*The following was contributed by the homie Milton
When I think of the New York Knicks, the word that first comes to mind is trying. There’s been a lot of trying going on in New York for years but very little to show for it.
Sure, they’ve got two of the biggest names in the NBA under contract and fans are willing to pay admission to see them put up gaudy offensive stats and brutalize opposing defenders from 16 feet and closer, but where has this all really gotten them? In order to go forward with this team, we need to review how they got here.
When the Knicks landed Amare Stoudemire as a consolation prize in free agency 2010, the NBA was abuzz with the upcoming Stoudemire/Mike D’Antoni reunion. Amare did his part early in the 2010 season by putting up MVP numbers – 30 points in nine consecutive games is impressive. What matters more perhaps is that eight of those nine games were Knick wins and in the 9th (a home loss to Boston) Amare’s just-a-split-second-too-late-3 from the top of the key would have been the game winner. Stoudemire has never been known for his rebounding, but he was doing plenty of that early last year reaching double-digit boards in 16 of 32 games and 8+ in six more.
The cast around Amare was playing well too. Danilo Gallinari emerged as a guy that can’t be left open. Notorious fat kid and crybaby Raymond Felton was enjoying a career year. Lightly-sought-after rookie Landry Fields (Isaiah’s apologetic olive branch to NYK?) looked like a legit ROY candidate and Wilson Chandler did what he does – play good basketball and keep his mouth shut. It all seemed too good to be true. And it was.
One thing was clear from the beginning with this team: They weren’t supposed to be good yet. James Dolan’s vision of the Knicks’ return to Eastern Conference supremacy needed two things: more time and more money spent.
Carmelo Anthony made it very clear he wanted a trade to the Knicks and would only sign an extension with them. Denver, not wanting to get left with nothing in return, found itself in a bad spot. No team would give them meaningful pieces to rent Melo for the remainder of the season but Denver wasn’t going to just give him away either. For weeks the back and forth went on, the speculation in the media clearly bothered Denver and George Karl. When the deal was finally done on Feb 22nd, the Knicks gave up three key pieces (Felton, Chandler and Timofey Mozgov) for Melo, Chauncey Billups’s ball and chain of a contract, and a few other players. The Minnesota T-Wolves were involved in the deal as well, but giving David Kahn any space in this post would be wasteful, so we’ll just move on.
The results for the Knicks were nothing spectacular. The pre trade 5-man starting unit of Felton-Fields-Chandler-Gallinari-Stoudemire won 62.8% of its games while the 5-man unit of Billups-Fields-Anthony-Stoudemire-Turiaf won 50% of its games. In fact, no 5-man unit post Melo trade won more 55% of its games and each unit had a positive net turnover percentage (giving up more TOs than taking from the opposition). The Knicks made the playoffs and were promptly swept by an aging Celtics team that showed little fight in a 2nd round smothering at the hands of Lebron and D Wade. That’s all fine with Dolan and D’Antoni. 2011 was never supposed to be the Knicks’ year. This was just another season of trying because incremental improvement can be sold to fans.
As for the 2011-12 season, there’s really not too much to say about this group. They drafted Iman Shumpert from Georgia Tech – a player who rocketed up the draft board the way freak athletes do following absurd NFL combine performances but doesn’t have a true position. They’re still largely the same team that Boston swept in Round 1: Chauncey Billups is a year older. Landry Fields should be better and in my opinion is the most interesting player on this team. Melo and Amar’e will get buckets and thrill the crowd, but won’t guard anyone. And it won’t matter because Mike D’Antoni doesn’t care if they guard people. He’s been trying to win with an ill-suited system for several years. 7 Seconds or Less sounds like fun to play in but, in my view, it won’t win any rings. As constructed, I don’t think this is even a playoff team and I’ve got them penciled in for #3 in the Atlantic behind Boston and Philly.
The Knicks want Chris Paul. CP3 wants the Knicks too, in the worst of ways. If you spend any time online, you’re aware of this. If you follow the NBA, you know the Knicks don’t have the hustle to get it done. Stoudemire ($16.4 mil), Melo ($17.1 mil) and Billups ($13.1 mil) make up the vast majority of the payroll – there’s just one other player under contract set to make more than $4 million and that’s Ronny Turiaf. Zeke mortgaged their future to get guys like Eddy Curry and Jerome James so they have no picks to throw in. The only way CP ends up in a Knick uniform this year is if a third team is willing to get involved. If that’s to happen you can bet a lot of real shitty contracts will be on the move … Or CP3 can wait until next year and sign with them for dirt cheap. Not likely.
If Dolan can find a way to keep building without giving up too much of the future, the only chance they have to compete for titles is to find a coach that values both ends of the floor and all aspects of the game including developing a bench (D’Antoni is known for playing his starters heavy minutes – even in blowouts). Maybe the Knicks’ endgame is luring a highly successful, recently-retired coach back to the franchise he helped to win titles with as a player…
The Future is only a Phone Call Away