March 2, 2011
Unless Buffalo Bill had you at the bottom of a well the past couple of weeks, you already know the New York Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony in a blockbuster deal that had been annoyingly brewing for months.
"Not again," is all this reluctant Knicks fan (I watch with one eye covered) can say. I shake my head, turn off the TV set and reach for a container of antacids.
"The Knicks screwed things up again."
Of course, it's not that Anthony isn't a good player, but his financial cost, somewhat inefficient style of play, and proven inability to be a franchise-carrier makes the steep price the Knicks paid for him almost a Mile High robbery.
The move, rumored to have been a Jimmy Dolan-Isiah Thomas production, seemed every bit like it, with the Knicks exchanging long-term potential for immediate gratification.
Gone: Ray Felton, experiencing a career year at age 26, was signed for another season at a paltry $7.5 million. 23-year-old Wilson Chandler was averaging 16-and-6 with good shooting percentages. He was going to earn just $3.1 million in 2012.
Timofey Mozgov, an intriguing, 24-year-old Russian center, moved well for his size (7'1" 250). In the four games in which he played at least 26 minutes, Mozgov averaged 12.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 1 block on .583/.750 shooting percentages. He was owed just $5.3 million over the next two seasons.
Of course, the harshest blow was losing 22-year-old Italian forward Danilo Gallinari. The No. 6 pick in the 2008 draft, "Gallo" was making strides and increasingly showing glimpses of Dirk Lite. In just his second game with Denver, Gallinari scored 30 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and had a potential game-winning three go in and out at the buzzer.
These four young, talented, inexpensive and under-contract guys, and three draft picks, for three seasons of Carmelo at a price of $60 million.
Yes, now the Knicks have two "superstars" but their roster heading into next season currently looks like this:
Chauncey Billups ($14.2 million)
Ronny Turiaf ($4.4 million)
Bill Walker ($1 million)
Let's think about this logically:
It's highly unlikely the Knicks will pick up Billups, who will turn 35 in September, at that price. Turiaf probably won't get more money elsewhere, so let's count on him returning. Considering how thin the roster is, paying Walker a mil to come back seems likely.
This leaves the Knicks with only eight guys on the roster and a payroll of about $46.5 million. If next year's cap is to be the same as this season's, $58 million, this would mean the Knicks have $11.5 million left to fill its roster.
So much for Chris Paul, who is set to earn $16.4 million next season and $17.8 in 2013.
Elevating concerns further are reports the new Collective Bargaining Agreement could feature a lower cap, the elimination of player exceptions, and the addition of a franchise tag. All three of these features would hurt the Knicks' situation immensely.
And without quality draft picks (all dealt away) and attractive trade chips (Landry Fields is all that's left), the likelihood New York will add a third marquee name next to The Stat & Melo Show is slim to none.
So why did the Knicks, who were clearly headed in the right direction for the first time in a decade, risk so much so soon?
I can only think of two reasons. One is Dolan, whose buffoonery needs no further explanation. Another is fear the team—currently hanging onto the No. 6 playoff seed by a thread—will fail to make the playoffs.
New York was 21-14 (.600) in early January and looking like a playoff lock. Since then, however, the Knicks have gone 9-14 (.391). Even scarier, Philadelphia, Indiana, and Charlotte have all surged during this period.
The 76ers have gone 27-17 (.614) since starting off 3-13 (.188). The Pacers have won 11 of its last 17. Since replacing Larry Brown (9-19) with Paul Silas, the 'Cats are 17-14.
Also, let's not forget the bruised Milwaukee Bucks just got Brandon Jennings back and are likely to make a late run much like they did last season.
So, most likely, Dolan panicked, sought Isiah's input, stepped on Donnie Walsh's trust and forced the Knicks to act immediately. Also fueling the anxiety was the chance that cross-town rival and New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov could steal the back pages of the papers by luring Carmelo or another star.
Sigh. This isn’t basketball, people—this is reality TV nonsense.
Mark my words—the Carmelo deal will go down in recent history as being another one of the bigger Knicks' boneheaded moves.
Already, since the trade, the Knicks are (surprise!) 2-2 and Carmelo is shooting 37-93 (.398). Many will argue this new unit needs time to jell. While this is partly true, one can't ignore how these new parts aren’t exactly designed to fit in Mike D'Antoni's system.
Carmelo is a one-on-one isolation player, Billups is half-court oriented, and gone from the wings are two quality shooters (Gallinari, Chandler). So much for run-and-gun basketball.
Let's say the Knicks do hold on and make the playoffs. Whether it's the pre or post-Carmelo roster, would it even make a difference in advancing past the First Round? The Knicks have no shot in hell in beating Boston, Miami, Chicago or Orlando in a best-of-seven series.
Some fans will go ahead and label me a hater. Go for it. I'll just leave you with this to think about:
From 1990-2000, only seven teams won more games than the Knicks. The team featured one star player, Patrick Ewing, and a collection of hard-nosed role players. Defense was a staple of team identity and was preached by the coaches (Pat Riley, Jeff Van Gundy). The front office (Dave Checketts) was smart and shrewd.
From 2000-2010, only three teams lost more games than the Knicks. The team featured a collection of stars, ranging from "Starbury" to "Penny" to "Stevie Franchise." Defense was non-existent, coaches (Don Chaney, Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas, Mike D'Antoni) experimented and the front office (Scott Layden, Isiah Thomas, Donnie Walsh, James Dolan) threw money and resources around like candy.
Now ask yourself... Which decade do you see when you look at this current Knicks team?
God, I miss Charles Oakley.
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