A New York State of Mind: What Now Knicks?

Repeating history, the Knicks are running in circles. This is the same place they were last year, wondering how to fix this mess they are trapped in. They have no relief, no savior coming. They have a max player that can no longer win games for them on his own. Carmelo Anthony may be a superstar and he may be an All-Star and he may lead the Knicks in scoring but he is shooting 42.6% from the field, tied for his career low, and not seen since his rookie year in 2003-04. So it stands to reason that no longer can Carmelo win games by being Carmelo, a skill that star players in their prime can do routinely. Carmelo needs help.

The Knicks didn’t envision this Carmelo so soon. They expected a similar trajectory to LeBron James who is posting three year highs. But Carmelo is going the opposite way. He is still a good player but not a great player but because he has a max salary and a no-trade clause everything that happens to the Knicks, whether it is a one point loss to the Hawks or an ass kicking by the Raptors begins and ends with Anthony.

It is a cautionary tale when you pay players over the age of 30 the money Carmelo is being paid and yet it is not really the money that is the problem. It is the no-trade clause Phil Jackson handed over. Jackson was familiar with the language of no-trades because Kobe Bryant also had a no-trade clause. Jackson pretty much took it in stride, not considering the consequences, like it may come to pass that Carmelo needs to be somewhere else.

A no-trade clause keeps a player in the family unless he goes where he wants to go, to a championship contender. Would Carmelo leave the Knicks? Yes. But only for the Clippers and the Cavs and only those two teams. But the Knicks would get garbage in return and not what they want, a first round draft pick that means something.

The Knicks would love to unload Carmelo on Sacramento for Rudy Gay who is opting out in July so his salary would be off the books and the Knicks would have money plus a lottery pick. But no way is Carmelo playing in Sacramento with Boogie Cousins for a 7th or 8th seed. He might as well stay in New York for that.

So that is the rock and the hard place the Knicks are between. They can’t get younger but don’t be fooled; youth is fools gold. The Lakers are younger and boring. The Suns are younger; they can’t guard a paper bag. The Timberwolves are younger and skilled; but lottery here we come. So younger isn’t the answer all of the time.

The Knicks want to develop talent or they want to be a player in free agency. But what kind of free agent is coming to New York? Let’s be real here. The Knicks aren’t a contender and so free agents look the other way.

A lot of shade is being thrown Phil Jackson’s way and it may be true that he is trying to make things so uncomfortable for Carmelo that Carmelo begs to get out of town. But veteran talent was Jackson’s only option. He was out of choices. It hasn’t worked out the way he thought it would but all he was doing was tossing dice. Individually, the players are good enough, but collectively they have zero chemistry, no defense and Carmelo still wants to be Carmelo of five years ago. His tantrum after the 76ers game about wanting the last shot instead of Porzingis indicates how married Carmelo is to the idea that he is the star. So, no, the Warriors system of less is more, it’s all about¬†we,¬†hasn’t filtered down.

How do the Knicks change course so this isn’t the same script year in and year out? Haters come out the woodwork when the Knicks are impotent and ineffective. On defense, the Knicks can’t or won’t- take your pick- guard the perimeter. They are a bunch of above average players and NBA history has told us you need two All-Stars to have a shot at a conference final.

Jackson overpaid Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee adding their bloated figures to Anthony’s huge salary. Derrick Rose is a free agent but why not bring him back? Who is going to be better at driving to the rim than Rose? Free agent point guards in the summer of 2017 are Tyreke Evans, a combo guard who, like Rose, is a driver but not much of a shooter. Jrue Holiday, above average. Deron Williams, on his last leg. Jeff Teague, great in Atlanta but a bust in Indy. George Hill, having an extraordinary year and the reason Utah is fighting for a top-4 seed out west. Darren Collison, undersized and average. The pickings are slim. So why not keep Rose?

Because to keep Rose is to say this is working and it clearly is not. When Rose has to tell the coach to be tougher “on us” in regards to defense, meaning be Tom Thibodeau, there is a problem. A big problem.

Maybe the answer lies in Phil Jackson. Maybe Phil has outlived his usefulness. Maybe his day is done. Maybe he needs to go the same way as his star players Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Hit the retirement button. His days of having an impact are behind him. But like Rose, if you don’ t have Phil, then who do you have? What is the plan?

What. Is. The. Plan.

Knick fans need to know. Stop the lies. For once, can the passionate NY faithful hear the truth and not the same regurgitation in order to sell tickets, only to be depressed once the first half of the season is over and we are talking about trading Carmelo.

 

photo via llananba