The story that has made the LeBron James “Decision” seem like a short walk in the park, “Melodrama,” has dragged on since training camp. With countless peaks and valleys, it’s no wonder why basketball fans have grown increasingly frustrated and tired of the way the situation has unfolded thus far. However, for New York Knicks fans, it’s time to start getting excited.
By this time next month, Carmelo Anthony will most likely be wearing a Knicks uniform. He’s said all along that playing in New York would be his “ultimate dream” and is the only place he would sign a contract extension, even if it means leaving millions of dollars on the table. The longer this drags on, the more likely Anthony gets what he wants.
For the time being, however, the ball is still in Denver’s court. The Nuggets are faced with a difficult decision as the Feb. 24 trade deadline looms in the distance. They can either try and trade Anthony before that time and get the most out of him that they possibly can, or they can hold on to Anthony for the rest of the season and risk losing him for nothing in free agency. With the recent deterioration of a three-way, 15-player blockbuster between Denver, New Jersey and Detroit that would have landed Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton in New Jersey, it would appear that the Nets, the former front-runners to land Anthony, are now way behind in the sweepstakes. Denver has been reluctant to deal with New York but, at this point, its smartest move may be giving Anthony what he wants.
The Nuggets also have the option of trading Anthony as a rental. Houston, for example, is a team that is only five games out of the playoff picture and could use Anthony’s superstardom to help propel them into the postseason. Anthony would not sign an extension with Houston, however, so they’d only have him for the remainder of the season. Dealing Anthony in this fashion may not be ideal for Denver because they won’t be getting anywhere near full value for him in return. It’s up to Knicks President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh to make a fair enough offer in order to draw Anthony to New York.
Denver can also decide to roll the dice and see if they can get Anthony to sign an extension with them at the end of the season. The Nuggets play Indiana at home and then head on a five-game road trip to Washington, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia and New Jersey. They’re already the seventh seed in the Western Conference and could go 6-0 over that stretch to help solidify their playoff chances. If they make it far into the playoffs by holding on to Anthony, they may be able to lure him back by encouraging him about the team’s potential. If the Nuggets continue to hardball potential suitors for Anthony and remain consistent with their reluctance to deal him to New York, keeping him in the hopes that he’ll sign their extension might be their best bet.
Having said all that, there’s only one way this saga should end if you’re a Knicks fan: Anthony wearing the orange and blue. After the utter disappointment and heartache New York suffered through after being promised a 2010 free agency to remember, Walsh needs to find a way to get this deal done. To be fair, he’s already done an unbelievable job of taking a team in the darkest period of its existence and transforming it into a playoff contender over the course of only three years. The combo of Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton has proven to be one of the most lethal in the Eastern Conference. But the Knicks are still far from being great. Great teams don’t lose back-to-back home games to Sacramento and Phoenix. Great teams don’t go on six-game losing streaks, like the one the Knicks are battling through right now. Great teams find ways to win the close games night-in and night-out. Are they a playoff team? Yes. In the short time this group has had together, they’ve proven they can compete with the elite teams in the NBA on any given night. But are they capable of beating Boston, Orlando, Miami, Chicago or even Atlanta in a seven-game series? Maybe, but they’re only one player away from making it a whole lot more realistic.
Critics will say that Anthony won’t be a good fit in the Knicks’ current up-tempo system. They’re a rhythm team offensively and Anthony’s constant ball-stopping will only disrupt that. But the fact remains: if you want to win in this league, you need three superstars. Miami’s got Bosh, Wade and LeBron. Boston’s got Pierce, Garnett and Allen. With a core of Amar’e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and Carmelo Anthony, surrounded by a decent supporting cast, the Knicks could not only compete with the elite teams in the NBA, they could be one of the elite teams.
The key for the Knicks in dealing for Anthony is not to gut the team in the process. A recent report from ESPN Radio said that the Nuggets rejected an offer from the Knicks that included Wilson Chandler, Landry Fields, Eddy Curry and a first round pick. This is not necessarily bad news. It’s a starting point for New York. Giving up Wilson Chandler or Danilo Gallinari in the trade is a given, but the Knicks can’t afford to part with both. Landry Fields and Eddy Curry will also almost certainly have to go. Walsh has claimed that he can orchestrate a trade for at least one first round pick, most probably at the expense of Anthony Randolph. Bill Walker or Shawne Williams might also be included in a final deal. New York could wait until the end of the season and try to grab Anthony in free agency, but doing so would open the door for many risky possibilities. Their best option is to try and trade for him now by giving up as little as possible. If the Knicks can get away with a deal similar to the one that was reportedly rejected by Denver by mixing and matching players to find a combination that Denver likes, we could be looking at the best Knicks team since Walt Frazier and Willis Reed were at the helm.