By John Schmeelk
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I have some breaking news. Donnie Walsh is heading on vacation for the next seven days, and he’s leaving me in charge. Please, hold the celebrations to a minimum. I don’t want to cause any riots. My first order of business is sending Anthony Mason, Xavier McDaniel, and Larry Johnson down to Florida to keep Isiah Thomas away from James Dolan. No phone calls, no emails, and no text messages. The Destroyer of Franchises is being cut off from the world until the trade deadline passes.
The next thing I’m going to do is book JD and the Straight Shot on a cross country tour. Unfortunately, his tour bus is going to break down in the middle of Amish country. I’m counting on James Dolan being entranced by their society and becoming a farmer, or spending a month trying to convince them to order Cablevision. If that doesn’t work, I’m getting Spike Lee to send him to a fake movie shoot somewhere in Madagascar. He’s not going to get in the way.
With those two inconspicuously absent, it’s down to business. The first thing I do is reach out to Carmelo Anthony behind the scenes and find out what his thinking is. A simple text from Amar’e Stoudemire, or using an intermediary to talk to William Wesley or someone else from Creative Arts Agency would do the trick. A private meeting as described in the Daily News this morning would work just fine. What I need to know is how willing Carmelo is to go to free agency, and whether or not the Knicks would be his first choice.
If I’m told that he wants to be a Knick and is willing to risk money to do it, I hold my offer at the three way trade rumored a couple weeks ago with the Timberwolves (trading Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph and Wilson Chandler). There’s no reason to give up anything more. The only reason I still make an offer at all is because of the outside chance of there being a franchise tag in the new CBA, or Carmelo getting cold feet.
If I’m told that the Knicks are merely an option and he would actually be willing to go the Nets, I fold my hand and look elsewhere. There’s no way I want to match the ridiculous offer the desperate Nets are willing to put on the table. If Adrian Wojnarowski’s report is correct, the Nets can have Anthony and Billups for the price of four first round picks, Devin Harris, and Derrick Favors. Enjoy mediocrity.
Now where it gets interesting is if Carmelo gives no answer or still doesn’t know what he wants. There are signs the extension might mean more than anything to Anthony and he doesn’t want to risk free agency. Maybe he’ll sign with Denver or decide to go to the Nets if the Knicks can’t swing a trade. Now, I have to make a deal worth it for the Nuggets, but at the same time, not gut the roster.
The combination of Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph and Wilson Chandler is the starting point. I’ll agree to the Chauncey Billups-Raymond Felton swap. Billups is old, can’t play defense, can’t handle the pace of the Knicks offense and is averaging just five assists a game as the point guard leading one of the NBA’s best offenses. However, he is a better shooter than Felton and like Felton, his contract expires after the 2012 season. The Knicks maintain their flexibility, which is very important. I’ll let the Nuggets sit on that for a while and if it isn’t enough I’ll give them a couple of options:
1. Take the Felton/Billups swap off the table, and instead choose one player between Danilo Gallinari, Landry Fields, and Timofey Mozgov. It hurts losing any of those young players, but to get a superstar like Carmelo, it’s worth it.
2. Add Al Harrington to the trade. As painful as it would be to take back the Human Black Hole and the 28 million (20 guaranteed) left on the four years remaining on his contract, it would be worth it to get Carmelo. The Knicks would have to send back Ronny Turiaf and Kelenna Azubuike to match money. If the Nuggets insist, the Knicks can take back Renaldo Balkman too. This does hurt the Knicks in the summer of 2012 but I’m willing to take that chance.
Giving up anything more than that puts the franchise in a compromised position to become a championship team. If they are stubborn, I tell Denver to walk and take my chances in free agency. Carmelo and Amar’e Stoudemire with no supporting cast puts the Knicks above fifty wins but does not make them an annual contender in the Eastern Conference.
Simply put, Carmelo is not LeBron James. Put LeBron with Stoudemire and the Knicks contend tomorrow. Anthony is not in the same league and no one should believe he is. He’s not a top five player. I can name almost ten I’d rather have (LeBron, Wade, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durrant, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol). The Knicks need to acquire Anthony, but also maintain a good supporting cast and assets for potential future moves to give the two stars what they need to win a championship. Remember, trading for Anthony not only loses the Knicks players and draft picks, but also cap space this summer.
