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Schmeelk: Are Knicks Slipping Into Same Old Mistakes?

Jason Kidd (credit: Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images), Marcus Camby (credit: Jesse Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

Jason Kidd (credit: Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images), Marcus Camby (credit: Jesse Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

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By John Schmeelk
» More Columns

Ok, so I’ve been keeping tabs on Twitter. After some of the Knicks’ recent moves, many fans were worried about the team repeating past mistakes. With New York trading draft picks and taking on lots of salary, some fear a repeat of the perpetually-over-the-salary-cap-with-no-flexibility days.

In many ways, those fans are right. But that problem has very little to do with what New York has done this offseason. Once the Knicks committed to Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and then Tyson Chandler, they were capped out through 2014 (assuming Melo takes his player option in the final year of his deal).

Once the Knicks match the Rockets’ offer to Jeremy Lin, they will have given out about another $19 million worth of contracts in 2012. That number, along with the $57 million committed through 2014 is virtually meaningless. The Knicks would be over the salary cap anyway, and going that far over only affects Jim Dolan’s luxury tax payments and some of the franchise’s cap exceptions. They are not killers.

It is true, however, that the Knicks will have little flexibility in bringing in free agents over the next two seasons, except for situations in which they sign a veteran like Jason Kidd for a cap exception or veteran minimum.

As for trading away draft picks, the Knicks have become quite good at that as well. They will have no first-round selection in 2014 and have no second-round picks over the next three seasons. The Knicks have also traded away young big men Josh Harrellson and Jerome Jordan. It would help if second-round pick Kostas Papanikolaou could come over and make an impact.

The Knicks are a veteran team, and they aren’t getting younger with the additions of Marcus Camby and Kidd. Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler are all in their prime — and injuries are starting to also become a concern for them.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t youth. Lin and Iman Shumpert can make up the Knicks’ backcourt for a long time, and both flashed All-Star potential last year. They have big question marks but the talent is there. Still, the Knicks are not running a youth movement by any means.

So in many ways, the Knicks are in a situation reminiscent of the Isiah Thomas days. They aren’t very young, are capped out and don’t own many of their own draft picks. There’s one big difference, however, and it is the only thing that really matters: This Knicks team is good. They are a top four or five team in the Eastern Conference and if absolutely everything goes right they have a legit chance of at least challenging the Heat in the postseason.

Thomas-era Knicks teams could never say that. They were bad while capped out with few draft picks. It’s not preferable for good teams to have those problems, but it isn’t a disaster either. The Heat are in a similar spot and so are the Celtics. Same goes for the Lakers and the Spurs. The Knicks are going for it now, something their fan base deserves considering everything they were forced to endure over the past decade. They have a three year window, and if they don’t win by 2014, there is an opportunity for a complete reset. The only player with a guaranteed contract in 2014 at this moment is Steve Novak. That can change as Glen Grunwald continues to try to improve the roster, but as of now this is a three-year plan with very little pain past that time period.

In other words, Knicks fans need to calm down. For once your team has talent, a superstar core, young players improving and savvy veterans to supply leadership. They have a chance to win and Glen Grunwald is rightfully doing everything he can to make that possible.

Knicks fans should be happy about that, not worrying about flexibility two years from now.

“The future is now” is the only mantra they should worry about.

SCHMEELK SNIPPETS

- If reports are true, I think the Magic have finally realized the Rockets or Lakers can offer more for Dwight Howard than the garbage the Nets have been trying to push on them. The Rockets have a lot of young players with potential (three first round picks this past season) and veterans with good contracts (Luis Scola, Kevin Martin). They can also offer a draft pick via Toronto that will be better than any pick the Nets are offering.

If a three-way deal including the Lakers is agreed to, the Rockets would get Bynum instead of Howard, something else they would be agreeable to. The Rockets have the young players, contracts, and picks that have a lot more value than anything the Nets are offering. The Hawks should also be an option considering their positio,n but I’m not sure why they aren’t being more aggressive.

- With the signing period opening later today, I would expect the Knicks to match the Rockets’ deal for Lin before the ink is dry on the offer sheet.

I’ll continue to provide coverage of NBA free agency on Twitter; follow me @Schmeelk.

The big question: Are the Knicks moving backward? Make your case in the comments below…