The Knicks’ Fate is Simple: Carmelo Anthony or Bust
Steve S. (Twitter: SBS0311)
The phrase “[fill in the blank] or bust” has become overused and cliché, whether we are discussing a football team with Super Bowl aspirations or a potential player acquisition. However, in terms of Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks’ pursuit of a second superstar to join Amar’e Stoudemire in the Renaissance at Madison Square Garden, ‘Melo or Bust is reality.
For two years, Donnie Walsh convinced Knicks fans and followers that he had a plan. And everyone waited patiently. That plan was LeBron “Lennon” James, but he decided to join fellow Heatles McCartney and Harrison (aka Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh) in Miami – all apologies to Zydrunas Ilgauskas as this makes you Ringo. However, with Stoudemire already in the fold, Walsh cautioned that salary cap flexibility was the ultimate goal and that the plan was still in motion. And everyone waited patiently.
The Knicks faithful has been rewarded by that patience with an impressive 21-14 start to this regular season. Now every Knicks fan has set their sights on Anthony, hoping he and Stoudemire can lead the franchise to where only Willis Reed and Walt Frazier have before. If Anthony ends up in New Jersey, Dallas, or on the far side of the moon, Walsh will again preach patience. This time, he should not expect anyone to buy what he is selling.
No other superstar fits what the Knicks need to take that next step. Hopeful fans will point to Chris Paul, Deron Williams, or even Dwight Howard. But let us blow the whistle on that idea right here and now. When it comes to Paul and Williams, the issue can be summed up in two words, Raymond Felton. No one, including myself, is here to say that Felton is in the upper echelon of NBA point guards or the potential MVP candidate some of today’s young guns are. That still does not change the fact that Felton is performing at an all-star level and proving he is every bit of a championship-caliber floor general.
In the case of Paul, this would also require investing the future of the franchise in four questionable knees. I for one have never fully bought the Stoudemire knee issues, but taking on that potential risk with your top two players? That might be going too far. There do not seem to be any red-alert risk factors surrounding Williams, but we are also talking about a guy who has spent his basketball life in relative obscurity. I do not know that he could not handle New York, but we have no evidence to suggest that he could or even wants that challenge. Keep in mind that we have heard chatter surrounding James, Bosh, Wade, Anthony, Paul, and Howard. None of these rumors ever surrounded someone like Kevin Durant. It is very feasible that the Williams option is never available.
In the end, there is no denying that Raymond Felton is the second best player on the Knicks. As good as Paul and Williams are, adding to a strength is not the best way to elevate this franchise. In fact, with the chemistry that Felton and Stoudemire have shown coupled with the undeniable truth that Felton is the heart and soul of the Knicks just as he was in Charlotte, it is possible the Knicks could lose as much as they gain with such a swap.
The case of Howard is slightly more interesting but appears unlikely. First and foremost, it has not yet been suggested that the Knicks or Howard have their eyes on each other whatsoever. Second, all reports suggest he is infatuated with the left coast. Those issues aside, a fair question is if the “Twin Tower” strategy would even work. The Houston Rockets tried it in the 80s with Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon with promising results. After a 48-win season and a first round exit in 1984-85, the Rockets made a surprise final run, dispatching Magic Johnson’s Lakers in five games in the Western Conference Finals, before falling to Larry Bird and the Celtics.
Thereafter, Sampson’s career was derailed by injuries, and the Rockets traded in December of 1987, leaving the potential of the formidable duo unfulfilled. In the Twin Tower reincarnation, while the Spurs took the 1998-99 championship, the joining of Tim Duncan and David Robinson occurred when Robinson simply was not the superstar early to mid 90s. The pairing would be intriguing, but there simply remains nothing to suggest anyone is considering such a combination. Most anyone would agree the overwhelming odds are that Howard remains in Orlando or goes to his preferred destination of Los Angeles.
As constructed, the Knicks have an inside force, a bona fide point guard, a do everything in Wilson Chandler, and quintessential glue guy in Toney Douglas, and other useful role players. What they are missing is obvious: a wing scorer who can make his own shot and balance out the floor when teams collapse on Stoudemire. That player is Carmelo Anthony. The free agent class of 2011-12 does not fit what the Knicks need, and pushing this plan any further into the future will push it right out of the window of opportunity to pair someone with Stoudemire at his current dominant level.
Walsh’s situation is clear: Anthony or bust. No matter what Walsh would say the morning after he failed.
The above was written by blog buddy Steve S. who has been an invaluable resource over Twitter in crunching salary cap numbers and contributing to great convos.