I’ll take my chance the next two years with Felton/Fields/Anthony/Stoudemire/Mozgov with Shawne Williams, Bill Walker, Ronny Turiaf, and Toney Douglas coming off the bench. There are pieces there that can still improve or be used to get another player in the Knicks uniform. It’s the same for a rotation that would feature Billups/Fields/Anthony/Stoudemire/Mozgov with Gallinari, Al Harrington, Williams, Walker and Toney Douglas coming off the bench.
What I don’t want to see is a roster that looks like this: Billups, Anthony, Stoudemire, Turiaf, Douglas, Williams and Walker. That’s ugly and not winning anything.
Remember that if the Knicks do not trade for Carmelo, they will head into free agency with the option or either resigning Wilson Chandler or using 10+ million worth of cap space to go after someone else. They will be in a similar situation in 2011. Losing out on Carmelo does not mean the Knicks have lost all hope. They will still be in VERY good position moving forward. Donnie Walsh understands that and other Knicks fans need to as well. Be happy Walsh is in the Knicks corner because he won’t blink or do something out of desperation. The line in the sand has been drawn.
UP AND UNDER
Up: Denver’s leverage is improving. If the Newark Nets are re-engaged it does put pressure on the Knicks. However, it means absolutely nothing if Carmelo refuses to sign and extension with the Nets. A lot of power still sits with Carmelo. If he really wants to be in New York, all he needs to do is refuse an extension with the Nets. Likewise, if Carmelo convinces the Nuggets he won’t resign with them it will make it that much more likely the Knicks will be able to swing a deal for him. It’s time for Carmelo to make his true intentions known.
Under: The Nets are desperate and it shows. The haul they are willing to give up for Carmelo is mind-blowing. They won’t even be close to a title team after the trade. The Nets upper management also still appears to be in disarray. The Nets front office is securing a deal for someone the owner has stated, and re-affirmed on Thursday, that he does not want them to pursue. Either Prokhorov is lying, or Billy King is free lancing. He better be careful all this KGB-esque maneuvering doesn’t land him in the Gulag. Does Carmelo really want to be part of an organization like that? I wouldn’t and I don’t think he does. If Frank Isola is right, we’ll know more this weekend.
AROUND THE WORLD
The rest of the trade market for Anthony appears to have dried up. Only two threats for the Knicks remain – the Nets and Carmelo panicking about the money and staying in Denver. It will be interesting to see if the almighty dollar sways Anthony more than it did LeBron, Wade and Bosh. Honestly, right now I don’t think the Nuggets are 100% sure what they want to do. Part of them wants to wish so hard Carmelo will re-sign there that they’ll hold onto him. Similarly, Carmelo needs to decide what’s more important, the money or his basketball future. Both those things are out of the Knicks hands, and until both are cleared up, nothing is going to happen.
I have to be honest that I’m still waffling on one potential trade, though for now I’m landing on the side of “no”. Should the Knicks be willing to move Chandler, Randolph, Curry, Felton, and then one of Gallinari/Fields/Mozgov for Billups and Anthony? For now, I say no, but to me, it’s a very, very, close call. I wouldn’t lose it if Walsh decides to pull a trigger on a deal like that. For the record I rank those three in order of highest to lowest value: Gallinari, Fields, and Mozgov.
Here’s in order, what I think is most likely to happen when all is said and done.
50% – The Knicks figure out a way to trade for Carmelo before the trade deadline.
30% – Carmelo waits it out to free agency and comes to the Knicks in the offseason.
15% – Carmelo agrees to sign an extension with the Nets and is traded to Newark. I’m still not buying it.
5% – Carmelo decides Denver is better than Newark, the money is more important than New York, and stays put in the Rockies. Or, the Nuggets force him to stay using an as of yet non-existent franchise tag.
That’s all gut feeling. It’s all I got.
Follow this saga with me on twitter and I’ll try to guide you through all the twists, turns, and everything else: http://twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk.
By the way, not that anyone cares but the Knicks played one of their best defensive games of the year on Wednesday and won a very important game against the Hawks. I can’t wait until we can start worrying about actual basketball games again.