Like any franchise player Carmelo Anthony has taken a drubbing for his team’s poor play this season. Making matters worse is that his former team has had a better record ever since Anthony was traded. It’s understandable how some might get swooped up in all the talk about the Nuggets playing basketball “the right way,” and how their no superstars approach is the right way to counter superstar led team’s like New York and Miami. Moreover, with the Knicks struggling, it was easy to label Anthony as selfish.
Then came a day like Sunday when the Garden was electric and Anthony hit big shot after big shot as the Knicks upended the league leading Chicago Bulls. Having witnessed Anthony hit that shot from the elbow time and again yesterday’s heroics weren’t particularly new. But Anthony had never had a day like this in the Garden in front of a nationally televised audience on Easter Sunday against a long standing Knicks nemesis. Watching yesterday’s game you couldn’t help but think that this is the reason the Knicks traded for Anthony.
Regardless of what the standings say at this point, what the Knicks were vying for when they acquired Anthony was a day like yesterday. Sure, they’d love ‘em by the dozen, but if he could at least do this once or so a month and when the lights are brightest, you have to think that this franchise and its fans will forgive virtually anything that happens in between.
It’s now official, Baron Davis will join Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire,. Talk about a change of fortune, it was only a week ago that the Knicks appeared to have a gaping hole at the point guard slot. Now they have an all-star caliber player with a penchant for scintillating playoff performances on his resume slotted into that position.
On the court, a motivated Davis will provide this Knicks team with leadership, an occasional fourth quarter dagger, some offensive punch on nights when either Anthony or Stoudemire might be struggling, and a barrage of easy baskets for Stoudemire, Chandler, Landry Fields, Renaldo Balkman and rookie Iman Shumpert.
Off the court, Davis fits neatly into the charismatic nouveau “Rat Pack” personas being honed by Anthony and Stoudemire. Davis, a full on aesthete by NBA standards will have no trouble fitting in at the Tribeca Film Festival or Fashion Week for example. In fact, the trio of Anthony, Davis and Stoudemire are easily the trendiest Knick triumvirate since the glory days of Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe and Phil Jackson/Bill Bradley.
More importantly, this Davis signing deals a costly blow to the Knicks two main challengers for Eastern Conference supremacy, Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. With Davis on board, the signings of Shane Battier and Richard Hamilton seem to pale in comparison, and for the first time since the Patrick Ewing era, makes the Knicks legitimate contenders in the East.
In 2008-09 when the Denver Nuggets reached the Western Conference Finals they appeared on the verge of becoming an elite team in the western conference. It seemed as if the frontline of Nene, Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin was finally rounding into form and might emerge as worthwhile challengers to LA’s triumvirate of Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol. However, Kenyon Martin’s recurring knee injuries and Nene’s inconsistent play when healthy kept the Nuggets from fulfilling their promise. The Nuggets were also often dogged by a pedestrian back court in a conference that featured such elite guards as Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker and Brandon Roy.
Now, in 2011 the New York Knicks have composed a team that bears a striking resemblance to these Nuggets teams that sputtered throughout much of this last decade. Carmelo Anthony anchors both teams and Amar’e Stoudemire and newly signed Tyson Chandler are reminiscent of Martin and Nene. Like Martin, Stoudemire is a dynamic power forward who’s had to overcome micro-fracture surgery. Also like Martin, Stoudemire has often had to play out of position at center guarding much bigger players. Stoudemire is arguably a far superior offensive player, but he’s also been blessed to play in Mike D’Antoni’s high-powered offensive system.
Similarly, Chandler and Nene are virtually the same player. Athletic centers with a penchant for stints on the injured list. Chandler is a slightly better rebounder and guards the rim better, but Nene is a better offensive player and his passing skills complemented the talents of Anthony and Martin really well. Where Chandler really distinguishes himself however is that he’s a maturer locker room presence than Nene. None other than Chris Paul can be counted to speak fondly of his support as a teammate, a fact that is not to be taken lightly given Paul’s close bond with Anthony.
Also like their counterparts in Denver, this Knicks team will have to contend with the likes of Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Joe Johnson, Dwyane Wade and Deron Williams without an all-star guard of their own.
Come this year’s playoffs, this year’s Knicks might very well find themselves in the same position as those 08-09 Nuggets. A Knicks-Heat Conference finals would be must see TV as Miam’s Big Three goes up against New York’s newly minted Big Three. If New York wins, then they will have bested their predecessors in Denver, and if they don’t, then we are likely to find this team seeking to answer similar questions to those that plagued the Nuggets the last three seasons.
