The New York Knicks have not had a winning season since the 2000-2001 NBA campaign. In fact, only twice during that span did they even come remotely close to winning 40 games. Finally, after nearly a decade spent embarking on a series of disastrous signings of players, coaches and front office personnel, Knicks fans finally appeared to have something to cheer about during the 2010-2011 season. However, except for one inspiring stretch of basketball during the middle of the season, the Knicks have been far from impressive. While it appears as if Amar’e Stoudemire has made the Knicks relevant again, all they have accomplished this year might quickly evaporate if the organization doesn’t make a serious move to get Carmelo Anthony. What is worse then spending year after year wasting away in obscurity in the greatest sports market in the world? Doing so with a $100 million dollar superstar on the team.
I am not suggesting that a Knicks team with Amar’e will be bad in the same fashion that other recent Knicks teams have been, but with the way they have been playing recently, their 4.5 game lead over Charlotte for 9th place in the conference is beginning to look increasingly tenuous. The East boasts the Bulls, Heat, Magic and Celtics, all of which have several past, present or future All Stars on the roster. Thus, the Knicks will never be a contender until they acquire at least one more superstar. When considering that all of those teams, with the exception of the Celtics, are led primarily by young superstars, it is hard to imagine the Knicks challenging them any time soon without acquiring Melo.
At this point, no player on the Knicks with the exception of Amar’e should be untouchable (The jury is still out on Ray Felton). Gallinari, Fields, Chandler and company are all adequate role players, but none of them should be the piece that stops the Knicks from completing a deal with Denver for Carmelo. Many people are concerned that the Knicks will gut their team in order to get the Nuggets star, which will derail any possibility of competing for a championship. Still, if this Knicks team was ten games over .500 and playing consistently solid basketball all season, I could accept this rationale. I understand that it might be difficult for some of these players to play while knowing that they could soon be traded somewhere else, but so is the nature of professional sports. Plenty of teams go through similar situations and play perfectly well, so this should not be the Knicks’ excuse for playing poorly. Breaking up a .500 team by giving away a few solid role players and mid-round draft picks in order to acquire a young superstar in his prime should not be much of an issue. This is increasingly important to note considering the recent consolidation of talent in the NBA recently.
The biggest mistake the Knicks can make would be to plan to wait until the off-season to try to sign Melo. With the NBA’s immediate future still hanging in the balance, I personally have doubts that Carmelo will refuse a $65 million extension with the Nuggets if no trade can be accomplished. Other teams such as the Mavericks and Lakers have been discussed in trade scenarios where they would look to obtain Melo’s services for the remainder of the season as they make their playoff runs. While I think these scenarios are unlikely, it is better not to take the risk that Carmelo will play for one of these teams, loves his new city and decides to remain there. Even if Carmelo makes it to the free agent market, there is no guarantee that he signs with the Knicks. Rumor has it that Lebron was not at all enamored with the Knicks presentation during last off-season. If that was the case, I hope the Knicks would be better prepared for when Carmelo makes his official trip to NYC.
Putting Carmelo on the Knicks would not make them a legitimate threat to immediately win a championship, especially if they have to give up several of their key players to do so. Adding his offensive prowess to Mike D’Antoni’s high scoring offensive system, however, would create an incredibly potent offense. While they would still be a few pieces away from winning a championship, it shouldn’t be particularly difficult to convince a third impact player to join those two superstars in Madison Square Garden. The Knicks are obviously not the only player in all of this Melo drama and thus do not have complete control over the scenario. But, with the NBA trade deadline just days away and the All-Star break nearing, the Knicks need to be doing everything they can to avoid missing out on this opportunity. It is not very often that a player of Carmelo’s caliber becomes available, especially when that player has explicitly stated that he would prefer to join your organization. If things do happen to go wrong with the Carmelo situation just please, please don’t bring Isiah back.