‘Melo’ncholy in NY: A Carmelo Anthony Trade Retrospective

One month ago, on February 22, the Knicks finally put together a deal and brought in Carmelo Anthony. The move was hotly anticipated, and it made everyone happy, except maybe Chauncey Billups. The Knicks were happy because they finally got their no-LeBron consolation prize in the form of Amare+ Melo. Melo was happy because he could play in a big-market town. His wife Lala was happy because her career could flourish in NYC. I think her career so far consists of having hosted TRL 4 years ago…not sure, but anyway she needs to be in New York. The Nuggets were happy because they got to shed their unhappy superstar headache and get something in return; Cleveland please take notes.  Chauncey might not be happy, since he maybe wanted to finish his career in Denver. Unfortunately, now he has to collect his $14 million paycheck in New York.

After 30 days, how does the trade look? In the immediate aftermath, I admit I was down on the move for NY. Anthony seemingly wanted to play there no matter what, and I supported the whole “let’s wait until the summer and get him for nothing, while paying him $65 million less overall” plan. I also didn’t see the Knicks doing much in the playoffs this year, with or without Anthony, so I would have voted “nay.”  The Knicks, however, wanted to lock him up now, lose some pieces, and pay him more over the next 6 years: all very understandable. They had a chance to secure on the league’s top 10 players, and they went for it. Bravo. I still wouldn’t have, but after a few weeks the move did grow on me, especially after the Miami beat down. That just felt good. Within 2 weeks I had experienced the whole emotional spectrum in regards to the trade.

But now, it’s been one month. Objectivity has arrived. Honestly, at this point I am a fan of the trade, as everyone involved seems to have gotten better by it, except for Minnesota and Golden State, which both just stayed crappy. Hear me out.  First, let’s get the details out of the way. The Knickerbockers received Anthony, Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Anthony Carter, and former 2nd best player on a Duke Sweet Sixteen team/Atlanta Hawks lottery pick/somehow married to Candace Parker Shelden Williams. Digression alert: How is Williams in the NBA? In the all-time list of people who were given everything for nothing, his bust would be right next to Pompey Magnus’. He is an undersized center, who also happens to be one of the ugliest people you’ll meet, and yet he was drafted ahead of the likes of Brandon Roy and Randy Foye? And he’s married to Candace Parker, who’s pretty hot and also the best female basketball player alive when not pregnant? Why is there no justice in this universe?

Back to the topic at hand, The Nuggets got Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov,  Kosta Koufos (that’s a person, not a Middle Eastern sandwich wrap), the Knicks 2014  1st round draft pick (not a typo, that was the first available pick they had), the Warrior’s 2012 1st round draft pick, 2013 2nd round draft pick, and $3 million in cash just because…I guess the Knicks felt like adding in some cab fare after the sex. Minny and the Warriors were also involved, but just as accessories, so I won’t bother with them.  Also, I’m not a math person, so I will ignore the financial aspect of everything.

So how’s NYC looking? Better than before. Lots of people opined the loss of alleged young superstars in the making, but let’s be honest. Gallinari, Felton, et. al. were nice pieces to bolster a rotation, but that’s it. The Gallinari love, especially, I don’t get. I’m half Italian; I think Italians are great; they are a very talented people…but I would never entrust my professional basketball team to an Italian player. If an Italian is anything more than the 5th best player on your team, you’re in trouble. I think Toronto would agree with me. Plus, at the time of the trade, the Knicks were like a couple games over .500, so they weren’t really re-writing the record books. I’m about as big a Ray Felton fan as there is, and I mean that literally since I’m the only one in existence, but even I’ll admit his performance had tapered off the past few months. Billups is definitely an on-paper upgrade at the point. Shelden Williams, Balkman, and Carter are just bodies, so no gain there. And then, of course, you have Melo, who is a top 10 player in the league. Let me rephrase everything: would you rather have Carmelo Anthony at 27 years old, or Gallinari, Chandler, and Felton? That’s what I thought. Short answer: yes, the Knicks are better now.

