Different futures are sold so often in New York, you're able to buy them in bulk.
Led by owner James Dolan, the New York Knicks have made a habit (mockery?) of shifting gears regularly. Paths to the franchise's first championship in more than 40 years have run through so many different players, it's impossible to keep track.
At this stage of the ever-dysfunctional Knicks existence, most are able to tell the difference between those who factor into the team's plans, and those who don't. Rather abruptly, Tyson Chandler has regressed into the ladder.
Once considered a potential selling point in Carmelo Anthony's impending free-agency excursion, the former Defensive Player of the Year looks browbeaten and old, posting the occasional gaudy, yet meaningless stat line.
The Chandler the Knicks have now isn't the one they scraped and clawed for in 2011, in part because injuries and age have sporadically hampered his availability and effectiveness. Mostly though, the stakes are too high for them to retain a player who means more to their future as a trade asset than active member of the team.
Relationship Gone Astray
No use beating around the bush: Chandler doesn't look like he cares about the Knicks anymore.
Mortal limitations don't allow us to read Chandler's mind, but he plays and carries himself like he's out for, well, himself. The will to lead appears to have been beaten out of him.
It's no mystery as to why, either. Excessive losing and cyclical inability to adjust destroys morale and dampens interest. And if there was ever a team capable of ripping the heart and soul out of Chandler, it's these Knicks.
Chandler prides himself on playing defense. The Knicks don't play defense. Not by conventional standards at least. Ball movement and screens send the Knicks into bewildered frenzies, not unlike the effect sweltering temperatures have on molecules.
With his Knicks boasting the league's fourth-worst defense, it's no wonder Chandler remains unhappy—especially since he called head coach Mike Woodson out for the team's lack of defensive cohesion before.
"I don’t want to switch," Chandler told reporters in January. "I personally don’t like it. You come with a defensive plan and then every guy kind of mans up and takes his responsibility. I think switching should always be your last resort. That’s me, personally."
Well, the Knicks still switch. That is, when they're not experimenting with a canted zone defense that bears more resemblance to three-toed sloths moving at glacier speeds than it does actual defense.
Frustrated by a continued lack of defensive effort and New York's propensity for playing itself out of playoff contention, Chandler openly questioned his future in New York following a loss to the Detroit Pistons.
"That’s something I have to visit during the offseason," Chandler admitted during his postgame interview, per the New York Post, "We’re all going to have a lot of decisions to make."
For the Knicks' part, their decision should be easy: Should they keep or not keep a transparently disgruntled player?
The Carmelo Anthony Factor
Rampant speculation aside, the Knicks don't know what they could get for Chandler. They know what they're going to get from him though, and it's not enough.
Chandler is averaging 8.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per games on the season, remaining the double-double threat he's always been. But the Knicks need more than periodic double-doubles. They need a star or a defensive linchpin. Chandler is officially neither.
Quite literally, he was never a star. Though he earned one all-star selection since arriving in New York, Chandler has never been put in the same class of center as Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol or Joakim Noah, among others.
Over the last two years, his profound impact on defense has been limited as well.
How much of Chandler's "decline" can be attributed to Woodson's stubborn and ineffective defensive system is unknown. Chandler's effort is also under scrutiny, as there are times during games he's been caught with his back turned on pivotal plays.
Whatever the cause, Chandler's not having his expected impact. Perhaps in the right system, under the right coach, he would thrive. Right now, he's not thriving.
But he is wanted.
Teams phoned New York about Chandler's availability ahead of the Feb. 20 trade deadline, according to ESPN's Marc Stein, which will absolutely happen again this summer. Relatively mobile bigs who (typically) specialize in rotations and general help defense are hard to find.
Chandler's expiring contract will also be of interest to any team looking to shed long-term salary. If the Knicks can find the right deal built around him, they have to strike—because their other plans are flawed.
When Anthony hits free agency, the Knicks will attempt to sell him on summer 2015 and the prospect of luring one or two star free agents to New York. It's one that could work...or backfire in a big way.
Per Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, "Anthony’s camp is interested only in the summer of 2014" and doesn't want to "hear about 2015," which is completely reasonable. Anthony will be 31 by July 2015. Grinding through another season like this at his age is most likely not among the things on his bucket list.
Winning a championship is.
Using Chandler, along with various other expiring contracts, and to a lesser extent, tangible assets, the Knicks can try to land Anthony the sidekick he seeks now. Catering to his every need is really their only option, having invested so much time and energy in making him the face of the organization.
If keeping him means attempting to expedite a process one year removed from completion, then the Knicks have to try. Nearly barren of appealing trade pieces, Chandler is one potential asset who can make New York's desperate search for Anthony-approved help a successful one.
When the Unknown Supersedes Reality
Time for us to indulge rampant speculation.
Who are the Knicks going to get for Chandler and whomever else they decide to offer?
The New York Post's Marc Berman posed the idea of using Chandler, among other expiring contracts and assets, to acquire Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Rajon Rondo's name could be inserted here, too. It doesn't matter.
Because it really doesn't matter.
Barring a lapse in judgment of David Kahn proportions, neither the Timberwolves nor Boston Celtics are going to trade their prized stars for what the Knicks can offer. Seriously, it's not going to happen.
More realistic options include sneaking into the 2014 draft or pairing Chandler with Iman Shumpert or less likely, Tim Hardaway Jr., in hopes of nabbing an impact player.
Here's the catch: With the Knicks likely unable to acquire a star via trade, they cannot make any deal that hamstrings them financially for 2015.
Anthony may not want to hear about it, but it's still important. Rondo, Love, Roy Hibbert, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol and even LeBron James could all be available. The Knicks and 'Melo need to be a part of that free-agency bonanza.
Unless, by some sort of turning-water-into-wine miracle, the Knicks are able to bilk another team of an available star, accepting long-term salary in return for Chandler and others is not an option. That leaves the Knicks to search for something of an Anthony-friendly stopgap.
Finding someone relatively cheap and available is paramount. Anyone who the Knicks can use to convince 'Melo to stay. And the player in question doesn't matter so much as his contract and appeal to Anthony does.
Staying the 2015 course while retaining Anthony. That's the goal. The ambitious, castles-in-the-sky goal, only capable of remaining within the Knicks' reach through Chandler's departure.