The New York Knicks just pushed the panic button.
In the latest chapter of the unrelenting Carmelo Anthony saga, the Knicks reportedly offered Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Eddy Curry's expiring contract and a first-round pick (to be acquired for Anthony Randolph) to Denver in exchange for Anthony and Chauncey Billups.
Additional players such as Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman may also go to the Knicks for salary cap purposes.
For a team that was the overwhelming favorite to acquire Anthony all along, this desperation move has James Dolan's fingerprints all over it.
Dolan, the Knicks' bumbling owner, is poised to make the swap despite opposition from team president Donnie Walsh and head coach Mike D'Antoni, according to the New York Daily News.
Still not a championship contender if this trade is executed, the Knicks can't act as if Anthony is the final piece to the puzzle. Yet, Dolan is willing to surrender most of their assets as if they're a finished product.
You don't win a title in the NBA without an interior defender and rebounder—the Knicks don't have one. After this deal is consummated, New York will have minimal maneuverability until after the 2011-2012 season when Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Chris Paul are slated to become free agents.
Even then, however, it's no lock that they'll have cap room to sign a max player under the new collective bargaining agreement once Anthony has signed his three-year, $65 million extension.
Make no mistake, New York should make a concerted effort to lure Anthony before Thursday's trade deadline, but it should be on its own terms. Chandler, Felton, Curry and a first-round pick is more than enough to sacrifice considering Denver's predicament.
Chandler, 23, has a lot of upside but will have to be paid substantially as a restricted free agent at year's end and therefore is expendable. Felton played exceptionally for stretches in the first half, is an excellent defender and a soldier more than willing to fight through injury. Curry's contract provides cap relief and a first-round pick enables Denver to add to its young corps.
The Knicks maintained leverage throughout the year in negotiations for Anthony because it's common knowledge that his preferred destination is The World's Most Famous Arena. Rather than allow Walsh to do his job, though, Dolan has abdicated all bargaining power and acquiesced to nearly all Denver's demands.
Dolan is undoubtedly petrified by the specter of the Nets landing Anthony and invading his turf with a marquee player to feature on billboards this time.
That could be construed as a rational concern if it weren't for the fact that the Nets and Nuggets have already agreed upon an Anthony trade on three separate occasions in the past five months. Twice, Anthony has refused to sign an extension with New Jersey and he's shown nothing to indicate that his stance has changed now.
Anthony wants no part of the Nets and the right play is to call his bluff.
Unless Denver is willing to be reasonable, the Knicks should step away from the table, allow the Nuggets to accept the rumored Nets' deal, and dare Anthony to sign his coveted extension with them.
I'm betting, as various reports including Newsday's Alan Hahn suggest, he won't put pen to paper if he's traded to New Jersey.
If Anthony does sign in New Jersey, he's demonstrating that his first priority is cash, not winning. As a 26-year-old star that's made about $100 million in his career already, it's time for Anthony to put winning above all else.
Imploding the Knicks' nucleus in order to get to Gotham won't get him championships either.