Carmelo Anthony is a Knick.
Let that sink in.
The Knicks have 2 bona fide superstars. Two top 10 players.
Yes, you heard right…the Knicks: The most moribund, dysfunctional, and disastrous franchise of the past decade, and the most beaten down, disgusted, and disgruntled fan base in the NBA (unless you still count Sonics fans…I feel bad for them). The Residents of 4 Penn Plaza have put together the foundation of a team that, with the right tinkering (a viable big who needn’t score nary a point as long as he boards and defends the paint) will have a punchers chance against the heavyweights of the league. With a lot of tinkering (Chris Paul/Deron Williams) this team becomes elite.
As a long-suffering Knicks fan…I’m tickled.
Tickled, but not delusional.
I hear the criticism coming from the corners of the room and I get it. It’s clear that there are some legitimate concerns about how well this will really work out for the Knicks in the long run. But the more I look at this deal and what the Knicks rotation now looks like, the more I’m convinced that not only are they in a great position to build a true contender down the road, they are in a much better position to make some noise in the playoffs this season. Why do I believe that? I’ll just address the aforementioned concerns and let you bask in the glow of my radiant logic…
1) The Man Himself.
Many argue that Melo is a level below “elite” status within the Superstar Society of the NBA. I say phooey. Yup…phooey. Melo is one of the great pure scorers of the era. He can take over a game. Dominate his opponent. Knock down the big shot. He has the swagger, confidence, and skill set of an elite player. I believe that his game is going to evolve and mature now, much like Amar’e’s has. This is, despite the continuing front office dysfunction, the ideal place for Melo to grow up and become a complete basketball player.
[Side Note: If Donnie Walsh doesn’t get extended then I will engage the services of a highly trained squadron of Bomber Pigeons armed with projectiles filled with corrosive acid to divebomb James Dolan the next time he steps outside]
Amar’e is on the same path. They can walk it together. Hand in hand. Blue & Orange Care Bears.
Seriously, Carmelo CAN do all of the things that he seemingly can’t be bothered to do. He’s got great handle, he’s a terrific passer, he rebounds well for his position (especially if his numbers stay up where they’ve been this season), and he has all the tools necessary to be, at the very least, a competent defender. I think, in this environment, playing alongside a close friend and similarly swagtastic superstar will do nothing but increase Melo’s desire to maximize his ability. Furthermore, if him and Amar’e get great at working the 2-man game, which I suspect they will, Melo’s assist numbers should go up significantly and it will only get better and better over the next few years as their chemistry develops.
2) The Personnel No Longer Fit The System
Of all the negative things I’ve heard said about this trade, this is the most asinine. Shut up. Seriously. Mike D’antoni doesn’t have a “system”, he has a vague philosophy. This is the D’antoni Way:
–Run. Push the ball up the floor. Move it quickly. Take the first decent look you get. Run. You get slowed down…run a pick and roll…and then RUN. Whatever you do, don’t play D. We are allergic to D. Most especially help D. Seriously. Weakside help D makes us break out in boils and hives. Avoid at ALL COSTS —
So, given that Coach D’antoni doesn’t really have a system, per se, it’d be hard for the personnel not to fit the system. That was a terrible way of phrasing that but I’ll leave it there as a reminder of the infallibility of man. Let me rephrase: Actually…let me put this a whole other way: It doesn’t take a genius or some special set of skills to play in a Mike D’antoni offense.
Chauncey can figure it out. He may not be flying up and down the court at breakneck speed for 42 minutes a game like Ray Felton was, but he can still get up and down and push the tempo. Furthermore, in the playoffs and at the end of tight games the action slows down. Always. Game winning shots rarely happen on the fast break. Having a sage floor general like Chauncey in those situations is invaluable…and that’s saying nothing of his well publicized knack for knocking down the big shot (hence the nickname: Mr. Big Shot…in case you weren’t clear on that. You’re welcome).
Melo can figure it out. Maybe it will be a good thing for him. Maybe having a free-flowing offense will actually force Melo to get his shots within the flow of the game…occasionally.
Last I checked, the only thing left that’s a necessity in D’antoniball is long range bombers. which the Knicks still possess a few of (Shawne Williams, Bill Walker, Billups) and shooters are not a tremendously difficult thing to find on the free agent market.
Oh, and one more thing…let’s not forget Landry ‘Muddy” Fields. This guy is PERFECT for this system and he’s not going anywhere. His ability to play off the ball and be extremely effective is key when paired with ball-dominating beasts like Amar’e and Melo, and he is only going to improve. As he hones his ability to shoot the 3, he makes this offense even harder to guard.
3) WORST DEFENSIVE TEAM EVER
This one is hard for me to argue against but, in the name of ceaseless optimism, I’ll give it a shot.
First off, Amar’e is slowly coming around to the idea of playing D. He talks about it a lot. He seems to want to be better at it. I’ve seen flashes. Obviously, he blocks shots and he’s doing so more now than ever before, but that’s not enough. He needs to be a complete defender and he’s not there yet. Like I said though, he’s had his moments where he looks good and if he can improve his focus and erase the mental lapses that plague him, he could be a competent man defender as well as a top-notch shot blocker.
Second, Melo ALSO has the physical tools to be a good defender and I will hold out hope that the two of them can push each other to become, at least, respectable on the defensive end.
Ronny is a good interior defender, Shelden Williams is a decent interior defender (and comes with 6 fouls to give), and they are likely to add another big (Earl Barron, Jared Jefferies, Jerome Jordan) who will also come with 6 fouls to give. Corey Brewer is a good perimeter defender off the bench. So is Shawne Williams. Chauncey is a capable defender at the point. Toney Douglass plays D. All I’m saying is, it’s not necessarily as bleak as it seems.
Look, Mike D’antoni teams will always give up a lot of points because they yield so many possessions per game with their speedball style. All they need is to be capable of getting some stops when they need them most and this team might just be able to do that.
All that said, if I’m Donnie Walsh (or whoever is running the Knicks this summer), my first priority for offseason tinkering is getting some defensive stalwarts on the roster. This is CLEARLY their biggest area of weakness. It was before the trade, it is now.
As it stands today…the Knicks are a good team. They are no longer middling or mediocre…they’re good. They will be a tough out in the playoffs. In fact, this is a team that might be able to pull off an upset and beat the Bulls/Hawks/Magic. Most importantly, no matter what they do this April, they are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, on their way to being viewed around the league as an elite team again, a perennial contender.
Thank you Donnie Walsh.
We seriously love you.
Even though you are shaped a bit like a gorilla and your oldness scares us, we think that you’re beautiful. Cheers.
-by Max Joice