February 22, 2011
Had the New York Knicks continued apace, the upcoming offseason would have seen the team with only around $40 million in payroll commitments for the 2011-12 season. This would have included promising center Timofey Mozgov(notes), wingman Danilo Gallinari(notes) and solid point guard Raymond Felton(notes). It would have been complicated, but the team could have signed Carmelo Anthony(notes). And, depending on the rules of the new collective-bargaining agreement, it could have done it for a little more than half of what he's now set to earn next season.
As it stands now, the team will be on the hook for nearly $20 million more than the figure listed above. It will have Chauncey Billups(notes) and Carmelo Anthony on the roster, which is nice, but the team will also be stuck paying Anthony a contract extension typical of the collective-bargaining agreements that were worked out between 1999 and 2005. By this time next season, Carmelo's extension will be an anachronism. That's not another word for "millstone," but it might as well be.
Congratulations are in order for the New York Knicks. They traded for a very famous player. They've done this before; many, many times. They've put together trades and signings like this for the last 25 years, from the Gulf-and-Western days right up to the Isiah Thomas-led James Dolan era. And be mindful of the fact that the Knicks are still in the Isiah Thomas-led James Dolan era.
The Knicks have now developed a one-two punch featuring Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) and Carmelo Anthony, with Chauncey Billups running the show. This, in the absence of context, is a good thing. Billups still has game. Anthony is ultra-clutch. Stoudemire can dominate games on the offensive end. This is it, though.
Because New York has precious little options in place to improve the team. With Stoudemire, Anthony and Billups, the Knicks are now set to battle an aging (yet still championship-level) Boston squad, a growing Miami Heat team and a Bulls team that is clearly better than the sum of the Knicks' parts . Not terrible, but not on the level. Anthony and Chauncey did take a Nuggets team to the conference finals two years ago. Though Isiah obviously led the charge on this deal, this isn't an Isiah Thomas-styled franchise-killer.
But these are your Knicks, New York. And though Anthony will be an improvement over Gallinari, he won't help the team on the defensive end. He'll help the squad offensively, where the Knicks are ranked eighth overall, but that will only go so far. He won't help the team's interior defense, he won't help the squad's transition offense, and he won't help Chauncey Billups pretend that it's 2006 all over again. He will score over 20 points per game, sometimes he'll make more than half his shots, and in the 2013-14 season he will earn nearly half as much as the NBA salary cap is for that particular season. Again, it's not the trade, it's the extension.
Knicks fans -- and the New York-area columnists that double as mouthpieces for Isiah Thomas -- can prattle on all they want about how free agents will look past money from other outlets to come play for New York. Because of AAU history or the supposed love of Isiah's game, even if Isiah retired well before some upcoming free agents were even allowed to watch cable at night. What we do know now is that Anthony and Stoudemire could make about 80 percent of New York's cap-allowed payroll following this summer's lockout, and Billups won't help. Walsh put together a plan for the summer of 2012, and as it stands the Knicks will have just Stoudemire and Anthony on the books. But with those two set to make about $40 million combined on a salary cap that might only be around $48 million or so, what's the point?
This is what happens when you let star-kissers run your team. The Knicks did terrifically well to offer an uninsured deal to Amar'e Stoudemire last summer, and he's clearly turned the team around. Twenty-five and 10 guys tend do that. And Carmelo? He is a star. He was on "Conan" Monday night. People know his name.
What they don't really know is his game. The talk of Anthony as a top-five talent in this league is absolutely ridiculous. Completely without merit. And the next time you're around a cable-level columnist that calls Carmelo a top-five player, shove Sunday's All-Star roster in his face and ask him to pick only four players in the NBA he'd take to start a team before he'd choose Carmelo.
I don't like to be an obscurant. I also abhor most pop culture references, mainly because I don't know half of the people that are referenced by the kids these days. But there is this line that keeps coming back to me the more I think and then write about Carmelo Anthony going to the New York Knicks.
It's from a short film called "The H is O," which was put together by Adam McKay (a big NBA fan, by the way) 12 years ago. In it, Ben Stiller plays a lager-swilling, Maxim-reading yuppie who bragged about his ability to woo Glenn Frey, before being goaded into attempting to woo Glenn Frey. The Stiller character had no interest in Frey as a soulmate, much less lover, but the conquest was enough for him to try. Try he did, and succeed he did. And as he was surrounded by his mates the next day, as they carefully attempted to cheer him up by referencing the conquest, all Stiller's character could say in the wake of a night gone terribly wrong was "shut up."
This is where the Knicks are now. They will be better. They will be more fun to watch. Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups are better than Danilo Gallinari and Raymond Felton. This isn't a trade that pairs Stephon Marbury(notes) and Steve Francis(notes). This isn't trading the next five years away for Eddy Curry(notes). This is a good basketball deal.
It's also going to be the Knicks for a while. Because while Chris Paul might want out of New Orleans, he'll have to take a significant pay cut in order to play for New York a year and a half from now. Same goes for Dwight Howard(notes) or Deron Williams(notes). The Knicks will have cap space in 2012, but they'll also have just two players under contract that will be earning about $40 million. This is not how championship rosters are created.
But they did it, man. They hooked up with Glenn Frey. The Knicks picked up a player that really, really wanted to be a Knick, and he happens to be a great scoring talent with a knack for coming through in the clutch. Chauncey Billups is in the deal, too.
Just enjoy this moment, New York. Because this moment doesn't promise anything beyond what it's already given you.