Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Carmelo Redux

Adrian Wojnarowski (once and possibly still of Bergen Record fame) has a great article on Yahoo! Sports this morning about the role that Isaiah played (or, more accurately, did not play) in the Carmelo acquisition. Read it.

After going back and reading all the comments yesterday, I actually think we are all in more agreement than it originally seemed:

1. It is amazing that the Knicks have Carmelo.

2. The Knicks very likely could have gotten him for less (either by waiting until the last second before the trade deadline, or waiting until the offseason).

3. There is no way to be absolutely certain that the Nets, the Lakers, or some other team could not have convinced Carmelo to sign with them had the Knicks tried to wait this out. So even with what they gave up, it was probably worth it to get Carmelo. But it is hard to be totally thrilled about it without getting distracted by number 2 and number 4.

4. Isaiah Thomas is a delusional, disingenuous, conniving wretch who, perhaps more than anyone other than James Dolan himself, is responsible for completely ruining this franchise and pushing it to the brink of irrelevance. Reports that he had Dolan's ear on this and is now taking credit for the acquisition, and that, as a result, Donnie Walsh might bounce when his contract expires on June 30 make us all want to puke. On Isaiah.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dear the Knicks (or, How I Learned to Stopy Worrying and Love Carmelo)

Dear the Knicks:

I have been pretty schizophrenic about this whole Carmelo thing. At first, like everyone, I thought, "hey, one of the league's top 15, maybe top 10 players wants to be a Knick . . . great. Sign him up." But as the "Melo-drama" wore on, and it looked like the Knicks might have to actually cough up some quality players in order to acquire another star before the trade deadline, I thought "hey, forget it." There is every reason to believe that you would have been able to just sign him at the end of the season without having to give up anything more than the $20 million or so per year that he will get as a part of his contract extension.

But now that it is (almost) official, I am excited. The Knicks have two marquee players, are poised to make a run this season, and -- far more importantly -- are positioned to be a competitive, fun team to watch for the next five years. You don't match up against the Celtics or the Heat just yet, but there is reason to believe that you can in the near future (more on that in a minute). Compared to the despair that fans of this team have rightly felt for the last ten years, this is a great day for the franchise.

I think it is difficult for people who didn't live in and around New York in the 1990s to realize how much of a basketball town this really is. But when the Knicks are good --- whether that means really good, like the Ewing-and-Oak-Mase-Starks (swish!) teams of the early 90s, or just competitive but perhaps over-achieving good, like the Sprewell/Houston Knicks of the late 90s --- New York gets behind you. And I don't just mean that people buy tickets (though it is true that you can look forward to selling out the arena again), I mean that people talk about it, follow the NBA more closely, and get excited about the team.

But what this organization has put its fans through for the last decade has pushed all boundaries of loyalty to a team (perhaps more accurately, it has completely shattered them). The tag "breaking up with the Knicks" appears eight times on this blog; the tag "Knicks," only six (it will be seven after this post). That's what happens when a team that made the playoffs for something like fifteen consecutive years goes a decade without a getting out of the regular season (I respectfully decline to acknowledge the 2003-04 campaign, in which the Knicks were under .500 and got swept in the first round by the Nets).

So you can't blame us for being skeptical, for being uncertain, and for being in denial that the Knicks might actually be good again. But it looks like you might. First of all, to add Carmelo Anthony - an undeniably prolific scorer - to a team that is already averaging 106 points a night is alone going to be worth the price of admission. Second, I know everyone was starting to get to know and like Raymond Felton, but Chauncey Billups is a great complement to the two bona fide stars now on the roster (OB: I didn't realize last night that Billups was included in the deal . . . how are you worried about PG? This is an upgrade). Add in the fact that Landry Fields can now actually be a rookie instead of being asked to be one of the stars of the team and things look even brighter.

Now don't get me wrong, Donnie (or Mike, or Jim, or Isaiah, or whichever one of you actually pulled this deal together). This team has a lot to prove, and there are some question marks. Big ones. Like how will a guy who is often knocked for not playing defense going to fit in with a team that is often knocked for not playing defense. And even though Amar'e has only been here a few months, his MVP-caliber season he has completely won over the New York fans. Will egos get in the way when the hometown hero soaks up some of the accolades and adulation? (side note: I don't even believe this myself. Amar'e lobbied as hard as anyone to bring in Carmelo, and I just don't see even a whiff of drama on him. If Carmelo wants the back page, front page, page six or all three, I think Amar'e will be fine to let him have it).

And then, of course, there is the fact that you had to surrender four decent, in some cases more than decent, supporting cast members to make the deal happen. You probably could have had Carmelo in the offseason, even with the Nets in full pursuit. But that that is debatable and ultimately not knowable. Either way, this is not exactly a lopsided deal in the Knicks favor. Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari have star potential, and Timofey Mozgev (aka Quad Who) - despite his inauspicious welcome to New York - was looking like he could be a more durable and reliable center than anyone initially thought possible.

But as Michael Wilbon pointed out this morning, "if Gallinari, Mozgov, [Chandler] and [Felton] were that good, the Knicks would have been better than 28-26 at the break." That may not be entirely fair to those four guys, but Wilbon has a point. None of these guys are superstars. One or two of them might become stars down the road, but Carmelo is a superstar now. Today. It is far easier (and far cheaper) to add supporting cast members than it is to add a central, foundational piece of the puzzle. The Knicks were never going to build a dynasty around Danilo Gallinari.

Now, you can make a nice little run this year, maybe even sneak past the first round of the playoffs. But the real fun might start next season. Chris Paul or Derron Williams could be on the way, completing a trifecta for the Knicks that could put them on even closer footing with the Heat and the Celtics. And even if you want to discount that possibility because of the potential for a hard (or harder) salary cap, the two-star-plus-supporting-cast formula has certainly worked pretty well in the past. Just ask Shaq and Kobe. Or Michael and Scottie. Or Karl and John. A Deron Williams addition would be sensational, but I do not think it is necessary for this team to be very competitive in the East for the next few years. There is no shortage in the NBA of quality back of the roster guys who can play defense and support the primary scorers. And there is every reason to believe that you can build around Amar'e and Carmelo to make this a compelling team for the next five years.

You gave up a lot to make this move. And it is distressing to think that you could have had Carmelo for less if Dolan would just get himself and Isaiah Thomas out of Donnie Walsh's way. But this is a deal the Knicks had to make. You got your man. Or your man got you. Either way: this team just got far more exciting, maybe a little better for this season, and positioned itself to make a run at a championship in the next few years. Compared to where this team was just two or three years ago, I'd have to say it was a good day.