Yahoo Sports is reporting that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert led the charge to nix last night’s proposed Chris Paul trade to the Lakers. Along with his well documented resentment about Lebron James’ decision to leave Cleveland last year, Gilbert likely also remembers Chris Paul’s infamous toast at Carmelo Anthony’s wedding where Paul openly fantasized about uniting with Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire in New York.
The Yahoo article contains the contents of an email sent by Gilbert to NBA commissioner David Stern that has been reprinted below:
It would be a travesty to allow the Lakers to acquire Chris Paul in the apparent trade being discussed.
This trade should go to a vote of the 29 owners of the Hornets.
Over the next three seasons this deal would save the Lakers approximately $20 million in salaries and approximately $21 million in luxury taxes. That $21 million goes to non-taxpaying teams and to fund revenue sharing.
I cannot remember ever seeing a trade where a team got by far the best player in the trade and saved over $40 million in the process. And it doesn’t appear that they would give up any draft picks, which might allow to later make a trade for Dwight Howard. (They would also get a large trade exception that would help them improve their team and/or eventually trade for Howard.) When the Lakers got Pau Gasol (at the time considered an extremely lopsided trade) they took on tens of millions in additional salary and luxury tax and they gave up a number of prospects (one in Marc Gasol who may become a max-salary player).
I just don’t see how we can allow this trade to happen.
I know the vast majority of owners feel the same way that I do.
When will we just change the name of 25 of the 30 teams to the Washington Generals?
The basketball off-season is like an extended barbershop session. Like a lazy Saturday afternoon at the barber, during every NBA off-season rumors are circulated just enough for people to believe they are truths, debatable truths, but truths nonetheless. The latest and greatest of these rumors is that Chris Paul will become a New York Knick.
There is a grain of truth here; Chris Paul enjoys playing with Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. That’s good and fine. I enjoy driving a Range Rover and having a personal chauffeur. Are either in my immediate future? No, but I sure as hell enjoy them and would not hesitate to admit that I do. A similar principle applies for any prospect of a Chris Paul trade to the Knicks.
First of all, have we forgotten that the Hornets are in receivership? This team is technically owned by the NBA, and given everything that has happened over the past year, I am hard-pressed to believe the 29 other NBA owners would approve of a move that allows Paul to join the Knicks. Remember the fuss that Mark Cuban made about the Marcus Thornton for Carl Landry trade? Can you imagine the venom he’d spew if the Knicks were somehow able to flip Chauncey Billups, Landry Fields and Renaldo Balkman for Chris Paul and Trevor Ariza?
Even the notion that the NBA is considering trading acquiescing to Paul’s trade requests is likely to incite a firestorm of criticism from
other actual team owners once the lockout is officially over. Stan Kroenke will surely have positive things to say about a franchise player bowing out of his contract and denying his team a chance at making the best possible trade.
There are only two destinations that make sense for Paul. Basketball wise, the Clippers would immediately become playoff, if not championship contenders with a nucleus of Paul, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. ESPN would likely need to start a whole new show devoted entirely to showing clips of Paul alley-oops to Griffin and Jordan. Gordon will have so much daylight in that quartet that he might become the first NBA player to go a season without dribbling the basketball.
The other option, if the NBA is interested in securing its own bottom line, would be to trade Paul to the Bobcats. Any traction that the league hoped to get in North Carolina by selling this franchise to Michael Jordan has long expired. Paul is second to only Lebron James in the list of superstars who could revitalize this market. As a Carolina native who played at Wake Forest, Paul would excite locals and he has the potential to build his own powerhouse squad in Charlotte. With some shrewd maneuvering, Charlotte could unveil a 2012 starting lineup anchored by Paul, James Harden and Dwight Howard.
Even these two options are closer to rumor and innuendo than they are to fact. As much as we hate this option, everyone will just have to wait and see what where Paul ends up.
Over at Grantland, Charles Pierce offers a very good assessment of the NBA Lockout. As many have noted, this deal could have been reached in June and neither side has given any reason why it took so long. I agree with Pierce that the owners deserve most of the blame because it was their actions that caused a lockout. It is also for this precise reason why we are unlikely to get a real accounting of why both sides didn’t strike a deal earlier.
