Carmelo Anthony, very much looking forward to July. (Getty Images)
On Saturday, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers rightfully bashed a report from ESPN’s Chris Broussard that detailed supposed internal conversations that both teams were having, irrespective of each other, about dealing Clipper forward Blake Griffin for New York’s Carmelo Anthony. Rivers called the report “stupid,” and chalked it up to ESPN attempting to create what he called a “non-story” in order to have fodder to fill up the TV and radio airwaves over the next few days, a practice they’ve been accused of before.
Carmelo Anthony never said he didn’t want to play with Chris Paul. But he called the recent report that the Knicks and Clippers might consider an Anthony for Blake Griffin trade “silly and stupid.”
It is. Just one more batch of fabricated junk that Knicks coach Mike Woodson has to deal with, earning him both the praise of his colleagues, even if he still is being criticized for the ham-fisted way he dealt with yet another recent Knick late game meltdown while explaining things to the press afterward.
Anthony can opt out of his contract this summer in order to become a free agent, something he’s embraced even though most (as we talked about last week) expect him to re-sign with the Knicks to a five-year, $129 million dollar deal. Not only is it dubious that other teams would be willing to spend the maximum amount on Anthony this summer, when he’s 30 years of age, but it’s far more unlikely that Anthony would give up on an extra year of security and over $30 million in long term pay by declining what is sure to be New York’s maximum offer.
That’s presuming the Knicks make the offer. Which they will, because they’re the Knicks.
Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck clearly isn’t as cynical as me, and he wonders if New York would be best served making a series of sound basketball moves in anticipation of February’s trade deadline. The Knicks’ front office would never dare do such a thing, but Howard is correct in pointing out that the best move for the capped-out, 11-22 Knicks would be to deal Anthony and others now, and begin a rebuilding process around younger, cheaper assets. From his piece:
Right now, the Knicks are focused on 2015, when they could have $49 million in cap room. If they re-sign Anthony, that figure would drop to $25 million, with perhaps 10 roster spots to fill.
The Knicks are counting on Anthony serving as a magnet for other stars, but that assumes other stars want to play with a ball-dominating scorer who’s entering his 30s. The Knicks’ aspirations of landing Rajon Rondo seem far-fetched. (As another rival executive said, “I don’t think there’s a bunch of guys lining up to take a discount to play with Melo.”)
Assuming a successful reload, the Knicks would have a window of maybe two to three years before Anthony goes into decline.
If Anthony were a more complete player, perhaps the $129 million investment would be justified. But he is not. Eleven years into his NBA career, Anthony remains the same one-dimensional player he’s always been: a phenomenal scorer who doesn’t defend and never elevates his teammates.
Now, that’s an opinion. But it’s also 2013-14, Anthony’s 11th year in the league, and outside of some declining factions of New York Knick fandom – or fair weather NBA fans from other cities that would perk up at the idea of a big name like Carmelo joining a team they rarely pay attention to – this is an opinion that is shared by most that cover or work in the NBA.
It’s a team’s fault, and not a player’s burden, when championship or playoff expectations aren’t met; but it’s also true that we’ve had 11 years to break down Anthony’s game and potential, and his inability to drive teams over the hump has 11 years’ worth of fact to back it up, not opinion.
Anthony shouldn’t completely be dismissed. A team featuring Carmelo Anthony as a go-to leading scorer can win a championship; the problem is that he’ll need quite a bit of help to get there from positions that need to be filled with players making a whole lot of money. Anthony isn’t in Kevin Durant and especially LeBron James’ company in terms of efficiency or all-around play – but even those players still struggle to get to the top. Durant has yet to win a ring despite a very good supporting cast. James won one only after two Finals failures, and nearly lost out on his second ring as his comparatively loaded Heat team needed two seven-game series’ to defend their title in 2013. Neither should be badly blamed for falling short, because this is one hell of a tough league when you get to the top.
Anthony isn’t in their stratum, though, and general managers are getting smarter. As Beck points out, the best possible trading partner for the New York Knicks would actually be the New York Knicks – so desperate to acquire a star that they’d be willing to give up an asset for what at worst could be half a season of Carmelo Anthony, or at much worse would be five more years of Carmelo Anthony in his 30s at an average of nearly $25 million a year. There just aren’t that many dumb teams left out there, and even the dumber teams that would drool at the prospect of taking Anthony on likely don’t have the capital with ownership to justify paying that sort of money for Carmelo.
This is part of the reason why Carmelo Anthony won’t be traded between now and the trade deadline, because unless the New York Knicks (from Anthony-adoring owner James Dolan down to general manager Steve Mills, who was hired solely to keep Carmelo happy) have a complete and utter change of heart and actually start thinking basketball-first, they wouldn’t dare deal him. Hell, even the nonsense trade chatter concerning Blake Griffin had Chris Broussard’s New York sources concluding that dealing Anthony for a 24-year old All-Star who is signed until 2018 wouldn’t be worth it. Blake Griffin! That’s how deluded this team is.
The main reason Carmelo Anthony won’t be traded? Most teams don’t want him, at this point. Not for half a year, not for a good asset, and certainly not to lock into paying him one of the NBA’s largest salaries as he works his way toward his mid-30s. Unless something significant happens in the Knick front office, the team and Carmelo Anthony are stuck with each other.
Even if someone offers them a silly trade. Or even a stupid one.
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