By John Schmeelk
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To delve into this situation I quote the great George Costanza. This was Donnie Walsh on Wednesday morning:
“I have no power. Why should she have the upper hand? Once in my life I would like the upper hand. I have no hand. No hand at all. She has the hand. I have no hand.”
And this was Donnie Walsh on Wednesday at 6:00 PM:
“I’ve got so much hand I’m coming out of my glove.”
But nothing is assured. It never is. The chance of seeing Carmelo Anthony in a Knicks uniform has increased tenfold but if Donnie Walsh doesn’t use his leverage properly all this can still fall apart. Here’s what I think we know:
– Carmelo Anthony wants to be a Knick. His family is on the east coast and joining force with Amar’e Stoudemire gives him a legit chance to win a NBA championship.
– Carmelo wants a contract extension before the looming work stoppage. There’s absolutely no telling what the new labor agreement will look like, and rightfully so, Carmelo wants some security.
– The Nuggets will trade Carmelo to whomever they will get the best offer from. That franchise is in no position with their home fans to hold a grudge and not get back a maximum return for their superstar.
Donnie Walsh needs to find a balance and offer up more than other teams would be willing to give Carmelo as a rental, but not so much that the trade guts the roster. If Walsh low balls the Nuggets to the point that they trade Carmelo somewhere else, he runs the risk of Carmelo liking his new team and agreeing to an extension.
There’s only one way this goes bad for the Knicks: The Knicks play it too cool, and make Carmelo think that they don’t want him as badly as he wants them. With the Knicks trade offer very poor, the Nuggets trade him to a team like the Mavericks. With him, the Mavs make a run to the NBA Finals, and Carmelo decides it’s a place he wants to stay and signs an extension after the season is over.
As ideal as it may seem, the Knicks simply can’t count on waiting until the offseason figuring that Carmelo will come as a free agent. Do not underestimate the power of guaranteed money. But here’s where all that “hand” comes into play. It shouldn’t take more than Eddy Curry, Azubuike, Gallinari or Landry Fields and one or two first rounders. The Knicks would get back Anthony and Renaldo Balkman. Before the Nets announcement, it would have had to be Fields and Gallinari. That’s should no longer be the case. But what does Walsh do if the Nuggets want both? Tough call.
Be careful with your newfound leverage Donnie Walsh. This got easier, but it isn’t in the bag. Don’t let what happened to George Costanza happen to you.
Noel: “I’m breaking up with you.”
George: “But I had hand!”
Noel: “And you’re gonna need it.”
UP AND UNDER
Up: Nets Pride. By pulling themselves out of trade talks, the Nets save some face, since Carmelo didn’t actually reject them publicly.
Down: Mikhail Prokhorov’s reputation. Many foolishly thought an owner could turn around a foundering Nets franchise. Now they’ve missed out on another big name and the Nets are still on the road to nowhere on the floor as the team prepares to move to Brooklyn. Even if they get to Brooklyn in 2012, the Nets would be irrelevant as a bad team and the Knicks competing for a title with Anthony and Stoudemire. In a salary cap league, an owner can’t make a big difference. His effect was overrated to begin with, and it is being proven out.
AROUND THE WORLD
Here’s how I see the other potential suitors for Anthony:
The Bulls (one of Carmelo’s preferred destinations) don’t have the players, contracts, or picks to make a deal work for him. There’s a chance they change their mind on dealing Noah, but I doubt that will happen. The other contenders in the East don’t have what it takes to get a deal done.
The Spurs don’t have the will or the pieces. Could you imagine Carmelo deciding to play in Utah the rest of his career? New Orleans doesn’t have the money. Kobe and Carmelo couldn’t play together, though Andrew Bynum would be a valuable trade chip. Oklahoma City could put together an interesting package, but Durrant and Anthony are both wing scorers. The Clippers? A good city and team with Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon, but Donald Sterling and the franchise are a perpetual joke.
Then you have the Rockets and Mavericks and this is where it gets interesting. Trading for Carmelo Anthony as a rental has Mark Cuban written all over it. Plus, they have expiring contracts in Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler, which would allow them to take back Carmelo and Al Harrington. Cuban would trade draft picks. Their deficiency is lacking a top young player to trade – Rodrigue Beaubois being the closest thing. Likewise, the Rockets can offer cap relief and picks, but lack a young star, unless the Nuggets want Kevin Martin. Jordan Hill? Terrence Williams? Courtney Lee? The point is that the market for Anthony will not be great and the Knicks offer I detailed above should be enough. Besides, Carmelo wants to come east, right?
There’s one other thing about Prokhorov. Picture this: Mikhail is hanging out in Russia managing his billion dollar fortune and business interests. By his own admission he was an absentee owner and not involved in the team’s day-to-day operations. Since he doesn’t use a computer, there’s no way he really understands exactly what’s been going on with the Nets, unless he has one of his minions constantly updating him. This guy shows up one day in the middle of the season and single handedly blows up all the hard work Billy King and his basketball people had been doing for weeks. It was pretty obvious that King wasn’t even given a heads up about what Prokhorov was going to say at the presser considering King had to quickly text the Nuggets that they were done with trade negotiations. Does this sound like a positive from an owner? It seems like he’s a loose cannon. That’s scary and a huge negative. It’s not how a good franchise is run.
And by the way, the Knicks loss to the Rockets Wednesday night was a brutal one. The team is staring a six game losing streak in the face and could be hovering at .500 before long. That’s when you’ll see the panic set in.
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