By far the best portion of Pierce’s piece was the following excerpt:
Another way you know that it wasn’t really about economics is that the league’s economic public case for its position became more and more preposterous as the weeks went by, and even the public began to notice that it was being taken for a fool. The hilarity hit high tide for me when David Stern started going around explaining that 22 of his 30 franchises were losing money. Tell me, do you suppose that when Stern sat down and chatted with the Nike corporation, or with the People’s Republic of China, to name only two of the wildly successful authoritarian operations with which the league does its business, the first thing he explained while pitching the NBA to them was that 73 percent of his league was in the red?
One storyline that hasn’t gotten enough coverage was why so many stars were prepared to sit out a season. There’s a case to be made that for upper-echelon stars like Lebron, Kobe, Dwight Howard and to a degree Carmelo Anthony, they make enough in endorsement deals to compensate for income lost from a season long strike. Unlike in 1998 when even some of the biggest stars had only recently had their big paydays and endorsement deals were not as lucrative, for many of the top NBA players, their basketball income is only a portion of their portfolios.
1) New York Knicks
The arrival of first Amar’e Stoudemire and the Carmelo Anthony at mid-season made the garden come alive in ways that it hasn’t since the late 90s.Â Knick fans were even talking about a title for the first time since the Patrick Ewing era.Â Title or not, with as much clout that James Dolan/Cablevision this current Knicks squad was a surefire goldmine entering the 2011-2012 season.Â Now, the longer this lockout drags on, the longer that it will take for Dolan to be able to really capitalize on all of the marketing/revenue generating potential of his two superstars across Cablevision’s various platforms.
2) Memphis Grizzlies
Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley must’ve been salivating at the prospect of a year filled with arena sellouts and increased luxury box revenue.Â For the first time in the franchise’s history the Grizzlies made it to the second round of the playoffs and this group of “blue collar” players led by Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol resonated with fans in Memphis in ways that no previous Grizzlies team had ever done.Â The goodwill curried between fans and the organization this year will gradually come apart over the course of the lockout. And instead of reuniting fans with their beloved playoff contending Grizzlies in 2011-12, the Grizzlies front office now has to pray that fans aren’t too bitter to return once play resumes.
3) Indiana Pacers
Unlike the Grizzlies, Pacer fans have experienced playoff success in recent memory so a strong showing in the first round of this year’s eastern conference playoffs wouldn’t have necessarily bowled them over.Â That said, you couldn’t undersell the allure of a bunch of unassuming basketball players in Indiana.Â There are no superstars on this Pacers squad.Â Nor are there the mischievous sorts whose antics sullied the franchise in the early part of this decade.Â Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansborough are players whose games and personas are lifted straight out of Hoosiers, and Darren Collison is one of the most underrated perimeter players in the league.Â There’s nothing not to like about this group of guys.Â Unfortunately, most fans tend to see the lockout as a millionaires versus billionaires squabble.Â This perception is bad PR for the players in the short-run, but in the long run, when franchises like the Pacers have to work overtime to win back fans, the owners will realize that the players aren’t the only ones to lose out from this situation.
The Warriors have worked very hard this past year on building their brand.Â And you know what, it’s hard to brand yourself as an NBA team when there’s no NBA season.Â With no record of recent success to harken back to and virtually an entire roster on the trading block, once play resumes the Warriors will have to work even harder to prove to fans and sponsors that they’re not just scrimmage partners for teams like the Heat, Lakers, and Mavericks.
5) Chicago Bulls
Carlos Boozer is my personal pick to be this lockout’s Shawn Kemp, the player who returns out of shape and dooms his team’s chances at contending.Â Looking at all the contenders you’ll be hard pressed to find more of an outlier in a team’s nucleus than Boozer.Â The other Bulls stars Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson were all Bulls’ draftees and metaphorically speaking came up through the Bulls system together.Â Boozer is the big star that was meant to get them over the hump.Â Thing is though, this team is not really built around Boozer.Â The Bulls need his 20points, but you also get the impression that other than that, they pretty much need him to stay out of Derrick Rose’s way.Â A regular off season would give head coach Tom Thibodeau time to work with this group to make sure they learned the appropriate lessons from the Indiana and Miami series, and more importantly to get on the same page.Â If they have to rush through the pre-season, I am hard pressed to believe that this Bulls squad can take another step forward.
Yesterday Marc Berman of the New York Post warned the New York Knicks to learn from the Miami Heatâ€™s loss in the finals and not pursue Chris Paul. Bermanâ€™s take (with support from ousted President/ General Manager Donnie Walsh) is that the â€œ3 star blueprintâ€ does not work and the Knicks money would be better spent on acquiring role players.
