I understand. Really, I do.
You're tired of being irrelevant. You're done talking yourself into a head scratch-inducing collection of players every October, drinking the Kool-Aid that had no business being placed in front of you in the first place, only to watch every other decent NBA team play and realize your team stinks.
The most egregious offenders of the Thinking Ahead Era (discussed in my previous article), the New York Knicks operated under the assumption that they would be able to lure LeBron or Wade (or both! What a pipe dream. No team could really pull that off...) to New York, and that they would be the only group singularly focused on achieving that goal.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, but fortunately for the mass quantity of people who enjoy laughing at the ineptitude of the franchise, the Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, and Miami Heat also found a way to make themselves players in the free agency extravaganza.
The major problem for the Knicks? All of those other organizations strategized more efficiently than New York, did not destroy their teams for the seasons preceding 2010-2011, thereby making their rosters more attractive than what the Knicks could offer in the summer of 2010.
And before you question my decision to include the Clippers in the 'competent' category, I do realize they went into a meeting with LeBron without a coach or GM. But they're the Clippers. That franchise is in a category all its own. The remarkable fact that they had cap space deserves a round of applause. Maybe it was by accident, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt nonetheless.
As we all know, the Knicks missed out on LeBron, Wade, and Bosh, and their second-rate option turned out to be Amar'e Stoudemire. Now, rumors are flying that Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony will join him in New York within the next two years. However, with Mr. Paul currently stabbing the city of New Orleans in the back, let's hypothesize that he and Mr. Anthony will wind up in New York by the summer of 2011, forming a trio in the Northeast to rival the one in the Southeast.
I'm sorry to say it Knicks fans, but you don't want this trio to join forces. Of course the team would be exciting, New York basketball would be relevant again, and we might even see second round playoff games in the Garden for the first time since 2000. But all this conglomeration of talent would do is set the stage for disappointment.
Mike D'Antoni is a remarkable offensive coach, but have we not learned anything from his time in Phoenix? Exciting basketball, tons of promise, and eventual heartbreak. Why? Simply because the Suns could never get a stop when they needed one, and playoff basketball is defined by defense.
I call your attention to Game 7 of the 2010 Finals. Others I watched the game with feel it was an ugly game, one they found mostly forgettable. I on the other hand think it was one of the greatest games I have ever watched, because both Boston and Los Angeles played the most intense 48 minutes of defense I have ever seen. Sure, Kobe did his best to try singlehandedly losing the game for his team, but what stood out about that game for me was that both teams, in the biggest moment of the season, did everything but mug their opponents on the defensive end. The effort was paramount, desperate, and beautiful to watch.
The Miami Heat as presently constituted will succeed for an important reason other than the collection of offensive talent they have amassed this summer. Their defense will be outstanding. LeBron James has twice been a first-team All-NBA Defender, Dwyane Wade has three All-NBA Defensive Teams on his résumé (each Second-Team), and while Chris Bosh as a forward/center has been stuck behind Garnett, Howard, and Duncan, therefore left without any recognition, he is a solid defender as a power forward.
With those three flying around both on the perimeter and the inside, the Heat's hidden strength will be their ability to get stops down the stretch against teams playing tough defense against them on the other end. While Ilgauskas can no longer move, he and Dexter Pittman are big bodies that will clog the lane, slowing down anyone who gets through the outer shield that is James and Wade.
Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and Amar'e Stoudemire. It is an impressive list of names, players that in my mind would take up the same positions as the Miami guys (James and Paul on the point, Wade and Anthony at either the two or three, Bosh and Stoudemire at the four). Great offensive statistics will amount, for sure, but my eyes will bleed watching the hypothetical Knicks on defense. Chris Paul is an abomination. Same for Stoudemire. Carmelo will try for five minutes per night.
For those of you screaming "Chris Paul has made two All-Defensive Teams!!!" I have read way too many articles, including those written by New Orleans scribes, admitting that Paul is truly awful, and his high steal totals are the product of him taking way too many chances and occasionally getting lucky. In other words, he is this generation's Allen Iverson on defense.
The point is this; the Lakers won their recent titles only after failing in 2008 and realizing the need to improve their defense and toughness. The Celtics have competed for championships largely because of their defense. The Suns have never made the NBA Finals because of their defense. Or more accurately, the lack thereof. Who did Phoenix lose to most often in those years? The San Antonio Spurs. I think we can all agree that defense is a priority for that franchise.
Given the history of the NBA and understanding what it takes to ultimately win championships, I believe the combination of Paul, Anthony, and Stoudemire will result in ultimate failure for the Knicks. Given the propensity for New York media and fans to overrate their teams and therefore raise expectations to unrealistic levels, do Knick fans really want to go through another era much like the Ewing years? Expectations and hype, followed by ultimate disappointment and failure.
The situation really is as clear as this: can you in your wildest dreams ever imagine a team consisting of Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and Amar’e Stoudemire caring as much about stopping people as the Lakers and Celtics did this past June?
It comes down to a simple choice for the New York Knicks franchise: realize, after a decade of ineptitude, that defense is the most important aspect of NBA Basketball and build the team with that in mind, or continue down the current path and watch the best players in the NBA stay away, knowing New York is not a place they can come to win.
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