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.
Will Leitch has a great piece in NYMag reevaluating Mike D’Antoni’s decision to join the Knicks over the Bulls. Even though I’ve been very critical of D’Antoni’s tenure with the Knicks, Leitch is spot on when he says:
The criticism of D’Antoni essentially seems to come down to “He’s not willing to adjust his system to fit his players,” which is another way of saying, “Hey, it’s not our fault your system requires a point guard and we gave all ours away: Figure it out.” The one constant of D’Antoni’s success has been a functioning floor general, from Nash in Phoenix to Raymond Felton and Billups last season.
D’Antoni’s offense needs a good point guard and thus far this year’s team does not have anyone approaching an NBA caliber starting point guard. I saw them play the Wizards last month and it was surreal watching Iman Shumpert, Toney Douglass and Mike Bibby take turns bringing the ball up court. It was almost like watching Summer League tryouts when teams are auditioning players. What struck me is how the team’s character changed so drastically each time a different player brought the ball up. When Bibby brought it up, Amar’e Stoudemire seemed confident that he was going to get the ball and have a decent shot of making a play. Shumpert and Douglass almost exclusively set up on the left and right side exclusively, regardless of what defense the Wizards were in or where the Knicks go-to players Anthony and Stoudemire were posted up. This in turn meant that once Melo or Amar’e got the ball the weak side defenders could sag into the lane because a cross court pass was unlikely to yield much of anything.
This is a stark contrast to the life that D’Antoni would have right now coaching Derrick Rose and watching him run SSOL to perfection.
Anyway, check out Leitch’s piece here, it’s worth the read
After being referred to as the “Leastern Conference” for much of the past decade the NBA’s Eastern Conference is beginning to field more competitive teams, as well as teams that play a wider variety of styles. While teams such as the Pacers, Bulls and Bucks play grind out it styles synonymous with the eastern conference, their counterparts like the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks feature up-tempo offenses that one normally associates with western conference teams.
As we saw during the last lockout shortened season in 1999 anything can happen. But it’s safe to say that a lot of what happens in the east this year will depend on how the Nets and Magic handle the Deron Williams and Dwight Howard situations respectively. One or both of the these teams is guaranteed to fall out of the playoff race fairly early if these players are dealt out of conference.
Still, barring any injury, one should still expect the eastern conference title to go through Miami again this year.
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.
ESPN’s Marc Stein and Dave McMenamin are reporting that the Knicks have signed Baron Davis. Davis was recently released by the Cleveland Cavaliers under the new “amnesty” provision, opting instead to turnover point-guard duties to younger and less-expensive trio of Daniel Gibson, Kyrie Irving and Ramon Sessions. Once he cleared waivers on Friday Davis was heavily courted by a number of playoff contenders, but the Knicks won out for this veteran guard’s services. When healthy, Davis will join fellow veterans Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire, to form as imposing a quartet.
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.
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.
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.
Normally, I’m not one for Hall of Fame debates.Â The Hall of Fame’sÂ for most sports are now overrun by players who very good, but not great, and who quite frankly would not have entered their sport’s HOF if they had not lingered around long enough after their playing careers had ended.Â Still, every once in a while I’ll allow a friend to rope me into one of these debates.Â However, I don’t have anyone to blame but myself (well maybe I can blame twitter because that’s where I got the idea).Â After taking a look at Amare Stoudemire’s twitter profile, I randomly blurted out “oh snap, this guy might be a Hall of Famer.”
I don’t know if this counts asÂ an out of body experience.Â Or maybe this is the sensation felt by a person succumbing to a subliminal message.Â But whatever it was, it felt as if Amareisreal’s seemingly benign timeline was really a diabolical mind controlling device designed to convince unsuspecting basketball fans like myself that AmareisGreat.
Stoudemire has clearly distinguished himself as one of the best power forwards of his generation.Â With career averages of 21.9pts and 8.9reb for his career, Stoudemire ranks somewhere between Kevin Garnett and Zach Randolph. He’sÂ garnered more accolades, and led his team to the playoffs more than Randolph, but he’s nowhere near the rebounder and defender that Garnett is, and has therefore been lapped by Garnett in terms of All-NBA honors.
One could even make the case that the last twenty -years has been a golden-era for power forwards.Â While people have been awaiting the arrival of the next Jordan, the succession of power-forwards who’ve come into their primes between 1990 and 2010 are among the greatest in history.Â Along with the aforementioned Garnett, there was also first ballot Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Karl Malone, and future inductee and four-time NBA champion Tim Duncan.Â Not to be forgotten is Dirk Nowitzki, one of the greatest pure shooters at any position, and a player who in his own right has done more to redefine the power forward position than he’s often given credit.
Stoudemire arguably fits more neatly into the second tier of players from this generation, e.g., Rasheed Wallace, Pau Gasol, Chris Bosh, all with the exception of maybe Wallace have likely convinced some voters that they’re surefire HOF candidates.
In thinking about this question, I was less surprised that Stoudemire has been able to hold his own against some of the best players in the last twenty years, but moreso by how quickly his career has progressed.Â It is hard to fathom that Stoudemire has been in the NBA for nine years, which is pretty staggering when you consider that his career has been written off three times already.Â Five years ago if you asked most NBA GM’s who would they rather have, Amare Stoudemire or Elton Brand, at least half might’ve said Brand who at the time seemed steadier and less prone to injury.Â Yet, while Stoudemire’s career has undergone a renaissance these past two years, Brand’s has been stuck in 3rd gear ever since he left the Clippers.
As I said at the outset, I’m not usually one for HOF debates, and this is by no means was intended as an attempt at persuading anyone that Stoudemire is a HOF player.Â What this exercise in thinking about Stoudemire has gotten me to realize is that when we step back and really think about it, the last decade in the NBA has turned out better than many had expected.Â The game and the players aren’t the only things that have gotten faster, so has our capacity for rushing to judgement.Â I’ve been reminded that the time may be now, but opportunities to reflect and reassess may not be–and therefore we have to seek them out, and be grateful when we stumble upon them.