First, let all of us â€“ fans, media and everyone in between, gain a little perspective. The Miami Heat were two wins from winning an NBA title despite being out coached, losing Dwayne Wade for a significant portion of game four and uncharacteristically missing free throws at an alarming rate in game six. The average margin of victory during the finals was 5 points. To say that Dallas â€œoverwhelmedâ€ Miami, as Berman states, is just false. Take nothing away from the Mavericks, they played excellent and earned the title. But this idea that the Miami big three are â€œfailuresâ€ is absurd.
As for how the Knicks should approach building their team into a true title contender, my belief is, more talent is always better than less talent. Take it from a Knicks fan of 25 years. It would have been great if the Knicks had another star or two when losing to Bulls all those years. More stars players would have helped the Knicks in the 1993/94 NBA Finals against Houston. And I’m sure that Jared Jeffries to Bill Walker exchange at the end of game 2 in the series against Boston this year was a great example for why a team shouldn’t have more talent.
Role players didnâ€™t cut it when the Knicks lost to the Spurs in the 1998/99 Finals. Iâ€™m not discounting the importance of supporting players. â€œFill in the blanksâ€ guys as Donnie Walsh calls them, have value. All teams need role players, and from Anthony Mason, to David Lee, the Knicks have never had a problem finding them. (In related news, the Knicks havenâ€™t won a title in over 30 years.)
So if the Knicks can some how get Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Chris Paul, I say do it. Because I’ve seen them try to win championships the other way, and it doesn’t work.
Knicks fans have been waiting until next year for that elusive third NBA title since 1973.Â By contrast the Knicks opponents in that 1973 tilt, the Los Angeles Lakers, have won ten NBA titles since 1973.Â The disparate trajectories of these two franchises continues up to this day.Â As the Knicks mourn another season without a championship, the Lakers are still alive in the playoffs trying to claw their way to their third title in as many years.Â Instead of vaulting into their customary “wait til next year” mode, it might behoove Knicks fans and the organization to take a close look at this Lakers team, or better yet the Celtics team that just eliminated them from the playoffs, and give some serious thought to where this team is now before beginning to fantasize about next year.
As they currently stand this Knicks squad has two superstars and a bunch of spare parts that don’t add up to much.Â Given their performances in games 1&2 of this series with Boston some might think that games 3&4 were the anomalies, but it’s quite the opposite.Â Boston should sweep any team where Bill Walker and Jared Jeffries are given significant playing time and a rookie is starting at shooting guard.Â Even Jordan, Kobe and Lebron struggled during their first playoff campaigns so it should not have come as a surprise that the learning curve would be a steep one for Landry Fields.
Fields is the least of the Knicks’ problems. The Knicks have struggled throughout this last decade to develop in house talent.Â When they finally did, they jettisoned them all first for future salary cap savings in the David Lee trade, then in return for Carmelo Anthony in the mid season trade for the Knicks.Â As I pointed out last week, the problem was not what the Knicks gave up to get Anthony but what they got in return and what they’ve been getting in return of late in most of their deals–which is nothing much.
Here is the booty that the Knicks have scored in trades over the past two years: Carmelo Anthony, Kelenna Azubuike, Renaldo Balkman, Chauncey Billups, Corey Brewer, Anthony Carter, Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf, and Shelden Williams.Â On face value this is not that bad of a haul.Â But since this is the Knicks we’re talking about, Azubuike has been felled by injuries, Anthony Randolph never made it out of Mike D’Antoni’s doghouse, and Corey Brewer was rejected outright by D’Antoni.Â This is particularly troublesome when you consider that in addition to Lee, the Knicks also relinquished homegrown talents Wilson Chandler andÂ Danilo Gallinari in these trades.Â These moves have left the organization’s cupboards bare, and as much as Carmelo’s a draw, Miami’s struggles this year also proved that it’s harder to find the role players to complement superstars than most people realize.
Every GM in the NBA knows that the Knicks will overpay for talent.Â In order for the franchise to get to the next level it needs to study the recent history of LA and Boston and realize that finding the right player requires finding the right trading partner.Â Put another way, if the Knicks are going to win a title in the next 3-4 years Donnie Walsh is going to have to fleece another GM in the same way that Danny Ainge and Mitch Kupchak did Kevin McHale and Chris Wallace respectively.
And as much as it pains Knicks fans to think of this, but they should brace themselvesÂ for steady helpings of Bill Walker and Toney Douglass in crunch time, because if these guys don’t learn to play in tight games now, they won’t be able to play in them…next year.