Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Golden State Warriors served as the latest shot in the ongoing battle to form the NBA’s strongest superteam. An arms race that hit new highs after LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat in 2010 has turned into an annual issue. General managers do their best to construct their own strong squads, stars usually only seriously consider teams that already have several high-level players, and unlucky owners rail against the rules that make such moves possible.
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At the same time, it’s fairly apparent that not all high-profile moves result in the construction of a superteam. Not every team can be the Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, or San Antonio Spurs. And that can make it somewhat embarrassing when someone acts as if he’s part of a potential juggernaut when pretty much no one thinks that’s the case.
Q: Knicks fans always have high expectations, sometimes maybe not even grounded in reality over the years. Before last season, Melo came out on media day and talked about managing expectations with such a young team. But with this roster now and all these veterans, what should the expectations be for the Knicks?
ROSE: They’re high. I mean, with these teams right now, they’re saying us and Golden State are the super teams, and they’re trying not to build that many super teams, and Adam Silver came out with the statement and this and that. And the expectations I think of us, we just want to win. Talking to Melo and all the guys who’ve been around. You’ve got Brandon [Jennings] who just signed for one year, he’s got to show why he’s there. I’ve got to show why I’m there. Joakim [Noah] has to show why he’s there. Everybody’s trying to prove themselves. When you’ve got a group like that, it’s like, alright, I know everybody wants to do that, but we’re going to break this down as simple as possible, and try to win every game. I think winning takes care of every category, as far as being an athlete. You look at endorsements, being on the floor, almost everything — I think winning takes care of all that. And if you’re in the league, winning takes care of all the mistakes, or if you have any problems on teams.
Let’s be clear — Rose might be the first person to speak of the Knicks and Warriors as peers. The Warriors have constructed an honest-to-god juggernaut with four current All-NBA selections, one of the league’s best reserves and perimeter defenders, and enough ring-seeking role players to fill out a solid postseason rotation. The Knicks possibly would have been a superteam in 2011, a joke so many of us have made in the last few weeks that it’s not especially funny anymore. But injuries to Rose, newly signed center Joakim Noah, and oft-criticized star Carmelo Anthony have made this roster look more like a casual fan’s idea of a superteam than one that anyone takes especially seriously.
It’s instructive that Melo was much less willing to set a ceiling for the Knicks when asked about their potential earlier this week. From Al Iannazzone for Newsday:
“We have a very special team on paper right now,” Anthony said after the U.S. men’s Olympic team held its first practice Monday. “I think we have a good opportunity to do some things this year. It’s all about what we do. It’s all about us now. It’s all about how we come together, how we jell together. For the most part, the pieces are there, so it’s up to us.”
Anthony used the expression “on paper” three different times when talking about the Knicks. Chemistry and how some of the players whom team president Phil Jackson brought in hold up healthwise and under the scrutiny in New York will determine where the Knicks end up.
Anthony also said “the time is now” in reference to this roster’s potential, but that’s an unavoidable thought when so many key players look past their primes. The key takeaway here is that he understands just how much will have to go right for the Knicks to become a contender.
It’s understandable why Rose is confident. Years of injuries and disappointments mean that he has the chance to rekindle his career away from Chicago, where his 2011 MVP and status as a homegrown star solidified unrealistic expectations for his comebacks. For that matter, athletes usually have to aim for greatness as a precondition of achieving it.
It’d be fine if Rose just said he sees the Knicks as a superteam. Where he gets himself in trouble is in claiming that others think the same. Perhaps Rose will eventually prove correct, but he has a lot of work to do to show us we’re wrong.
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