Parallels To DeBusschere Trade Should Guide Knicks’ Pursuit of Anthony

Published on: 24th January, 2011


Parallels To DeBusschere Trade Should Guide Knicks' Pursuit of Anthony  | read this item

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New York – Often times, when you look into the past, you can use the lessons learned back in the day to guide your present day decisions.

If you’re the New York Knickerbockers, and you’ve just lost your sixth consecutive game and the luster of an exciting season is quickly wearing off, you start to look at the next few weeks as a crossroads of sorts. You ask yourself what has gone wrong and what you need to do to right this sinking ship. You may come to the following conclusions:

  1. Your star player, Amar’e Stoudemire is the only player on your roster who truly strikes fear in the hearts and game plans of your opponents. All the Feltons and Gallinaris of the world are almost interchangeable with plenty of other NBA players.
  2. You come to the realization the opposition has decided that if they can stop Stoudemire from dominating and, play him more physically than they previously had, there is nobody else on the Knicks who can consistently carry the team.
  3. You may also realize Stoudemire, despite his 6’10” 235 pound stature, is built to play the power forward position and not center, where the Knicks have been using him. He doesn’t have the bulk to consistently guard bigger players at the center position while the pounding he is taking from people who outweigh him by 30 or more pounds is starting to take it’s toll on the Knicks’ prize free agent signing this past off-season.

If you are the Knicks general manager, Donnie Walsh, you may want to take a peek at what the franchise decided to do when it was in a very similar position over 42 years ago, way back in 1968. The parallels are uncanny.

The Knicks had just moved that year from the “old” Madison Square Garden on Eighth Avenue and 49th street into a spanking new version of The Garden, the very same building they still call home today but one that is undergoing sorely needed modernization and upgrading, even as you read this.

Those Knicks of 1968 were a talented team of players with solid NBA resumes. Their center, 6’11” Walt Bellamy was of all-star caliber, the power forward was a young, strong, 6’9”, 245 pound Willis Reed, who most people felt was better-suited to playing center, and the point guard was a very talented but sometimes erratic Walt “Clyde” Frazier. The other key players were guards Dick Barnett, a veteran shooter and Bill Bradley, a small forward out of Princeton who could shoot and pass the ball.

That team was good enough to win it’s share of games around the league, much as today’s Knicks appear capable of but for whatever reason, didn’t have the necessary chemistry to compete with the leagues’ elite teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.

Back then, Knicks General Manager Eddie Donovan felt the Knicks were just one or two players away from being able to compete for an NBA championship, much like the Knicks hierarchy views today’s team. Donovan knew the key was to pull off a trade that would enable the young Reed to move back into the center position where he could use his quickness and shooting ability to be more effective. On the defensive end, Reed wouldn’t have to chase around the smaller forwards he was forced to guard while Bellamy, a more immobile, traditional inside player, banged with the bigger, slower centers in the league. Sounds a little like Stoudemire’s position dilemma, doesn’t it?

The opportunity to acquire a young power forward, very much in his prime named Dave DeBusschere became available to the Knicks because his Pistons team had new ownership taking over and they didn’t want to carry the expensive contract that surely would come with DeBusschere, their best player and trading asset.  This Pistons felt they could rebuild their team by getting multiple players in return for DeBusschere. Much like Denver is attempting to do.  Donovan felt Detroit’s asking price was too heavy and held out from doing a deal until Detroit’s leverage and therefore, its asking price went down.

Denver, Anthony’s team, would also like potential suitors for Anthony’s services to hand over the farm. Like the Pistons of 1968, the Nuggets’ leverage may be declining as the trading deadline of February 24th approaches and fewer teams appear capable of providing Denver with the quality and quantity of players it has demanded.

The fact that Donovan waited out the Pistons demands and then pulled the trigger on that deal, sending just Bellamy and point guard Howard Komives to the Pistons for DeBusschere, changed the face and the future of the franchise for several years. The Knicks quickly evolved into the leagues’ best team, winning NBA championships in 1970 and 1973. Obtaining DeBusschere became the final piece to the chemistry puzzle for then-Knicks coach, Red Holzman. Those teams of Frazier, Reed, Bradley, DeBusschere, and Barnett, along with  Earl Monroe have become legendary in NBA history and represent the last championship the Knicks have won. 

