The New York Knicks are running out of time to bite the bullet.
I don’t think I’ll be traded. When is the trade deadline. [Thursday]? I don’t think there’s no way possible I’ll be traded. I don’t think they’re even considering it. If they feel they want to get rid of me, we’d already have had that conversation already. I don’t think that. I know for a fact I’m not being traded and I know for a fact I’m not going in there saying I want to be traded.
Well, that's dumb.
Sorry, but I'm not going to mince my words on this topic. 'Melo choosing not to request a trade is fine, but the Knicks refusing to even consider dealing him is lunacy at its finest.
That would be par for the course when discussing a franchise that just continues sinking toward the ground as it pursues a championship, a goal that has remained elusive for over four decades. But one would assume the Knicks want to, you know, get off the schneid.
Trying to remain patient with the Anthony experiment won't help. It's time to look for trade options.
Can They Convince 'Melo to Stay?
There's a chance, but nothing more than that.
Right now, it's impossible to believe that Anthony has made up his mind. He has yet to hear pitches from other teams, and just like any star player with years of experience, he presumably has all his focus centered on the current season. Until the Knicks have played their final game, he shouldn't be worried about the future.
However, he'll still have to make that choice at some point.
"If I go somewhere else, I get paid. If I stay in New York, I get paid," 'Melo told Berman during the All-Star festivities. "As far as the money goes, it’s not my concern. My concern is to be able to compete on a high level, a championship level, coming in this last stretch of my career. I want to compete at that level."
Melo on Sportscenter: "I want to win a championship. If I have to become a free agent in order to do that, then that's what I have to do."— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) February 14, 2014
That's the heart of the issue for New York.
If James Dolan, Steve Mills and the rest of the front office can convince him that his championship aspirations are in good shape while calling Madison Square Garden home, Anthony will do everything in his power to stay.
But if Jim Boeheim, his former coach at Syracuse, is correct, he'll need to go elsewhere in order to adorn his naked fingers with one or more rings.
Unfortunately for the Knicks faithful, I fail to see how Dolan's pitch will be successful.
This season has been an unmitigated disaster, an NBA version of Murphy's Law if there ever was one. The Knicks enter the All-Star break with a 20-32 record, and they're outside the playoff picture even in a historically weak Eastern Conference.
Should they turn things around during the second half of the season, they'll still be nothing more than sacrificial lambs, awaiting slaughter at the hands of the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers. At best, they'll get up to No. 6 in the standings and have a shot at facing the powerhouses in the second round.
That's going to leave a bitter taste in 'Melo's mouth as he enters the decision-making portion of the year, and the future plan isn't going to change that.
Other than Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert, not many players are imbued with upside. There aren't going to be many breakouts, which means Steve Mills will be looking elsewhere for help.
The draft? Definitely not, as the Knicks won't have a pick in the 2014 NBA draft, only have a first-round selection and zero second-round picks in 2015 and then come up empty in 2016. The best-case scenario involves hitting the jackpot in 2015 and waiting a little while before a rookie becomes a championship-caliber contributor.
How about free agency?
In order to have any cap space this offseason, Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire would both have to opt out of their contracts, then Anthony would have to take a significant pay cut. And good luck getting STAT to turn up his nose at $23.4 million dollars when he probably couldn't sign a multi-year deal for that much combined money at this stage of his career.
The Knicks will be left building up their roster through minimum deals and the various exceptions afforded to them by the CBA. Things open up in 2015-16, when ShamSports.com reveals the franchise only has $13,389,155 committed.
But the Knicks still have to attract free agents.
In the past, they've been able to rely on deep pockets and the allure of playing in the Big Apple. However, with Dolan sitting in an office, an unmistakable stench of losing swirling around the organization and plenty of teams in better shape to compete for a title, what gives Anthony any assurance that the Knicks can draw in premier players?
Nothing. A plan to sign free agents is not a guarantee.
As ESPN's Stephen A. Smith wrote:
It is because of the Knicks' ineptitude, their preoccupation with media policies and accessibility, public relations and spreadsheets -- everything but winning -- that Anthony should depart Gotham City sometime before Feb. 20. Because, truth be told, the Knicks are in no position to trust that anyone would want to stay with them.
If the Knicks actually convince Anthony they have a promising plan for the future, the small forward may need to insist on holding the same meeting once more, this time with a professional fact-checker in the room.
Risk of Losing Him For Nothing
Here's an easy question for you.
Which is better—something or nothing?
If you make the assumption that the Knicks don't have much hope of convincing Anthony to stay, which you should, then that's the question at the heart of the Knicks' decision prior to the Feb. 20 deadline. Essentially, they have a few options:
- Trade Anthony now for pennies on the dollar and get something.
- Hold onto Anthony and either A) re-sign him to a team without much championship hope or B) watch him walk away for absolutely nothing.
If Anthony is willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Knicks and win a championship, why wouldn't he do that elsewhere? It's not like Dolan would have to agree to a sign-and-trade deal in order for 'Melo to find a new home.
This is just risk management. That's all.
In some ways, it's almost the exact same situation that the Denver Nuggets found themselves in a few years back, with Anthony once more serving as the central figure. The Mile High City residents risked losing 'Melo for nothing, so they instead traded him to the Knicks for a collection of players, none of whom were remotely on the same level as the scoring sensation.
Here was BusinessInsider.com's Kevin Baumer on the deal:
Ujiri would have loved to keep Anthony, but that's not how sports work today. When a star player makes it clear that he's moving on one way or another, it becomes the general manager's job to garner the greatest return possible for the star. That's a tough pill to swallow, but when the GM comes up with a coup like this, he deserves to be lauded no matter what his methods were.
It was Masai Ujiri's responsibility to ensure that the Nuggets survived the Anthony saga, and now it's Dolan and Mills' turn to figure out the best course of action for the Knicks.
If it's the job of the GM "to garner the greatest return possible for the star," then it's utterly unacceptable to let him walk away for absolutely nothing.
Should the Knicks trade Anthony?
"These are the Knicks we're talking about here, folks. How hard do you think it will be for Melo to say goodbye?" wrote Stephen A. Smith. "Why torture yourself by praying he won't? Especially when you can just say goodbye and go your own way, and try to move forward for a change."
If Feb. 20 comes and goes without a deal, the Knicks will be in for a whole new kind of torture—losing games with little hope for the future.
Then again, maybe it won't be that new.