The champagne's on ice.
It's not in anticipation of the Knicks' first playoff appearance in six years though. The cork will be popped to celebrate the end of a failed six-year (coincidence?) relationship between the New York Knicks and Eddy Curry.
Knicks fans are beginning to feel the burden (financial and french fry) lifting from their shoulders. Despite the damaging loss of draft picks surrendered in the Curry trade and with Amar'e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and a host of role players successfully carrying his 300-pound dead weight, the Knicks are going to come out on the other side of Curry's contract looking pretty good.
In the space of one year, New York has gone from a team of boring losers (nine straight seasons of under .500 basketball) to must-see playoff contenders.
At last, it's the Knicks that have options, not Eddy Curry.
So, what are those options?
1. Trade Curry Before the End of the 2010-11 Season
Eddy Curry is thankfully in the final year of a most dreadful contract, having exercised both player options in 2009 and 2010 (appearing in seven games in two years) for a total of over $20 million.
He is due about $11.3 million this year and hasn't placed a toe on the court during regulation.
Much of the talk these days surrounds unloading Curry and his contract on a team looking to free up some future cap space of their own. It could happen, but it might not, especially considering no one has any idea how Curry will play or if he is even healthy enough to suit up.
The big talk is about Carmelo Anthony heading east. Recently, however, both Stoudemire and Danilo Gallinari have stated publicly that they are happy with the Knicks squad. They and others (including fans) have voiced concerns about poking a stick at team chemistry (Read: They'd hate to see Wilson Chandler, Landry Fields or Gallinari go).
It's undeniable, though, that the Knicks need a little more. Yes, a super shooting guard would be nice, but so would a center and strong backups for Stoudemire and Felton.
In the latter cases, Eddy Curry might not even be in the mix.
2. Re-sign Him
It is hard to imagine the realization of such a possibility. Even if they could sign him for much less (which Curry would be averse to, considering his money troubles), Curry carries so much baggage that the danger of the Knicks' success tripping over it is too great.
On top of that, while Donnie Walsh is apparently a big fan, Mike D'Antoni doesn't want Curry on the court, let's face it.
In Curry's favor, the word is that Eddy is really liked by teammates, opponents and brass around the league, so the fact must be that he is a good guy at heart. You can call him lazy or a scrub, but you can't classify him as a team cancer.
Hindsight says he should have gone to college and in some sense, the NBA bears some responsibility for bringing in this not-ready 19 year old kid.
There have been glimpses of greatness over the years, and Curry deserves one more chance (if he can get into shape), but the Knicks have already offered their charity.
3. Sever Ties, Sign Free Agent(s) in 2011 and/or 2012
With Curry's $11+ million and another $3 million or so coming off the books following the 2010-11 season, the Knicks are in the fortunate position of being able to add critical pieces at just the right time.
As it stands now, minus any moves or (re-)signings, the Knicks will also be about $37 million under the cap in 2012, and that's with Stoudemire included in both years' payrolls (and letting Anthony Randolph go).
That's so much space, Knicks fans are exhibiting symptoms of agoraphobia.
Amar'e, the anchor, has four-plus seasons left on what is looking like a great deal for both player and team.
Other than Shawne Williams, the core of the team is intact and signed through the 2011-12 season.
In 2012, Felton, Chandler, Fields, Ronny Turiaf and Billy Walker come off the books.
Assuming there is no Curry (or other big) trade this year and the Knicks re-sign at least Felton, Chandler and Fields to say a combined $20 million in 2012, New York will be looking at, give or take, $11 million of cap space in 2011 and $17 million in 2012.
What can that buy?
One scenario would be to get Carmelo Anthony if he happens to still be a free agent at the end of the year. Risky, and too bad, just a year too soon. The problem is it would still require trading away some additional salary and good talent to make the $18 million he's due in 2011 fit.
There's more room beyond that to ink 'Melo to at least four years, but there is no simple way around giving up talent to get him in 2011.
Here are some other 2011 free agents that could benefit the Knicks, without too much sacrifice and what they might command (in millions):
|Jamal Crawford||Atlanta Hawks||SG||$10-12|
|Kenyon Martin||Denver Nuggets||PF||$8-10|
|J.R. Smith||Denver Nuggets||SG||$10-12|
|Sebastian Telfair||Minnesota Timberwolves||PG||$5-6|
|Joel Pryzybilla||Portland Trailblazers||C||$8-10|
|Samuel Dalembert||Sacramento Kings||C||$12-14|
|T.J. Ford||Indiana Pacers||PG||$9-10|
Here are some 2012 free agents the Knicks might consider factoring into their plans:
|Mike Bibby||Atlanta Hawks||PG||$8-9|
|Nate Robinson||Boston Celtics||PG||$7-9|
|Boris Diaw||Charlotte Bobcats||PF||$10-11|
|Nene Hilario||Denver Nuggets||C||$12-14|
|Eric Gordon||L.A. Clippers||SG||$8-12|
|Chris Kaman||L.A. Clippers||C||$12-15|
|Mehmet Okur||Utah Jazz||PF||$11-14|
|Kirk Hinrich||Washington Wizards||PG||$9-11|
However you look at it, the Knicks certainly have options and will surely improve over the next two years if they play their cards right, thanks greatly from finally being released from the payroll purgatory of Eddy Curry's contract.