Posted by: mdegeorge | February 22, 2011

Time to Melo out the euphoria Knicks fans

It’s no secret. For some time, the NBA and I have danced around each other, courting one another in a back-and-forth more apropos for nesting birds in some remote desert clearing.

For years, my disillusionment with the NBA’s legal scuffles, which were far more entertaining than any on-court product in the hunt for the heir apparent to Michael Jordan, was insurmountable. A new crop of young players like Chris Paul and Dwight Howard did eventually bring me back somewhat. But the drama of LeBron and the Heat Index and The Decision has sent me packing to my distance of indifference once again.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

The Carmelo Anthony saga, the will-they-or-won’t-they drama that rivals that of a teen tragedy on the WB, has epitomized why the NBA, once again, just isn’t for me.

That’s because the Melo-drama’s stunning conclusion, a megadeal just before my newspaper’s deadline (as these things always seem to happen), has blatantly and resolutely declared the concept of team utterly antiquated and moot.

The best “team” in the NBA has become a complete misnomer. It’s no longer the strongest team from one to 12 that lifts the trophy at the end of the year. Concepts like balance and depth are now secondary quantities. All that matters anymore is how good are your superstars compared to my superstars.

That’s all Monday’s trade was. It was the Knicks trading away their foundation, the building blocks of a good team, maybe a championship team, for a second superstar and a bunch of aging spares with expiring contracts whose salary cap space will be converted into…you guessed it, another superstar in two years time when Deron Williams and/or Paul hit the free agent market. It was impatience in a developing, youthful core of players that had the chance to grow together and instead were split apart for a first-round exit for two years of first-round exits, and then what?

It’s all enough to make you feel like the Black players at the beginning of “The Longest Yard”. I can’t wait to play the role at the end of the first round and taunt those crashed out Knicks like Granville with chants of, “Hey Superstar”.

Everyone is pretty much unanimous when it comes to how great a deal this is for the Knicks. Superstars don’t grow on trees you know, and the Knicks now boast a starting lineup with two of the NBA All-Star game’s 10 starters.

But look at what they gave up. The Knicks surrendered Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, and Timofey Mozgov. Those four players this year were averaging 53.4 points per game. Gallinari (15.9) and Felton (17.1) are probably at their ceilings in terms of upside. But Chandler could be an emerging star, and Mozgov’s is 4.0 ppg average is hardly indicative of his value and potential. They also lose Anthony Randolph, who also has some potential, in the deal to Minnesota. And they shovel over at least one first- and one second-round pick. Perhaps most importantly, all five of the players the bid farewell to have an average age of around 23. Yeah, even Felton is only 26.

And what do they bring in? There’s Melo. Renaldo Balkman is a spare who lacks the potential of either Chandler or Randolph, but shares the distinction of having already been cast off by New York in a salary dump like those other two names. Ditto Shelden Williams. Anthony Carter is a 36-year-old expiring contract in size 10 shoes. Chauncey Billups at 34 is past his prime and may only be worth the $14.2 million team option next year to keep the position warm for Paul or Williams in 2012.

Together the incoming players average 50.9 ppg. But which ones are going to step up the production for the Knicks? Can anyone honestly see Amare Stoudemire’s point production going up from the 26.1 per it’s at now? How much more than 25.9 per game is Anthony going to average? Neither will put up over 30 a game, so long as the other one has to touch the ball each night as well.

So let’s review. That leaves the Knicks with a starting lineup for the rest of 2011 of Billups and Landry Fields in the backcourt, Anthony, Stoudemire, and Rony Turiaf upfront. The bench? You don’t want to know (though I do like the Corey Brewer pickup from Minnesota).

Yes, Anthony and Amare will all but guarantee you 50-70 points a night, every night. But last I checked, there aren’t too many games won at those scores, and the supporting cast is sparse to say the least. They’re already second in the league in scoring, which certainly won’t take a hit here, but are 29th in points allowed. The loss of Chandler, Felton and guys who are willing to do the dirty work will further hamper those efforts.

ESPN tonight had the utter temerity to ask one of its experts, either J.A. Adande or Chris Broussard, I can’t recall, if this move makes the Knicks one of the best teams in the NBA in two year’s time.

The question had me floored. The expert answered without missing a beat (more than I can say for a dry Jeff Van Gundy, who apparently the Bristol produces awoke from a deep, Eric Snow like-slumber for his two cents). But who asinine a question could there be. Two years from now? You make these big splashes and mortgage the future to win now not to win in said future!

Perhaps they should focus on the fact that it still makes them the fifth best team in the East. That’s right, if you disillusioned Knicks fans have continued reading this far, get even angrier. I’ll take the Celtics, Heat, Bulls (when healthy), and Magic ahead of the Knicks in my playoff pool, and I wouldn’t say that this new Knicks team is prohibitively better than either the Hawks or the Sixers over seven games.

But the most disheartening thing about the perception of this move is what it does to the concept of a team. It discards it in favor of glitz and star power.

Let’s be clear: This is not a championship team. No matter how many oozing soliloquies on how this is an all-time great move by ESPN New York’s Ian O’Connor or that New York is back in the eyes of the always level-headed Stephen A. Smith, the Knicks are only marginally better on the floor because of Anthony, only slightly better equipped for the playoffs this season, and only better in the box office and television ratings department. (I’ve never been more grateful to Mike Lupica than I am for this sensible critique of the deal before it was finalized.)

The paradigm that has been behind the last few teams to win the championship has been ignored by the James Dolan power trip in New York. The Spurs have always been built around three stars with an ample supporting cast around it that has carried its own weight at times. The Pistons leading triumvirate had plenty of aid in their drives to the Finals. And the Celtics are hardly one person; they now boast a balanced lineup that rotates in eight players without missing a beat. Even the Heat’s skeleton cast beyond the three amigos isn’t of championship caliber yet in my mind. Ask Lebron’s Cavaliers, because they sure as hell never found it.

The best justice I could see in this deal: a first-round exit by the top-heavy Knicks at the hands of the feisty, superstar-devoid, ultra-balanced Sixers. Perhaps that would be a first step in the reconciliation between the game and me.

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Responses

  1. luv it!

    THE CARMELO ANTHONY TO THE NEW YORK KNICKS SONG http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9S2sLe8VuMo ‘Hello Mello’

  2. Great blog you got here and love the post. Anyways, I’m just so happy the Melo stuff is finally over with and we can get on with our lives for heaven’s sakes. Carmelo really did a poor job of handling this whole situation but the one thing is that he did allow his team to receive some assets in return, even if the motives were selfish. You can’t say that for Chris Bosh or Lebron James. The Nuggets now have some real pieces to work with while the Knicks pretty much having nothing to work with. We’ll see how the Knicks cope with their lack of players but I guess it’s comparable to the Heat in a way. Basketball just keeps getting more interesting, despite the increasing amount of stacked teams. Can’t wait for the playoffs! Also, you think you could check out my blog cuz I’d love to hear what you have to say. http://chrisross91.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/carmelo-anthony-finally-dealt-are-the-knicks-ready-to-contend/

  3. […] Time to Melo out the euphoria Knicks fans « The Sports Doctor – The Sports Doctor […]


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