Mandel’s Musings: Tear Down Knicks Roster As Soon As Possible With Anthony Trade Step One

Published on: 20th January, 2014

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Both Anthony and James may opt out of their current contracts  | read this item

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New York — The Knicks are slowly sinking in the east, both on the court and in the locker room. After another debacle this afternoon, getting blown out by their across-the-river rival Brooklyn Nets, 103-80 in a Martin Luther King Day matinee, their record at this season’s halfway point dropped to 15-26. And worst of all, there is no short-term solution in sight to give even a little hope to Knicks fans.

But, there is the NBA trade deadline of February 20th, looming over this franchise like the Chase Bridge looms over Madison Square Garden. There are a lot of things wrong with this team and with how it is run but, with 30 days to go on the trade front, teams will make moves to either improve their positions for now or in the future. Suffice to say, the Knicks should be looking at the future while they are still very much in the present.

There’s an old adage about knowing when it’s time to change the coach of a team. It’s not only when he loses games but also, when he loses his locker room. It appears the Knicks players have started to rebel or tune out the teachings of Mike Woodson.

We are beginning to hear the rumblings of discontent from the Knicks’ core players, complaining about getting “outschemed” by opposing coaches, not “making proper adjustments at halftime,’ playing a switching defensive style when other teams set picks when they prefer NOT to play a switching defense. The voices behind those comments are Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony, only the two most respected players on the team. Not a good omen for a coach.

Unfortunately, the blame for the Knicks problems cannot be placed on Woodson, alone. In fact, most observers would absolve Woodson from most of the reasons for this mess at the Garden. Was it Woodson’s fault the Knicks roster was configured with such mismatched talents, head cases, and contractual commitments to players who could no longer be counted on to produce at their former levels? Woodson is not the chief, cook, or bottle washer. In this organization, Woodson is a baby-sitter and a medical time-keeper, based on what he’s told on a daily basis by team trainers about his aging players’ chronic conditions. From day to day, practice to practice, Woodson has no idea who he will have available.

The sad part about all this was the predictability of mediocrity long before the season began. Anyone could see the discombobulated roster, starting from the lack of a quality point guard to the lack of a defensive presence other than Chandler and, on a good day, the inconsistent Iman Shumpert. There was age dotting the more important rotation players like Kenyon Martin, 36 years of age with ankles much older than that, and Amare Stoudemire, 31, whose knees are about twice his age. And, of course, there is the head case in J.R. Smith, who hasn’t quite grown up yet, no matter what his age is.

Both Anthony and James may opt out of their current contracts

Both Anthony and James may opt out of their current contracts

 

Added to this mix was one Andrea Bargnani, a 7-footer brought in from Toronto to provide scoring, rebounding, outside shooting, shot-blocking, and a veteran’s presence in the locker room. To acquire Bargnani, a former No. 1 overall pick, from Toronto (who couldn’t wait to get rid of him), the Knicks gave up spare pieces in Steve Novak and Quentin Richardson and center Marcus Camby.  More importantly, they also sent the Raptors a 2016 first-round draft pick and second-round selections in 2014 and 2017.

 

To this point in the season, Bargnani has been a bust. His style of play is softer than your night time pillow and he has not provided Woodson with any of the talents the Knicks coach expected out of him.

 

So, what is there to do? How can the Knicks get out of this mess? They can change the coach, of course, under the theory that it’s easier to fire the head man than to fire an entire roster. Or, they can begin to tear down this roster so that they can start anew. And, the first step should be to find a trade partner for Carmelo Anthony.

Since Anthony has gone on record as looking forward to his free agency, the Knicks cannot afford to risk losing him for no assets in return. Signing him to an extension at the end of the season would also be a big mistake, as he would likely decline with age and the new contract would hinder the Knicks’ efforts at adding other pieces to their roster.

The Knicks should, and according to one source close to their plans, will, explore trading ‘Melo at the deadline. One thing that hinders such an idea for the Knicks, however, is that they do not have a first round draft pick until 2016. Therefore,  getting worse this year by dealing Anthony isn’t a “benefit” as it might be for other teams who are trying to “tank” their seasons for draft position because only Denver (or Orlando) would benefit from the Knicks losing of games.

Could the Knicks somehow land an established superstar for him? Unless the Clippers shockingly decide to trade Blake Griffin, which is extremely unlikely, there aren’t any young emerging stars that will be available at the deadline. New York needs to find a suitor that is willing to jeopardize its own future for present gains. That would suggest the Knicks acquiring draft picks and unproven, yet, promising, young talent. This is, of course complicated by the fact that Anthony can opt out of his contract after the season, so any team dealing for him would want assurances that he’d be more than a two-month rental.

In fact, after establishing the various criteria that seems essential for any potential Anthony trade, it appears the only potential suitors for Anthony’s talents would be either the long-shot Clippers or the Chicago Bulls, who are in the midst of clearing salary space by trading off Luol Deng and waiving Andrew Bynum and his salary in recent deals, potentially setting up a war chest of cash to offer free agents.

As usual, the Knicks have set themselves up to have very little leverage in any potential deal involving Anthony, but that seems to be a hallmark of the Jim Dolan style of management. It will be interesting to see how Dolan tries to fill up the seats in his billion dollar refurbished arena over the next two years of what will surely be a rebuilding era. Dolan, it should be noted, also has very little leverage with the Knicks fan base, who have not seen an NBA championship in 40 years.

Anthony mentioned a few weeks ago how the Knicks were becoming a laughing stock around the league. The first step to rectifying that status, the trade deadline, takes place in 30 days.

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