Monthly Archives: February 2011

How much should the Knicks give up for Carmelo Anthony?

On an All Star opning night when actor Michael Rappaport tried way too hard to be liked and teen idol Justin Bieber unveiled a herky-jerky – yet uncannily effective – three-point shot, the reality of Carmelo Anthony becoming a New York Knick moved one step closer.

Amidst reports that Knicks owner James Dolan had met with Nuggets star Melo, a fresh Knicks trade offer – Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Eddy Curry and a to-be-acquired first-round draft pick to Denver in exchange for Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams and former Knick Renaldo Balkman – looked the likeliest scenario to bring an end to the season-long Melo-drama.

Forget about Melo meeting with New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and the deal agreed between the Nuggets and Nets involving Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Ben Uzoh, Troy Murphy and four first-round picks. That particular deal only happens if Melo agrees to sign an extension in New Jersey, something most NBA observers (not to mention several players) are certain he will not do.

Anthony’s destination of choice has always been Madison Square Garden and, with reporters like Frank Isola and Ryne Nelson suggesting a deal could be struck during all star weekend, it looks like he’s going to get his wish.

But the question most Knicks fans will be asking is: “Are we giving up too much to land Melo?”

Head v heart

There’s two ways to respond to that question, from the heart or from the head.

The heart tells you the Knicks are enjoying a long-awaited resurgence this year. The heart tells you you’ll miss Felton’s toughness (and his ability to seemingly hate a shot into the basket), Gallinari’s arching threes and Chandler’s free-wheeling, sixth man of the year-contending scoring and blocks.

As a fan you might even think, as I did when David Lee moved to Golden State, about the favourite jersey you’ll never be able to wear again without looking like an out-of-date, fair-weather supporter.

You might even bristle after reading rumours Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni privately think that the price for Melo is too high but their judgment counts for nothing now Knicks owner/idiot in chief (delete as appropriate) James Dolan is leading the negotiations.

Your heart might even blame Melo and his people for scaring Dolan into thinking he has to make a move with the Nets lurking in the shadows when the reality is, assuming Anthony won’t sign his extension with anyone other than New York, the Knicks are bidding against themselves.

While you should always listen to your heart, you don’t necessarily have to agree with it.

Your head should tell you that Billups, despite his advancing years, is an upgrade on Felton. It should also mention that resigning Chandler at the end of this season, assuming Anthony came aboard then as a free agent, would have been extremely difficult due to the increased salary he would command.

Obviously, the only people who’ll miss Eddy Curry in New York are owners of restaurants, fast food outlets and that big Hershey’s store in Times Square.

The one thing your head might struggle to rationalise is the Nuggets’ insistence that Danilo Gallinari be included in the deal. The Italian sharpshooter, in his third year but still only the age of a traditional rookie, is the player the Knicks least want to lose.

But aside from when the Lakers skinned Memphis for Pau Gasol, when did you last see a trade where only one team got everything they wanted from the deal?

Pulling the trigger

The bottom line is that the Knicks have to do this deal. Ultimately, the NBA is a superstar-driven league – you put two superstars in place and build around them.

That might sound like a harsh way of justifying the break-up of a young, resurgent Knicks team but I’ll go one step further. In the case of the 2010/11 Knicks, what are you actually breaking up?

Would a 28-26 record be a reason for excitement in another city where fans hadn’t endured 10 years of losing seasons, roster mismanagement and off-court debacles?

As things stand, the Knicks are a .500 team that looked a real force when they were benefitted from an extremely friendly schedule from mid-November through to the new year but came back to Earth when the opposition got a lot tougher in January.

As great a story as the Knicks have provided this season, they pose no threat to the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. And that situation won’t immediately change pairing Melo with Amare.

But what it does do is create the superstar core to build around that all contending teams have. The challenge for Walsh will then be to add complementary assets (starting with a shot-blocking center able to consistently protect the rim) and then challenge D’Antoni to develop a way to make things work.

It’s the way the NBA has always functioned and the way the Knicks have to go if they are serious about bruising their way back into the league’s upper echelons.

If last summer’s Lebron-athon taught us anything, it’s that, in the NBA, stars get their way. Melo wants his destination of choice, when he moves and his contract of choice. And it’s most likely, when this deal eventually gets done, he’ll get all three.

Are the Knicks giving up too much to get him? Yes, but the price they have to pay is what it costs to land a legitimate star in this league. And, as a fan, when you take your emotions out of the equation, it’s a move you should want them to make.

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Knicks struggles worsen as James Dolan interference intensifies

There’s a famous old quote from Irish poet Brendan Behan that goes: “I never saw a situation a policeman couldn’t make worse”.

When it comes to the New York Knicks, to paraphrase the famous Irish wordsmith, I’ve never seen a situation that team owner James Dolan couldn’t make worse.