Yes, it’s been an amazing 37 years since the New York franchise in the NBA has won a title.

It’s now Walsh who sits at a similar crossroads for the Knicks. He has an opportunity to acquire Carmelo Anthony, one of the leagues’ highest scoring players and a forward who would automatically improve the offensive firepower of the Knicks while taking on a lot of the scoring load from Stoudemire. His presence on the floor would prevent teams from double-teaming Stoudemire and it would push a player like Raymond Felton down the line to becoming the Knicks third or fourth offensive option instead of the second option. On a championship contending team, Raymond Felton should never be a second scoring option. Ever. 

Walsh can be patient. He has until the deadline and can decide to pass if he feels Anthony will be a free agent in the summer.

The Nets’ apparent pullout last week is great news for the Knicks’ chances of landing Anthony, because they have leverage. Anthony’s preference all along has been the Knicks, but a report Wednesday said Anthony’s advisers also will attempt to steer him to Chicago.

“I’m not going to comment on what the owner of the Nets said,” Walsh told The Post on Wednesday night via phone. “And I don’t know what Denver wants to do. I’m sure tomorrow we’ll find out.”

Walsh said his talks with Denver have been limited.

“Donnie’s not comfortable in even knowing what Denver wants,” a source close to Walsh said.

The Knicks appear in the driver’s seat if the Nets are indeed out of the picture and their owner is not bluffing. The Rockets have been mentioned as possibilities and they are willing to do a deal without an extension.

Walsh was told by the Nuggets in preseason he would need a third team to get a deal done and it’s unclear if the Pistons, involved in the Nets’ talks, could join the fray again.

If Anthony goes to Houston, that could benefit the Knicks because the All-Star forward likely will be free this summer when the Knicks have salary-cap space and won’t have to give up assets.

NBA sources said the Nuggets probably will try to make another pitch for Anthony to sign their three-year, $65 million extension.

“I love my team,” Mike D’Antoni said before the Knicks’ 104-89 loss to the Rockets. “I like what we’re doing right now. But Donnie will take care of what he needs to take care of. He’s good at it and have all the faith in the world in him.”

A Knicks source said the club is “hopeful” the leverage is back on its side.

Prokhorov has granted the Knicks a giant gift and, if Anthony winds up with them, it will go down as one of the worst in a long line of Nets’ blunders.

“If he goes there, I have no control over that,” Prokhorov said regarding the Knicks at his press conference.

D’Antoni said, “It surprised everybody.”

The Nuggets now have to take a closer look at Danilo Gallinari, Landry Fields, and restricted free agent Wilson Chandler, whom Walsh told The Post he intends to sign this summer. Chandler could be a turnoff for the Nuggets because his rep is expected to seek a five-year, $60 million deal.

Eddy Curry’s expiring contract would also have to be included. Anthony Randolph could be shipped to Minnesota for a first-round pick that the Knicks would have to give to Denver.

A source said Walsh, whose priority this summer is adding a legitimate starting center (possibly restricted free agent Marc Gasol), is not willing to open up weaknesses and give up so many parts that it makes the team worse.

D’Antoni, with a cat-ate-the-canary grin, realizes the Anthony speculation regarding the Knicks will heat up more. But he said before the Houston game, “That’s fantasy basketball. I’m in reality.”

Asked if he wouldn’t want a big trade because he “loves” the team, D’Antoni said, “No, don’t put words [in my mouth].”

Knicks brass quietly waited for the Anthony-to-Nets deal to either fall apart or come to fruition. But earlier this season, Walsh made an interesting remark regarding a big move.

“It depends on how you see the team and what they need,” Walsh said then. “If that player is available and you don’t have to destroy the whole team, you consider it.”

You can bet that after these last six losses in a row, Walsh is considering a deal for Anthony now, and feverishly. After all, he has the benefit of looking back at history and seeing the impact Dave DeBusschere had on this franchise and this city.

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