People say that the NBA is better when the Knicks are good. I’m not sure I agree with that. The Knicks have only won two championships, both in the early 70s. So it’s not like the NBA lives and dies with the success of their franchise.
But no number of championships changes the fact that New York is the basketball capital of the world. And when Madison Square Garden is electric, there is no better place for basketball on the planet.
In 2009, the Knicks beat the Celtics at home in front of a sold out crowd that was almost entirely Celtics fans. But in 2010, New York fans came out to see their team.
And they got their money’s worth.
In the most exciting game of the NBA season thus far, the Knicks and Celtics literally traded baskets for the last five minutes of the fourth quarter. Paul Pierce drained a patented fall away jumper with .04 left on the game clock, and despite Amar'e Stoudemire’s best efforts, the game was over. You can take a lot from that loss.
Obviously, some better defense would have been appreciated, but in turn, the best team defense in the NBA couldn’t stop the Knicks, even at the end of the game. The Knicks all of a sudden go from a team with one All-Star to a team that is likely to have three, specifically if Gallo keeps playing with this level of intensity.
Truth be told, we can narrow down everything we picked up from Wednesday night’s contest by identifying one undeniable fact. The Knicks’ starting unit can run with anyone. The problem is, that’s not always a good thing.
Over the last 10 games, Wilson Chandler, Landry Fields, Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton have all played more than 40 minutes per game. To put this in perspective, Kevin Durant, probably the most individually relied upon player in the league, averages 39.5 minutes per game. There is obviously no question that the Knicks field a great starting five, but they have no bench.
Trading for Carmelo Anthony now is only beneficial to the Knicks if a third team is involved, and that third team is willing to give pieces to the Knicks as well.
Usually, saying that a team has no bench is some sort of euphemism for the team’s bench players sucking. This situation is even more unique, because Mike D’Antoni doesn’t even give his bench players a chance to suck. Only one bench player has regularly played double digit minutes for the Knicks, and that’s Toney Douglas, who I thought was the backup point guard, until Mike D’Antoni decided that Raymond Felton was never going to be subbed out of a game...ever.
D’Antoni has somehow been getting away with letting Felton run on fumes; but now there's a different problem. Amar'e Stoudemire was spelled twice on Wednesday, once to start the second quarter, and once to start the fourth quarter. On both occasions, the Knicks had an eight point lead. Both times Amar'e came back in, that lead was cut to two. Now you have two players who literally can't be benched, and you know this can't last forever.
Now, this is a very delicate situation.
First, you want your role players to get as much burn as possible, because they are the ones to go if the Knicks pursue Carmelo Anthony. Second, it has been made crystal clear that the Knicks’ level of efficiency drops drastically whenever Felton and/or Stoudemire leave the court. And third, you are still holding out hope that Kelenna Azubuike, once healthy, can actually become the sixth man that this team desperately needs.
But with all of that in mind, you have to start challenging the wisdom of a mid-season trade, for anyone, let alone Carmelo. While the prospect of Felton, Melo and Amar'e all on the same court is enough to wet the palette of any New Yorker; a trade for a player of that caliber takes a team with limited depth, and makes them even worse.
If anything, this is a situation where the Knicks would actually be justified in shopping around picks for role players.
Donnie Walsh deserves credit for not pulling a Brian Cashman and just making some sort of ridiculous consolation free agent signing just because he didn’t land LeBron. This is a situation where he needs to be even more careful with his personnel. The Knicks are a very young team, particularly in their starting rotation. If you impulsively give those pieces away for Carmelo Anthony, you may, for the third consecutive season, concede the playoffs.
But now, the basketball world has seen what you are capable of. This team can make a playoff run if they can even get two productive bench players. There is no question that the garden looks more appealing when there is a rose in it.
But, this garden can survive for the rest of the year if you find a way to fill it with orchids. Melo has made it clear that he’s not going back to Denver. And especially after that performance against the Celtics, it may be worth it to wait for the offseason, when you don’t have to worry about giving up anything to get him.