolster the team’s defensive fortunes, while Waiters—whose dissatisfaction in Cleveland has been the stuff of uneasy speculation—could become an instant fan favorite in New York, just a few short hours from where the former Syracuse blue-chipper first made national headlines.
Unfortunately, the 2014-15 season would likely amount to a worst-case scenario for the Knicks. Unless both Deng and Hinrich want to come back at steep discounts (unlikely), the Knicks would be just as hamstrung as they are now, with the roll of the dice being on the eventual growth and development of Waiters.
In Shumpert, Cleveland gets a lock-down wing defender who doesn’t need the ball nearly as much as Waiters, while Chandler gives the Cavs a boost on D and glass alike. Meanwhile, Melo—finally free from the Manhattan mayhem—gives the Bulls a much-needed scoring injection in the absence of Derrick Rose.
|New York gets||Boston gets|
|Rajon Rondo||Carmelo Anthony|
|Kris Humphries||Amar'e Stoudemire|
|ESPN.com Trade Machine|
While it looks like the Knicks are biting off more than they can chew flexibility-wise, Rondo could be the better—and cheaper—cornerstone attraction come the summer of 2015, when the Knicks plan to seize on a much-anticipated free agent feeding frenzy.
Meanwhile, the Celtics get a bona fide box office attraction in Melo, as well as Amar’e Stoudemire’s expiring contract—which likewise will look much more attractive 18 months from now.
Regardless of what trade path they choose to pursue, the Knicks should be aiming for two and exactly two things: draft picks, and flexibility—two things that haven’t exactly been traditional totems for James Dolan. That might not happen with either of the above deals, but if the Knicks have to choose between star power now and draft picks later, they'd be wise to at least entertain the latter.
A Tough Pill
For the Knicks management, success has—sadly—long been more about the names stitched across the back than the city thread to front. That philosophy has seen its apex in the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony, a player who, for all his mesmerizing talent, simply wasn’t worth what the Knicks paid to get him.
For the sake of their franchise, for the sake of their fans, for the sake of their future, the Knicks should at least explore trading Carmelo Anthony. It might be a tough pill to swallow, but the side effect isn’t as bad as the first time you hear it said: the pain is only temporary.