Whether it's the result of biases, or a decade of losing, the New York Knicks receive flack from pundits whenever possible.
Some criticism is deserved—the franchise has underperformed its payroll since the departure of Jeff Van Gundy—but more often than not, there's a lot of misconceived noise directed at the organization.
Charles Barkley had the following to say, via Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch,
The Knicks are not a good team. I told you that four months ago. Nothing has changed. What I would tell Mr. (James) Dolan is break this thing down and start over. That's what they have to do. You guys (New Yorkers) are not patient. How has the other way been working for you? Not well, right? You have a bunch of bad contracts and you are screwed for years. Sometimes you have to step back. Listen, what is Phil going do? Carmelo (Anthony) might leave but if he don't leave, he's going to put a big number on your cap. And you still stuck with Amare (Stoudemire) and J.R. Smith's contract. It's a mess.
Knicks Roster Can't Be Fixed
While New York has some ugly contracts eating up cap space—like the $49,507,876 owed to Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani for the 2014-15 NBA season—only $13,389,155 and $2,281,605 are on the books for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, respectively, via ShamSports.com.
If Carmelo Anthony re-signs, that will be around an extra $20 million or so added to the cap for those seasons. Keeping Melo may limit some of the flexibility the Knicks have, but it won't put NY in an insurmountable position to lure free agents and build a cohesive roster.
Unlike the picture that Barkley paints, NY's bad contracts do not screw the organization for years. It simply limits what can be done throughout 2014-15. And even then, it's entirely possible that one of Stoudemire, Chandler or Bargnani could be packaged—seeing as how they will be expiring contracts—with Iman Shumpert for a disgruntled player needing a change of scenery.
The Knicks may have a boring season on their horizon, with the focus on unloading contracts and removing deadweight, but looking past next year, there is a clean slate for the front office to find redemption and build the caliber of franchise that is associated with the copious amounts of money NY has spent in the past.
This roster may stink today, but in two years, with prudent management, it will be talented enough to compete in the East.
Carmelo Anthony Isn't a Winner
For a while, many questioned whether or not Anthony was a winner and played a style of basketball conductive to his teammates. It's kind of hard to keep questioning Melo when he continues to perform as he has this season, putting up weeks like this one:
Carmelo Anthony was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week in a week. He averaged 29 points, 5.3 rebounds 4.8 assists and 2.7 steals.— Alan Hahn (@alanhahn) March 10, 2014
Anthony may not be the kind of do-it-all player that dominates every aspect of the game like LeBron James, but there isn't any other player in the league who has that kind of ability and consistency.
Since his arrival in NY, Anthony has grown as a player.
He's a more willing and efficient passer, and he actually attempts to play defense—two things that many have griped about in the past. If there was some competence surrounding Melo, and NY's offense was more motion based, he'd pick up more than the 3.1 assists per game he's racking up.
Anthony currently dishes out 6.4 assist opportunities per game, via NBA.com, and he is responsible for 7.7 PPG being scored off of his assists.
Melo is capable of leading a team to a championship. Unfortunately for the Knicks, he isn't capable of doing so when his second best scorer is J.R. Smith.
James Dolan Will Impede Phil Jackson's Success
With Phil Jackson set to join NY's front office, legitimacy and prestige returns to the organization. Having said that, however, some believe Mr. Dolan will stand in Jackson's way on certain decisions.
According to Tom Van Riper of Forbes:
The one potential problem: Jackson’s (justifiably) big ego, and whether it can mesh with the iron hand of Dolan, known to operate on whims and blow out salary caps by shelling out superstar money to non-superstars.
Would Dolan give Jackson room to work? Or would this be a marriage doomed to fail from the start? This is an owner who ultimately clashed with former president Donnie Walsh, the guy who most effectively cleared salary cap space to get the club better positioned to build, who responded to the bad publicity of the nightmarish Isiah Thomas era by firing the public relations people, and who stirs animosity with the local media by keeping his executives largely under wraps.
While those concerns may be legitimate, they shouldn't come to light.
Jackson—at this stage in his life—doesn't need to prove anything to anyone, nor does he need to earn more money. So for him to take on this responsibility, it must stem from his passion for the game, and the knowledge that he will have the autonomy necessary to fix this disaster.
As Frank Isola of the New York Daily News noted,
As part of Jackson’s deal it appears that he will get to spend most of his time running the Knicks from his beach house in Southern California. “He will spend 35% of his time in New York and make it look like 50%,” said a person close to Jackson.
Isola also added,
A Knicks official said that the arrangement might actually be beneficial to the club and Jackson in the long run, comparing it to a marriage in which a couple lives apart from each other for business reasons.
“Sometimes those are the healthiest marriages,” the official said. “Jim will drive Phil crazy at some point. You know that will happen. But the less Phil is around, it will delay the inevitable.”
It may be a little off-putting that "Action" Jackson would apparently spend most of his time outside of Madison Square Garden, but like the Knicks official mentioned, it should work out for everyone in the long run.
Yes, you want your team's president around as much as possible, but when he has an ego and needs to deal with a volatile boss, it's best to let him occasionally telecommute.
Mr. Dolan knows his fanbase is tired of incompetence and embarrassing losses, and he knows the change of culture a legend like Jackson instills from the get-go, so this will be a pairing that runs smoothly for the most part.
After all, Mr. Dolan isn't going to spend the rumored $15,000,000 a year to hire someone that he doesn't trust to run his floundering organization.
Stats are accurate as of Thursday, March 13, 2014.