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David Lee moved to Golden State, about the favourite jersey you’ll never be able to wear again without looking like an out-of-date, fair-weather supporter.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.