By Jason Keidel
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While watching their foes leapfrog them this summer, the Knicks responded by signing J.R. Smith to a four-year contract and then Metta World Peace to a two-year deal.

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The former probably couldn’t have gotten half the money that the Knicks are paying him, and the other probably couldn’t have gotten any money.

The Knicks made it rain on Smith — fitting for someone with a ravenous appetite for New York’s nightlife — despite the news that he needs knee surgery that will shelve him for nearly four months. Not only is he hurt now, but reports suggest that his knee problem is chronic and will only intensify as the volatile guard grows old.

Stack the Smith deal on top of Amar’e Stoudemire’s epically cumbersome contract, a financial anvil around the Knicks’ neck, and your Knickerbockers aren’t making any run at any legends anytime soon.

The Bulls got better just by Derrick Rose’s return this fall. The Pacers should likewise improve, and the Nets, though foolish in the long view, got markedly better by trading for Celtics legends Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

And there’s the whole LeBron James thing…

This is typical for the Knicks, swathed in style but always short on substance. We disagree on Carmelo Anthony’s ability to lead any team to a title (10 years and counting), but at least he is an All-Star in his prime.

Stoudemire inspires conflicting impulses. He’s the reason the Knicks are at least relevant, if not important. His decision to sign with New York helped the Knicks turn some symbolic corner, and made Madison Square Garden more palatable to other players. But now, with his geriatric legs and gigantic contract precluding his employer from employing enough pieces to make a serious run, Stoudemire’s career in NYC is a contrast in perception.

Anthony, Stoudemire, Smith and the Knicks are assured another corporate conundrum next summer, too.

And someone will have to explain World Peace’s place in the pecking order. WFAN host Mike Francesa instantly asserted that he didn’t like the signing. Agreed. The artist formerly known as Artest took an epic pay cut when the Lakers released him. Slated to make over $7 million in Los Angeles, he won’t make half that in New York over two years. At least he will save tons of quid in commuting.

“He’s tough, and the Knicks need toughness,” seems to be the mantra from the more jaded Knicks devotees. “Especially on the inside.”

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Miami just won a title with almost entirely perimeter players. And didn’t the Knicks sign the defending Defensive Player of the Year? Tyson Chandler’s presence didn’t scare anyone.

In luring the 33-year-old Queens native and St. John’s alum, the Knicks are adding an aging player who won a ring on the back of a superstar (Kobe Bryant). The Knicks tried that with Chandler, who was a nice complement to Dirk Nowitzki and a younger Jason Kidd, and it didn’t work. If their blueprint doesn’t make sense to you, it’s because it doesn’t make sense to anyone not named James Dolan.

And there’s the whole Malice in the Palace thing. And in case you forgot about his microscopic fuse and contempt for rules, he sucker punched James Harden, going Hulk Hogan with his elbow from behind, rendering Harden unconscious for a spell. This will be explained and excused and deflected now that he’s a Knick. And I will be an idiot yet again just for pointing it out.

Knicks fans, much like Jets fans, are a sensitive lot. They project their frustration and fury out on those who highlight their incompetence. It’s not our fault. The Knicks are a win-now team that just got someone whose prime was expended and expired in Los Angeles.

Metta World Peace. Just feels funny saying it. So incongruous considering who it is. This is a fine marriage, really — two entities going in the wrong direction in age, wage and sharing a stage.

MSG isn’t the Mecca of basketball any more than Ron Artest is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The “World’s Most Famous Arena” has been selling you this garbage for decades, despite all the evidence of the reverse.

Now, they want you to believe that Artest is a man of peace, of World Peace. Both entities always deal in some form of deception.

Imagine what they can accomplish together.

Actually, let’s not.

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