In the midst of his team’s toughest stretch of the season, at a time when the Knicks have lost 11 of their last 15 games, at the pivotal point of what looked like being a long-awaited season of revival, this is the moment Dolan decides to involve himself in team affairs, undermine his president and coach and help destabilise the cohesion of his players.

Yes, there are other mitigating facts in the Knicks’ recent run of poor results. Injuries to Wilson Chandler and the team’s emotional heartbeat Rony Turiaf haven’t helped. Floor general Raymond Felton playing through the pain of a bum ankle has affected team cohesion.

And the seemingly never-ending Car-melodrama played out on a daily basis by the media has, if you believe the players, also had an effect.

But Dolan’s ability to insert himself into situations as a looming, dangerous, silent spectre should be even more troubling to Knicks fans.

Walsh

First of all there’s Donnie Walsh’s extension or, more accurately, the speculation that the man who patiently restructured and rebuilt the team roster with characteristic professionalism and competence, may no longer be wanted come the end of the season.

The Knicks have until April 30 to exercise a team option on the final year of Walsh’s contract. So far, nothing has happened to secure his services. After the job Walsh has done restoring the Knicks’ credibility on and off the court, he should be getting offered an extension. Scratch that, he should be told the job is his for as long as he’s physically able to do it.

Instead, with the silent shadow of Dolan cast over the future of the franchise’s off-court cornerstone, Walsh finds his position under threat as stories abound that his future is squarely dependent on his ability to bring Carmelo Anthony to Madison Square Garden before the trade deadline on February 24.

No matter that that blowing up the roster to get Melo now would destroy the structure of the team. No matter that you could sign Melo as a free agent in the summer and give up nothing. No matter that, arguably, a top class center and a strong back-up point guard would serve the Knicks better than a scorer who plays no defence and whose need for the ball doesn’t fit with Mike D’Antoni’s offence.

For the record, it’s clear the Knicks should sign Melo if they can. The point is that Walsh should not be fearing for his job if he doesn’t sign the Nuggets’ superstar in the next 10 days. Under any other owner, Walsh’s work to date would have earned him more than enough trust, not to mention a contract extension.

When you are so dense that David Stern feels he needs to step in to tell you to extend Donnie Walsh, it’s probably a good idea to do it.

Isiah

Of course, one of the reasons Donnie Walsh’s job security isn’t what it should be is Dolan’s inconceivable belief that, along with Red Auerbach and James Naismith, Isiah Thomas remains one of the greatest minds in the history of basketball.

Forget the desperate, team-crippling trades he made. Forget the endless wars with high-profile players. Forget the sexual harassment case and the years of embarrassment on and off the court. According to a report by Yahoo’s Mark Miller, the man who made the Knicks a laughing stock is still on Dolan’s radar to make a return to the team he all but destroyed.

While this particular story has been refuted in other circles, its existence once again shows how the rumours that surround Dolan’s decision-making only ever seem to bring disorder to the team.

Speaking of which, given the very obvious effect the Carmelo Anthony trade rumours had on the players of the New Jersey Nets, why did Dolan choose to muddy the Melo waters even further by inserting himself into the situation and putting his players in the eye of the media storm.

By-passing his front office personnel, Dolan chose to enter the Melo negotiations directly. According to Knicks writer Frank Isola, Dolan attempted to conduct his own negotiations for Anthony with Stan Kroenke who, because of his ownership of the St Louis Rams in the NFL, isn’t even the owenr of the Nuggets any more.

While it would be foolish to assume Kroenke has no influence over what the Nuggets do – he turned over control to his son, after all – what did Dolan possibly think he would achieve by getting involved? The only effect of his chat with Kroenke has been to leave his players fearing for their jobs.

Since the hapless Nets dropped out of the Melo sweepstakes, they’ve won seven of 13 games. The Knicks have gone 4-8 in the same period. Both Walsh and D’Antoni felt the need to address the “We want Melo” chants that chorused through MSG as the Knicks fell to the Clippers.

Worse, the proof that the trade speculation had provided some players with an excuse to lose was borne out when point guard Felton admitted the Melo rumours has affected some of the players.

Midas in reverse

At a time when the team is really struggling and the prospect of a first winning season since 2001 now seriously hangs in the balance, why would a team owner, a man who, like King Midas in reverse, turns everything he touches into shit, pick this critical moment to involve himself in proceedings?

The answer might be that, every so often, James Dolan feels the need to demonstrate his authority and doesn’t comprehend the ramifications of his actions. The answer could be he can’t bear to see credit for the Knicks revival going to men whose salaries he pays. The answer could be he is simply a clueless, deluded filthy rich businessman whose decisions repeatedly go unchallenged.

Whichever answer is true, one thing is certain. Nothing good happens when James Dolan gets involved in Knicks’ front office and on-court business.

The man is dangerous and the sooner he steps back into the shadows, the happier this Knicks fan will be.

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