No Surprise

Carmelo Anthony

The Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony experiment was destined to fail from day one.

Alas, the experiment is still failing.

That isn’t a knock on Carmelo Anthony or Amare Stoudemire. It’s a knock on the idiot who decided that putting those two players together with Mike D’Antoni would somehow work itself out. The New York Knicks are winning but their max contract problems haven’t gone away.

It shouldn’t be a revelation to anyone that the Knicks are winning games. They’re 20-8 on the season following their tough loss on Christmas day to the re-energized Lakers. That’s 20 wins without Amare Stoudemire and 8 losses without Amare Stoudemire.

No one has ever questioned Carmelo’s Anthony ability as a player. For much of his career, he has arguably been the best pure scorer in the association.

It was never meant to be with Mike D’Antoni trying to lead two incompatible star players. On the flip side, Mike Woodson isn’t the primary reason for the Knicks unexpected success through the first quarter of the season.

Sure, the Knicks experienced a rebirth due to the culture change provided by Woodson’s insertion as head coach near the end of last season. However, it is the injury to Amare Stoudemire that has been the jump start that the Knicks really needed. It’s not news to anyone that his absence has made the Knicks a better team.

A better team than they could ever possibly be with him on the floor.

Carmelo Anthony is no stranger to carrying teams on his back. He did it throughout his tenure in the Mile High City. By himself, ‘Melo led his teams to the playoffs in the much more competitive Western Conference.

Without Amare, why did we think it would be any different in New York?

Outside of the Miami Heat, the Eastern Conference is weaker than the 4 nerds on the Big Bang Theory. The only reason Carmelo couldn’t figure it out in New York was because he was forced to play with another star that he had no business playing with. Surrounded by a cast of players that complement rather than limit him, ‘Melo has reverted back to his ridiculously efficient scoring ways.

Going small and playing Anthony at the 4 has helped. ‘Melo’s maturation as a player and a person should be commended. It has allowed Mike Woodson to throw out these small lineups that continue to shoot the lights. However, Amare’s absence is still the biggest reason for the Knicks success through 28 games.

As a lone wolf, Carmelo Anthony was always going to succeed anywhere he played in the NBA. He may not be the leader or winner that Michael Jordan was but he can make any team a winning team all by his lonesome.

I wrote during the Knicks-Heat playoff series that Amare Stoudemire’s injury from his cartoon-like punch was possibly a blessing in disguise for the Knicks in the short-term. They were clearly better apart than together back then and it is no different now. In the long-term, the issue will remain that Amare has a max contract that is virtually untradeable.

The difference between then and now is that it is no longer a given that the two stars will have to make things work.

No one could have foreseen that the Knicks would be 20-8 but after Amare was ruled to be out for at least 6 weeks, those pre-season expectations should have been raised instead of being lessened. ‘Melo was always better without Stoudemire but everyone just assumed that Carmelo and his cast of geezers would be worse without Amare.

It turns out that isn’t the case.

The Knicks will carry on being a successful team as long as Carmelo Anthony is the lead dog. Maybe not 20-8 good or championship successful or 20-8 good, but they will be good.

That should never have been a shocker with ‘Melo running the ship.

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No Lin Situation

Editors note: Excuse my title and conclusion. I couldn’t resist.

The New York Knicks had 2 choices: One, they pay a generous amount of money to keep Jeremy Lin in the Big Apple. Two, they let Linsanity walk and every greenback dollar that his sensation would have brought to the franchise along with it.

There was no right choice for James Dolan.

Sign Lin to the 3 year, $25 million back loaded contract and you risk compromising your already delicate as a baby’s head roster. Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith have both gone public about their displeasure with the enormity of Lin’s contract. Behind the scenes locker-room balance is often overblown by the media but Linsanity could very well have produced a major rift among the Knick players.

Not to mention that bringing Lin back would in all likelihood have meant a similar and familiar fate for the New York Knicks and their fans – no championship. Because of the danger Lin’s contract posed to the Knicks financially, anything less than a championship in his 3 years would have been deemed a failure.

