NBA championships continue to elude the New York Knicks, but their pretentious schemes founded upon rudimentary planning and inexact logic are alive and well.
Summer 2014 is big for New York. Not only must the Knicks stand idly by as smarter NBA teams partake in the deepest draft since 2003, they're also faced with the once-unthinkable prospect of losing Carmelo Anthony.
'Melo will enter unrestricted free agency with this offseason, where legions of suitors promising different things await. Last summer, it was difficult to imagine Anthony leaving New York, his hand-picked home. Now, it's become a legitimate possibility, forcing the Knicks into action.
Fear of losing Anthony, their only superstar, has the Knicks planning scared, attempting to sell fans and 'Melo himself on an empty future capable of gaining purpose if, and only if, unhinged hope trumps common sense.
Recognizing their current roster is flawed, the Knicks have created a plan, one designed to keep 'Melo in New York while delivering him the world. This so-called strategy, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, is presumptuous and deluded, predicated once more on tresses of "ifs" and "maybes":
The Knicks are hoping Rondo will be interested in making a maneuver similar to what Anthony did back in 2011 and eventually try to force a trade to the Knicks, sources said.
If that fails -- and who knows how Rondo will mesh with this Celtics team, it could work well and he could want to stay -- the Knicks fully believe they will get one or two of the following in free agency in 2015 when they expect to have large salary-cap space: Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Roy Hibbert, Marc Gasol, Tony Parker or Rondo when his contract is up. Under certain circumstances, James himself could be a free agent again that summer.
Their logic seems contrived and imperfect, because it is. It's also familiar.
Chasing externally grown stars is what the Knicks do, what they've always done during the turbulent James Dolan era. Decades of missed opportunities and ringless basketball haven't changed their ideology, in part because they had some success.
Most recently, there was Anthony himself.
After whiffing on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson, the Knicks signed Amar'e Stoudemire to an uninsured five-year deal worth nearly nine figures, or more than most of us will earn in our lifetime. The Knicks then parlayed his arrival into a blockbuster deal for Anthony, allowing then-Denver Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri to fleece them silly of assets and draft picks.
But the Knicks still got their star. That's what general manager Steve Mills and Dolan will point to this summer, regardless of how their season ends. Not the cost, not their inexplicable disregard for future pieces or their cap-clogging sweet tooth. Not their failure to nab LeBron in 2010.
Anthony. They'll point to Anthony.
Then Dolan (or whoever) will point to Rondo, Parker, Love, Aldridge, Hibbert and Gasol, incessantly jabbing a finger in their direction before gently placing it upon his nose, finally gesturing to Anthony himself while winking, as if to say, "Don't worry. We got this."
The Fatal Flaw
Do they? Do the Knicks have this?
Days—nay, months—could be spent pointing out the various pitfalls in New York's "plan." Like, why are the Knicks selling Anthony on chasing power forwards like Aldridge and Love when he himself is better suited at the 4?
But those smattering of issues, that the Knicks will undoubtedly consider formalities, are for a different day, another argument.
Let's, for the sake of this discussion, assume nothing else matters, that those players perfectly fit what the Knicks are trying to build. What are we left with?
Skepticism. Questions. Giggling. More questions.
Their thinking is far from infallible. The Knicks are assuming that 'Melo, who will turn 30 this May, is prepared to wait. When he's already waited plenty.
Carmelo also said it would take Knicks 3 1/2 years to be a contender once they acquired him. Ah, this is Year 3 1/2 with Melo. Interesting— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) December 21, 2013
Anthony's superstar window won't be open much longer. Not the way he plays, barreling toward the basket while drawing excessive contact with reckless abandon. We're already seeing the extent of his limitations in some ways, as these Knicks could be the first of Anthony's teams to finish below .500.
Bleacher Report's Howard Beck writes that 'Melo is privately "concerned about the state of the Knicks franchise and its ability to build a championship contender." If that's the case now, nearly three years into their relationship, the Knicks are placing an awful lot of faith in an increasingly impatient Anthony showing mercy.
New York is also assuming a merciful Anthony will go a long way.
"I want people to come play in New York," 'Melo told TNT at the beginning of the season. "I want them to want to play in New York. I want New York be that place, where guys want to come play in New York."
Will they want to come play in New York? Is 'Melo enough to get them there?
There's no guarantee that Rondo, who turns 29 in 2015, wants to compete next to Anthony, who will be 31 by the time this pairing realistically comes to fruition. Rondo, among everyone else the Knicks chase, may want to play with someone younger, to join forces with someone who's already won a championship.
Yet, Windhorst reminds us the Knicks think they can land "one or two" other stars. "Two" should truly eat at us. The Knicks believe they can land two superstars in 2015, despite presumably committing five years and $129 million to Anthony.
That's funny. And sad. And typical Knicks.
Pursuing more than one implies pay cuts are involved. Whatever players the Knicks target will have to accept less to sign in New York, where Anthony could be earning something like $25 million leading into 2015-16. That's in addition to J.R. Smith's and Raymond Felton's player options, Iman Shumpert's potential extension and Tim Hardaway Jr.'s deal, assuming they're all still in New York
This just keeps getting better.
How would you best describe New York's plan to build around Carmelo Anthony?
Salary reductions aren't taken to play alongside aging stars with naked fingers, or for an organization known for impulsive mishaps and self-inflicted setbacks. They're taken to play alongside players like LeBron, Kevin Durant or Chris Paul.
They're taken for promises with substance. For capable teams with stable front offices.
But these are the same Knicks, who don't figure to operate any differently in 2014 or 2015.
Empty promises and specious plans will continue to be slung in New York because that's all these Knicks have, and all they've ever known.
All salary information courtesy of ShamSports.