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NBA Analysis: Reaction to Carmelo's Debut with Knicks

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Wow. That was the most fun I’ve had as a Knicks fan in a very, very long time. I had the good fortune to be at the Garden for a number of playoff games during the Knicks’ special run to the ’99 finals, including LJ’s 4-point play against the Pacers (the best moment of basketball I’ve ever witnessed live) and last night was like a trip back in time.

The Knicks aren’t title contenders yet, but when the players took the court, despite not having even so much as one practice together, it was easy to see just how much the team has been upgraded. The Knicks’ talent simply overwhelmed a well-coached team that had given them fits over the past few years. The roster is still a solid big man (and perhaps a backup PG) away from being truly formidable, but this is shaping up to be a special era in Knicks history.

Anyway, here are a couple of thoughts that popped into my head this morning:

– As great a scorer as Melo has been to this point in his career, it’s easy to envision him becoming even more deadly playing in D’Antoni’s system. I wouldn’t judge him to much on what he did last night, because it was basically a pick-up game and I’m sure he was an exhausted, emotional wreck given what the past 72 hours have been like for him and his family. That said, Melo does stop the ball. That won’t always be a bad thing, especially with the shot clock running down when the team badly needs a bucket, but I think he’d be wise to embrace the ball and human movement in D’Antoni’s sets.

When Gallo was here he got most of his half-court looks off drive & kicks and dribble drag action. He scored a lot of points pretty efficiently that way too. D’Antoni’s sets are designed to make scoring easy and fun. If Gallo could be so effective using that action, imagine what Melo could do with it.

This isn’t to say that the Knicks shouldn’t bend the offense to suit Melo too. His post game is amazing and the team should definitely experiment a lot with putting Melo and Amar’e in pick & rolls together, but it’s not hard to imagine Melo’s efficiency stats skyrocketing if he just embraces some of the motion in D’Antoni’s sets that’s created easy looks for so many lesser players.

–The more I think about the Knicks’ choice to trade for and lock up Anthony now, the more sense it makes to me. Consider the decision within the context of the Nets’ conundrum:

When the league owners are negotiating internally about the terms they seek from the players in the next CBA, both the Knicks and the Nets will surely be in the camp that supports a more flexible cap that allows players more freedom of movement. The reasons are obvious: both teams have loads of money and offer a desirable locale (in the Nets’ case, eventually).

But the Nets’ situation is a little more complicated than the Knicks’ because, although they have Prokho, Jay-Z, Brooklyn (eventually), and now own the rights to Deron Williams, they can’t extend Williams now and have absolutely no assurances that he’ll stay beyond 2011. In fact, if there’s a lockout that lasts the whole season, the Nets may have traded Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and two lottery picks for the rights to rent Williams for just 2 months of actual basketball–or, in other words, the exact same deal they refused to make for Anthony.

So, on the one hand, the Nets are surely hoping for a less restrictive cap so that they’ll have the ability to chase other superstar players like Dwight Howard to put around Williams. After all, making the Nets a great team is the best way to convince him to stay.

On the other hand, though, if Williams is hellbent on walking away, a more restrictive cap with a franchise tag would prevent him from doing so and leaving the Nets with nothing. But in that case, even if the Nets were able to keep Williams, the more restrictive system would make it much more difficult to surround him with good players.

Basically, the Nets are staring down great uncertainty and there’s at least a decent chance they end up getting burned no matter what happens with the CBA.

The Knicks, on the other hand, now have two superstars locked up for the next five years. If certain owners have their way, maybe they won’t be able to sign Chris Paul, but at least they’ve assembled a much sturdier bomb shelter in the event that the next CBA really does go nuclear.


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