Is 'Melo en route to MSG?
Like half the free New York Knick universe we've gone back and forth on this Carmelo Anthony deal like a Ping-Pong ball in one of those nonstop, Olympic-type tournaments.
It's not that our essential way of thinking has deviated so dramatically from early on. To be sure, fans, followers, even foes of the Madison Square Garden five have understood from day one that Carmelo in New York would have to be a good thing.
Explosive scorer? Check. Solid rebounder at the 3 spot? Check. Passable defender? Check.
Money ball player? You better believe it and he comes with a general hoops savvy that we first got a good look at way back in the Syracuse days, which at this point may feel like a couple of decades ago, but the reality is Carmelo Anthony's only 26 years old and still has a ton of great basketball left to go.
More so, at what cost has really been the issue. Fields, Gallinari and Chandler, which was central to the initial speculation. Most of us barked, "No way!"
Then we started hearing about a Net package that involved everything but enough gold bullion to refill all those dried up Colorado mining towns from a century or more ago, and even though heady observers expressed doubt that Carmelo would ever sign off on a deal to New Jersey, you had to figure this nutty Nugget management bunch would find a way to get it done with or without the signed extension as they were being offered untold riches for a player that is on the verge of becoming an unrestricted free agent!
Finally, in lieu of that last bit in bold, ("the man with his own destiny in hand" line of thinking), from the seeming get-go New Yorkers have been sending out a kind of telepathic SOS to the 'Melo man.
"Just be cool," Knick fans have urged. As the clock to the trade deadline winds down Denver GM Masai Ujiri will have to relent. Send the gifted scorer to his preferred destination, Madison Square Garden, the so-called mecca of basketball where he would be embraced by adoring masses from all over the five boroughs and beyond. (Either that or wait out the couple of months until the change of venue could be facilitated no strings attached.)
But the time for being altogether cool may have lapsed, as the Knicks, in the midst of a five-game losing streak, are starting to resemble a team in need of a major refresh.
In fact there appears to be a little greater sense of urgency from the Donnie Walsh side, which leads one to believe, as we continue to go down this road leading up to the Feb. 17 deadline, that these two diametrically opposed sides—the Knicks & Nuggets—may just settle, (or have to settle if Anthony really forces Denver's hand), on a deal involving youngsters Danilo Gallinari & Landry Fields, as well as a pair of No. 1 picks, one by virtue of an Anthony Randolph trade, and the other probably having something to do with Eddie Curry and his expiring contract.
Bringing us to the topical point at hand. That is, will the New Yorkers, missing the pieces above, but reinforced with one of the league's best players, win, or more to the point, be on their way to winning big?
Yes, losing Gallo and Fields will sting a bit at first, but since Anthony will slot to the 3, Wilson Chandler will slide to the 2, Amar'e Stoudemire will get most of his minutes at P.F., with Turiaf logging ample, but primarily defensive moments in the middle, the new starting lineup, with Ray Felton at the point, will be significantly upgraded.
Which only naturally leads us to the combined issue of cap-ology, and how the Knicks can add that last part to become elite, to battle the best come playoff time, which for the point of this exhibit we can refer to as a Tyson Chandler-type player, (if not Tyson Chandler himself.)
Now I'm no capologist by any stretch of the imagination, but even with Gallo, Fields, Curry, Randolph, Mason Jr. and even Kelenna Azubuike off the books & Anthony's $22 million on the books for 2011/2012 that pretty much puts the Knicks at their conventional limit for the coming season.
They would be entitled to the mid-level exception, about $5 million per we can assume, a minor exception, and of course the right to sign their own No. 1 pick, which the Knicks finally have for this coming offseason.
If they get Anthony, I don't see how they can get Chandler (he's going for big money), this offseason. Marcus Camby, another bit of wishful thinking for Knick fans, is signed for around $9 million into 2011/2012 so he's not coming with 'Melo in place either.
Even Sam Dalembert who will be free this summer is working for $12 million in 2010, so how the Knicks will manage to fill this hole in the middle outside of the draft (where they could try to reel in an active young big man like Joel Anthony of the Miami Heat), the mid-level exception or even Russian Timofey Mozgev taking Green Giant steps forward, is beyond me.
But let's put all that aside for a moment and go back to our pre-"last cog to greatness" headache and focus on what the Knicks would have in the aftermath of the outlined trade rather than what they might still lack.
Assuming Turiaf stays healthy and can man the middle for extended minutes New York will at least have the very formidable first five we outlined earlier. That is if coach Mike D'Antoni can rethink his system somewhat, get off this obsessive penchant for flying up the court, hoisting endless threes and put the kind of emphasis on the defensive side of the ball that is very simply requisite for playing winning, postseason basketball.
With Anthony on tap the need for a gimmicky "we run and score, you run and score, we run and score more than you run and score," type offense will not be required. 'Melo and Stoudemire playing inside out can dominate in a half-court set, also very much a requirement come playoff time.
Certainly, D'Antoni, despite his occasional West Virginia yokel act, seems to have the breath of experience and intellectual capacity to maneuver appropriately. No matter how you break it down though, immediate results or no, the Knicks would be better for this trade if Walsh can make it happen.
We believe it will, simply because the two teams are being forcefully entangled by the singular insistence of the player, Carmelo Anthony, and the collective insistence of the Knick universe unwilling to watch another season go inexorably down the tubes.
And if and when it does happen, we do sense the Knicks will win, that they will be a dangerous foe in the 2011 playoffs, and they will not miss Gallo, Fields and the pair of No. 1's they have sent off in Anthony's stead because the deafening roar in Madison Square Garden will wash away the memory of the trade, and the imminence of the moment will carry the day.
That's it for now,