Considering what the Knicks have given up to create this “superstar” roster to match that of Miami and Oklahoma City, bringing Jeremy Lin back would have brought even more unrealistic expectations to a team that has shown no ability to contend.

On the other hand, let him walk and the Knicks risk losing a potential star quality NBA point guard. Lin doesn’t even have an entire season under his belt yet has shown that he can play at a level that most NBA players could never reach. The Knicks brass will never hear the end of it if Jeremy Lin finds a way to blossom in the Houston Rockets organization.

Lin will have to fall flat on his face in Houston to silence Lin’s legion of fans in New York.

3 point guards, a big luxury tax hit in 3 years and almost undoubtedly no championship? Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and no hope for a championship?

With Jeremy Lin, the Knicks were left without a good alternative.

Jeremy Lin is as unknown as the unknown gets. At this point, the mystery of Lin is tougher to solve than Jack the Ripper. No one knows who Jeremy Lin really is and who he really can be. The riddle of Lin is what has made this so doggone difficult for the Knicks.

Despite James Dolan’s apparent disgust at the Houston Rockets and Lin’s lack of loyalty, it is peculiar that, since their season ended, New York had been adamant in the fact that they would match whatever offer Jeremy Lin received. Marketing aside, Lin has immense potential that you would have thought the Knicks wanted to explore. They discovered Lin so it made sense that they wanted to see what type of player he could turn into. By handing him over to the Rockets it’s as if they discovered gold in a small untouched area yet didn’t want to fully invest in the possibility that the entire area could be flooded with gold.

While the marketability of Jeremy Lin clearly wasn’t as big a deal as it was made it out to be, the Knicks still lose out on that as well by setting Lin free.

Nevertheless, there was so much lose and awfully little win surrounding both choices in this decision-making process.

That is why it is so difficult, one way or the other, to condemn or applaud the Knicks in choosing to let Jeremy Lin sign with the Rockets.

There was just no Linning this one.

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A Blessing in Disguise?

It didn’t seem possible that things could get worse for the Knicks after their game 2 loss to the Miami Heat. Then Amare Stoudemire went all Metta World Peace on the glass casing of a fire extinguisher. STAT is reportedly “almost certain” to be out for game 3 at Madison Square Garden. Amazingly, things have gotten worse for the Knicks.

Or have they?

On paper, the Knicks missing their $100 million power forward is bad. On paper, inserting Jarred Jeffries into the starting lineup or sliding Carmelo Anthony up to play the 4 is not ideal. On paper, Amare Stoudemire’s injury would signal the end for the New York Knicks’ already slim to none odds of winning the series.

In reality though, Amare Stoudemire’s injury could be just the freak incident to jump-start the Knicks.

Amare hasn’t meshed with Carmelo since day 1 of Anthony’s overhyped arrival to his hometown. Prior to Carmelo Anthony joining the Knicks, Stoudemire was surprisingly playing up to the absurdly rich contract that the Knicks desperately signed him to in the 2010 off-season. It has become clear that Stoudemire fits as well with the current version of the Knicks as Lindsay Lohan did at this weekend’s White House Correspondence dinner. Amare was better off without Carmelo.

It could be the case that the Knicks are better off without Amare.

The Knicks don’t have the personnel to beat the Heat but with Amare Stoudemire out the team might be able to put up a better fight. The front court lineup featuring Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony doesn’t space the floor well enough for either Amare or Carmelo to go to work the way they would like to. When you add to the mix an average shooter in Landry Fields and a below average 3 point shooter throughout his career in Baron Davis, what you get is not a group built for success.

The Knicks, however, were very successful at times during the absence of Amare Stoudemire, especially so when Carmelo would do his best Lebron James impersonation and beast it at power forward. Going small should not hurt the Knicks against the Heat’s unassuming group of big men, while the constant shooting presence of a J.R. Smith or Steve Novak may help turn the series around.

