Keidel: Carmeloholics

By Jason Keidel
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The Carmelo Kool-Aid is strong these days. You gulp, guzzle, and gargle the stuff. Perhaps an intervention is in order.

Toney Douglas emptied his quiver on Memphis Grizzlies with robotic accuracy (9-of-12 from 3-point range), and so today the Knickerbockers keep their nostrils barely above the .500 waters. Nonetheless, they’ve been no better than mediocre (7-6) since they surrendered three good, young players, a first-round draft pick, and cash for Carmelo.

For this woeful return on his investment, Jimmy Dolan bestows a St. Patrick’s present of spiked ticket prices – by 49 percent.

“This is about the long-term!” you say, which is rather convenient, because after the Knicks beat the Heat on Feb. 27 The New York Post led a conga line of Carmeloholics in declaring the Knicks were title contenders this year.

So which is it? Are they better now or next year?

“It takes time to practice and gel!”

Really? Tell the Nuggets that. Denver has darted to an 8-2 record since the trade. Haters are asserting that Denver has won on the backs of bums. At least they’re winning. New York can’t beat Cleveland and Indiana, who have run the Knicks out of the gym four times in four tries. If you watched the home-and-home series against the Pacers, you know Indiana is a bad basketball team. Tyler Hansbrough, as sublime a college player as you’ll see, has all the bona fides of a journeyman (10 PPG, 5 RPG over his career) in the NBA.

The popular template calls for two stars and a room of role players. But someone must play defense. When you give up 119 points to the Pacers it speaks to toughness, not talent. If the Knicks are to win their first playoff series – or first playoff game! – in a decade, they must play defense with purpose.

We can’t blame the beloved players, the ones who make $20 million per season, because to do so would cast doubt on the deal. When you refuse to acknowledge the record or the lack of effort, you reach for a life raft.

The final default excuse falls on the coach. That’s rich. You’re the first to say this is a players’ league, until your cherished players fail. Then it’s the coach’s fault. Mike D’Antoni doesn’t coach defense. That’s the problem. He never has, so why expect otherwise?

And were Amar’e and Carmelo brought to New York for defense? Is it Mike D’Antoni’s fault that Tyler Hansbrough went George Gervin on the Knicks?

And if the Knicks plucked Carmelo with next year in mind, they should be mindful of their surrounding cast.

Chauncey Billups, whom the cognoscenti consider the hidden gem of the deal, has missed half of the twelve games since he arrived. It takes a lot longer to recover from a thigh bruise on a 34-year-old leg. If they don’t buy Billups out, they owe him $14 million next year, and $54 million to three players under a $58 million cap. And how many games do you honestly expect Billups to play?

But star power seems to trump firepower. This is what the Knicks and their fans are reduced to, name-dropping and stargazing. Every chance they get, the MSG media hounds stalk the stars in the front row, as though they score points or add karma. Kevin Bacon, Johnny Mac, and Penny Marshall preen courtside. Who cares?

New York is not a city that settles for moral victories. But the Knicks have been so pungent for so long that we’ve settled for the superficial. We concoct a history that belies what our eyes tell us.

There is no history, unless you’re resigned to blow the dust off the 8-tracks, the grainy footage of Willis Reed’s limp out of the locker room. It has been 38 years since the Knicks won an NBA championship. It’s a morbid truth, that MSG is more impressive with the realtor than with reality.

Clearly, Carmelo and New York are deep in a honeymoon. But we all know honeymoons end. Let’s see if the wedding lasts.

Feel free to email me:

Agree? Disagree? Leave your comments below…

  • JK

    So, Steve, if we disagree with you then we’re too reactionary? Isn’t it possible that we just have different views on the trade? I said from the beginning that this was a bad deal. The Knicks are losing to terrible teams (like Detroit and Milwaukee this weekend!), which speaks to effort. They”re soft.

    The Knicks aren’t better now than before the trade, and their record reflects that. If your point is that they get a mulligan because it was a midseason trade, then we’ll just wait until next season. And I predict they will finish no more than ten games over .500 next year, which they would have done without Carmelo.

    Let’s be in touch a year from today and see who’s right. And if you win, I’ll be the first to say I was wrong. Fair enough?

    • Steve

      I wouldn’t say we disagree, I just think it’s too early to be making judgements. Nuggets have enormous uncertainty following this year with numerous players that they have to deal with. Nene can opt out and JR, Afflalo, KMart, and Chandler are all free agents.

      I just don’t think anything the Knicks or Nuggets do this spring is meaningful to evaluating the trade. I don’t believe the Anthony trade was for this season. They still have no size down low, a horrid bench, an aging PG in Billups, and a Coach that has a system that I personally despise.

      But, my twitter account is Carmichael15. You can follow me and I’ll follow back and we can keep in touch.

      • JK

        Oh, we clearly disagree. You think this is a good deal; I think it’s a bad deal. Where’s the confusion?

        You say it’s too early to judge. That’s an opinion, not a fact. I say 7-8 is an ample sample of how they will play with Carmelo, and that they won’t be much better next year. And the reason they have no bench and an old point guard is because they traded three starters – and a young point guard – to get Carmelo.

        It’s convenient that the Knicks’ record is irrelevant when it doesn’t support your argument. Wins and losses say everything. Just as the 38 years they’ve gone without a title speaks volumes.

        I can follow you on twitter? Gee, thanks. You’re a funny guy.

  • Steve

    Growing paints come and go, Miami started off the season 5-5 and everyone wanted to write them off. I’m not ready to call this trade terrible yet, because sorry I’m not willing to make a judgement within 14 games. New York also beat Memphis on the road, beat Miami on the road, Atlanta on the road, and dismantled New Orleans.

    Nuggets may seem better now, but we’ll see how they do without a go to scorer in the playoffs. Good luck winning a 7 game series without Carmelo. Granted Melo has flaws in his game, but he has always incredible skill that few contain. 15 game winners, never missed the playoffs, never had a losing season, gold medal winner, 4 time all star. I think the Nuggets are on a honeymoon right now as well, we’ll see if the wedding last too…

    Melo hasn’t been the problem, the team is playing horrible defense points and Melo has had one terrible game against Detroit and a sub par game against Dallas. People need to relax and wait for this to play out before jumping on them.

    Journalists are too reactionary when it comes to early success or turmoil. Good read though.

  • Kurt Spitzner

    It’s the big business disease.Unfortunately all they care about is making more money and whether they win or not seems inconsequential,no matter what sport we are talking about.Every time they spend more money all that happens is it becomes less and less affordable for the average family to actually attend a game in person,but yet they keep on doing it.The bottom line is its all about the benjamin’s!

  • JK

    Indeed. Which part do you want me to accept? Denver’s 8-2 record while the Knicks went 7-6? The two losses to the worst team in the NBA (Cleveland), who were fresh off a 26-game losing streak (longest in NBA history)? Want me to accept Carmelo’s lack of defense? Want me to accept Billups’s aging legs? Want me to accept the Knicks’ hideous salary cap situation?

    Want me to accept losing three starters who have made the Nuggets exponentially better? Want me to accept that the Knicks haven’t won a playoff game in a decade? Want me to accept that they lost twice to the Pacers? That they made Tyler Hansbrough look like Bill Russell?

    Let me know, sir. I need to be enlightened.

  • Jose Berberena

    IF some other club would”ve gotten him then it would have been ny missed out give me a break his the real deal accept it.

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