We've been waiting for this day for years. And now that July 1st, 2010 has come and gone, all that us Knicks fans can do is trust in Donnie Walsh, pray a few times a day, and refresh basketball websites 4 to 5 times a minute. A few months ago, New York looked like a prime landing spot for LeBron James.
Now, reality is starting to set in. At best, the Knicks may be the 3rd or 4th most likely team to land the King. And you don't have to remind me of how depressing that is, trust me. I have been preparing myself for a level of disappointment I have never encountered before. Truth be told, I see the trio of LeBron, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade being split up between Miami and Chicago one way or another. Rudy Gay was gone about an hour after the July 1st start of free agency, so that was another option out the window.
So if all this proves to be true, how will the Knicks' brass be able to explain this to their fans? Years of preparation and digging out of the rubble can't all be tossed away for nothing, can it?
The answer is no. It cannot. If this team wants to survive, it has to make some sort of splash. Even if it's not a cannonball splash, at this point we'll take a couple drops of "splash" off a perfect-10 pencil dive. Even that won't be enough to quench the insatiable palate of Knicks fans, but it will be a step in the right direction.
Having said all that, here are three legitimate options which the Knicks have to drastically improve their team from last year.
1.) Knicks trade Eddy Curry to Wizards for Gilbert Arenas.
Unfair trade? Precisely. With the Great Wall of Washington being constructed in the D.C., the Wizards may look to rid themselves of "Hibachi." Between his contract (owed $80 million over the next 4 years), off-the-court antics, and lack of success with the Wiz, Arenas may prove to be a valuable trade chip for Washington. By taking on Eddy Curry and his expiring contract, the Wizards will be major players in the over-shadowed 2011 Free Agent Class.
As for the Knicks, they get a perimeter scorer who could thrive in Mike D'Antoni's system. It is doubtful that the Knickerbockers would try to pull this trade off if Joe Johnson was still available, but it looks at this point as if he will return to Atlanta next year. This year's free agent point guard class is a weak one, but if Gilbert came to New York, there's a chance he may run the two. That much will come down to who the Knicks want to see on the court more- Wilson Chandler or Toney Douglas.
If Gilbert runs the point, the Knicks will continue their trend of acquiring high-profile, oft-injured, shoot first point guards. Chris Duhon may have been impossible to watch at times last season, but he was a smart, pass-first PG. Now, Gilbert is not a cripple like Steve Francis was when the Knicks got him. And while he does raise some eyebrows with his actions and words, he is not Stephon "I Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in my Starbury's" Marbury.
Everything in this deal depends on Gilbert's legal standing. If he is bound to miss an extended period of time stemming from last year's gun charges, then this trade is a moot point. The Knicks could then just go to Plan.... uhhh... Plan Q i guess, and wait to address their backcourt situation in greater depth in 2011 after Curry's fat contract/body leave New York.
2.) Knicks re-sign David Lee, trade him to Minnesota for Al Jefferson.
Don't you just have to wonder what David Lee thinks of New York? He was drafted by New York, but the man responsible for that- Isiah Thomas- has been run out of town. Last season the Knicks refused to sign him to a long term deal, yet gave him more P.T. than any other player on the team. The results? A 20-10 season which has D-Lee seeing "$$$" all over the place. His ability to shoot the 18-footer has him thriving in New York's run-and-gun style of play, yet his status as a Knick seems to constantly be in jeopardy.
Now, enter the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team looking to transition into the same fast-paced style as New York. While Jefferson is one of the best big men in the league, he is not the end-to-end player Lee is. The Wolves "love" what they have seen from Kevin Love so far, and their $20 million commitment to Darko Milicic indicates that they may be shopping Jefferson. Lee is a great player, but the Knicks have not had an elite center in over a decade. The Wolves could start the best all-white frontcourt in recent memory and start two double-double machines every night, while the Knicks can get the defensive stability they desperately need in the paint night in and night out. And at $42 million over three years, they would not be grossly overpaying for Jefferson. Remember, this is the same guy who Boston used as their centerpiece in the trade to acquire Kevin Garnett a few years back, and that came at the ripe age off 22 for Big Al.
3.) Knicks offer Amare' Stoudemire a guaranteed max-contract
You may be saying to yourself, "weren't they going to do that anyway?" Be that as it may, it is becoming more and more apparent that many teams around the league are unwilling to do just this, offer Stoudemire a max-deal.
But other teams are not the Knicks.
Sure, you could make the argument that Amare is a slightly better David Lee clone. Not a true center, appears to be a matador on defense, double-double type of guy. Most people, myself included, will tell you that Amare is more explosive and more capable of taking over a game offensively when the time calls for it. He thrived in D'Antoni's system much like Lee has as well.
But Amare played for Coach Mike. He loves Coach Mike. He would love to be re-united with Coach Mike. And if he were to end up in orange and blue next year, I can tell you one other player who would strongly consider taking the re-unite route along side Stoudemire. And that is Joe Johnson.
I know, I know. I just said it looks like Joe-John is staying put. But nothing is set in stone yet. If the Hawks couldn't get past the second round (again!) this year, then when are they? Jamal Crawford was the 6th man of the year. Josh Smith had one of his most productive seasons ever, same for Al Horford. Now, they have exited early in back-to-back seasons, fired their coach, and have gone from being the "Where have you been the past 10 years?" Atlanta Hawks to the "God, these guys just continue to disappoint" Hawks.
So the difference between signing Amare and signing Lee is, potentially, the ability to acquire Joe Johnson. Yes, Johnson would be losing one year and $30 million on his contract by not re-signing with Atlanta. But put Joe and Amare back under D'Antoni's tutelage, and what you will have is potentially 50 points per game between the two. You have two players who know how to run that system. Well. Remember, both these guys were part of the scary-as-hell Suns teams from the mid-2000's.
My Projected 2010-2011 Knicks Lineup:
PG- Toney Douglas
SG- Gilbert Arenas
SF- Danilo Gallinari
PF- Amare Stoudemire
C- Al Jefferson
Bench- Wilson Chandler, Bill Walker (sleeper alert), Steve Blake, Andy Rautins.
Win/Loss: 46-36, 5th Place in the Eastern Conference (2nd in Atlantic behind Boston).
***If all else fails, there's always 2011. Assuming Madison Square Garden hasn't been burnt to the ground by then.