Statistics do not tell all but the stats without STAT on the floor this season should ease the minds of Knicks fans looking ahead to game 3 (not too much though). Sadly, New York has been better on both sides of the ball this season without Amare. Per NBA.com, they have scored 104.6 points per 100 possessions and allowed 96.2 points per 100 possessions in his absence. This is opposed to only their 98.1 point per 100 possessions scoring clip and 100.8 points per 100 possessions allowed defensively with Amare Stoudemire on the court.

The outrageous story featuring the stupidity of Amare Stoudemire is probably a bigger deal than his actual injury. After 2 games it appeared unlikely that the Knicks were going to end their pathetic 12 game playoff losing streak even with Stoudemire in the lineup. They played better in game 2 but it wasn’t close to enough. With Carmelo, Amare is a difference maker, but not the difference maker that he is paid to be.

For the New York Knickerbockers to truly contend for a title one day, Amare Stoudemire has to have a starring role. He can’t be what Chris Bosh is far too often for the Miami Heat. Whoever the future coach in New York is will have to find a way to make the situation work.

But maybe, just maybe, the Knicks are better off in the short-term without Amare Stoudemire.

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Carmelo Anthony Finally Dealt. Are the Knicks Ready to Contend?

Carmelo Anthony will now be teaming up with Amare Stoudemire in the Big Apple

So the Melo-drama is over. The inevitable happened. I wonder how Mikhail Prokhorov is feeling right about now.

In case you don’t have twitter here’s how the deal went down. The Knicks gave up Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, and their 2014 1st round pick. The Nuggets will also receive 2nd round picks in 2012 and 2013 that originally belonged to the Warriors. The Timberwolves get Eddy Curry’s expiring contract, Anthony Randolph and $3 million cash. Most importantly, the Knicks will acquire Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter, Renaldo Balkman, Corey Brewer and a 2nd round pick.

Throughout this whole ordeal Donnie Walsh had been adamant in his refusal to include both Gallinari and Chandler. Whether or not it was pressure from above to incorporate both players, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that the Knicks have once again screwed themselves over for the future.

I’m also not alone in loving the idea of a ball-dominant wing player combined with a very good big man. Kobe-Shaq, Kobe-Gasol, Wade-Shaq, yeah, you get the picture. The problem with the Knicks picture is that selling the farm makes the combination significantly less lethal. Landry Fields, Toney Douglas and Ronny Turiaf ain’t going to get the job done by themselves.

The Knicks aren’t ready to contend. Anthony is a very good player but he doesn’t make those around him much better. Essentially a .500 team without Carmelo, it will become apparent that the Knicks will roll through the abundance of weak teams in the East but simply roll over when they face real competition.

Amare Stoudemire is not going to benefit from less touches and a ball-dominating non-creator.

Chris Paul or Deron Williams in 2012? Possibly, but like the Heat, the issue of adequate role players leaves them in quite the predicament. The combination of a superior point, wing and big player is as ideal as it gets from a star recipe stand point, but the headline ingredients cannot complete the meal without their lesser parts.

No draft picks and the potential for a hard cap in the future make the assembling of a quality supporting cast that much more difficult. Not to mention that putting all the eggs in the PG basket might not work out exactly as planned. Sorry to burst your Knick bubble if you hadn’t figured that one out. It sounds like the fool-proof Lebron plan all over again.

So what now? Do the Knicks just settle for a 4-6 seed in the Eastern Conference for the next couple seasons?

Donnie Walsh must know that his team can’t compete with the likes of Boston or Miami yet.

The much hyped Carmelo Anthony trade changes the complexion of things in the East but not drastically. The Knicks will be better but not as much as they should be given how much they traded away.

The Denver Nuggets suckered the Knicks into a bidding war with the Knicks paying not only in players but in their future as well.

Related Article: Whatever Happened to Good Ol’ Rebuilding?

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Whatever Happened to Good Ol’ Rebuilding?

Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony may be on their way out of Denver

In this modern age of internet, smart phones and high definition TV the idea of immediate gratification is one that can be achieved on so many different levels. Up to the minute stats, highlights and scores all in the palm of our hand seem to be leaving people with shorter attention spans and a want for that instant satisfaction.

What we are seeing in professional sports is the thought of building your team through scouting, drafting, developing and shrewd moves now turning into thing of the past.

Of course in all sports, the New York Yankees over the past 30 years have been the leading proponent in this regard, but in light of the Carmelo Anthony trade rumours once again surfacing, we can see that the NBA may be the league that has made the greatest transition to the hope of instant success.

With the best teams around the league sporting star-studded roster through big free agent signings and blockbuster trades the proof is in the pudding that rebuilding is not the road to take if you want to compete in today’s NBA.

However, for team’s putting all their eggs in one superstar’s basket, there is no doubt in my mind that creating the recipe for success from scratch would also allow them to compete with the NBA’s best.

These days franchise front offices are not willing to be patient enough to execute a solid 5-7 year rebuilding process.

Too often we see team’s overpaying for talent that could be found through other means. Very rarely do we see trades occurring without the transfer of expensive expiring contracts that at one point were given prematurely to these players.

After failing to acquire Lebron James this off-season, the New Jersey Nets, with their new billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, are not willing to wait any extended period of time for their players to develop.

Currently, they are close to executing one of the biggest trades in NBA history where they would give up some of their best young talent in exchange for a fringe franchise player in Carmelo Anthony and a couple of aging, albeit, proven veterans in Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups.

If this trade does indeed go through, the Nets would sport a pretty decent roster, but it won’t be at quite the level that it needs to be in order to win, much less, contend for a championship. Although Brook Lopez is a very solid NBA center, for whatever reason his numbers have somewhat declined from last season, and by giving up Derrick Favors and Anthony Morrow they would be losing two potentially important role players down the road.

Prior to the season Chris Paul had expressed his desire to leave New Orleans

Even if the idea behind the deal is to a certain extent future focused, with the theory that getting Carmelo to sign an extension could possibly lead to acquiring one of Chris Paul or Dwight Howard in a couple of years, this school of thought is very wishful thinking and in my eyes is not the best method to go about in building a contending franchise.

The New York Knicks wasted/spent 2 full seasons clearing up cap space just at a chance to obtain the great Lebron James.

They had to settle for Amare Stoudemire. Granted, Amare has been a better acquisition that most people, including myself, had thought he would be. However, the Knicks do not have a roster that is going to contend for an NBA championship anytime soon. What’s even worse is that they do not have a first round pick until the year 2014.

If you don’t lay down a solid foundation then there is no way that you can build a great house.

It really is as straightforward as spending more energy on scouting, drafting and developing.

Just ask the Seattle Sonics/Oklahoma City Thunder who have built contending team primarily out of guys from within their system who they committed to developing. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, James Harden and Serge Ibaka are all players that have been with the franchise since day one.

Despite these prime examples, GM’s continually focus on spending ill-advised big bucks on certain players when it is clear that their team is not ready to compete.

With his failed Allen Iverson experiment, Joe Dumars decided that paying a lot of money for Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva was going to take his team’s aging roster, with the exception of Rodney Stuckey, to the next level. Good move Joe, good move.

The patience of the Chicago Bulls has paid off as they have built around emerging superstar Derrick Rose. They did sign a marquee free agent this past season in Carlos Boozer, but the signing was warranted because they had the necessary pieces in place. Boozer has only played a bit over half of the season for the Bulls because of injury. Nevertheless they still sit at 25-12, no doubt due to the play of Rose but also his fellow Chicago Bull developed teammates Joakim Noah and Luol Deng.

There is no need for every team to feel like they have to follow in the footsteps of the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat.

Obviously, there is no guarantee that patience, commitment and dedication will be rewarded in a rebuilding process, but then again when are there ever any guarantees in sports?

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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