Well then, why are they playing so poorly? Coaching. It’s that simple. Some would argue having Melo should automatically make a team better, but come on, now. Anthony is not Wade or LeBron; he’s not a “make others better” superstar; he’s just a superstar. He will score 30 points for you, but all you’ll get extra is a couple assists and an offensive rebound. He’ll hit all the buzzer beaters you want, and score from all over the place, but he will not shut down the other team’s best player on defense, or secure some big rebounds, or hit an open guy when he’s getting double covered, or give a rousing speech to this teammates. He will clock in, score in bunches, and then clock out. The blaze’ attitude he’s been showing off during recent press conferences is a good example. You think Kobe wouldn’t be f%&ing god da%&ed pi$$ed off if his team was at .500? Whoever introduced Melo to weed should be in jail because he ruined what could have been a great career, had his physical talent been paired up with giving anything near half a damn about winning. The preceding paragraph also applies to Rasheed Wallace. That is why you need appropriate coaching. Billups, as great a player as he is, is not a D’Antoni point guard. He does not pick or roll; it’s just not in his nature. Melo, as great as he is, is not a D’Antoni forward, a la Joe Johnson or The Matrix. Melo isn’t good at standing around while a quick point guard makes lanes for him. He needs the ball, and he takes his time. D’Antoni doesn’t like taking time. He also doesn’t like defense, which is another big issue. If you have Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudamire, and Joe Johnson in their primes, you don’t need to play defense. You can just play a ton of offense and then lose in the conference finals. I know this because it has, in fact, happened. Not to mention, Nash and Amare made the conference finals once without D’Antoni; conversely, Mike has not reached the playoffs at all by himself. Right now, I don’t see this Knicks team winning a playoff series this year. Even Philly would probably beat them in a 7 game series. Basically, I do support the trade from the Knicks perspective, but they need more than just Melo to get better, and I think NY fans are starting to figure that out.

And how’s Denver looking? Even better than the Knicks. This is some Bill Simmons hyper-Ewing Theory at work. At the moment, I think Denver would beat the Knicks in a playoff series, and it wouldn’t be so close. First of all, let me put on my clear heels, and ride Ty lawson’s pole. I love this guy. I thought he was way underrated coming out of the draft considering how well he played for Carolina in the tournament that Spring. No one could keep up with him. As a side note, how ironic is it that out of the 3 point guards David Kahn inexplicably drafted in ’09, he traded away the only one worth a damn? Actually, I guess it’s not ironic at all, since that’s not what the word means, but I’m using the meaning of “ironic” everyone else does, so cut me some slack if it’s the Alanis Morrisette definition.  I was also hyper-mad when he went to Minny in the slot right before my Hawks picked. We had to settle for Mike Bibby/Kirk Hinrich backup Jeff Teague. I guess we felt we had to make up for not taking Chris Paul by selecting a less-good, undersized Wake Forest point guard. So anyway, I’ve been pole-riding Lawson as long as he’s been riding NBA benches, and was glad to be proved right once he moved into the starting role. He has been great for Denver the past month. And former fellow Tar heel Ray Felton is about as good a backup point guard as you can find in the league, so Denver is set there; if anything, they can turn him into a good trading piece. Nene (whose last name is Hilario, if anyone cares) has been playing lights out without Melo hogging the ball away from him, and if he can stay healthy he’s not a bad player around which to build a team…who are we kidding? He’ll get hurt again; this guy is more fragile than Mr. Glass from Unbreakable. But for now, he’s looking good. J.R. Smith has really grown into his role, too; seems like he’s been getting a steady 20-24 points every game, and what more can you ask from your shooting guard? He’s making the Bulls look pretty foolish for not trying harder to trade for him. Gallinari and Chandler are also filling in their new roles nicely though the Italian’s been hurt lately.

I’m well aware what we have in Denver is a sum-is-greater-than-its-parts deal going on, but that may not be so bad. They’re a young team, with a good coach, playing damn well; plus, they’ve got a cornucopia of draft picks coming up and some good trade assets, so Denver is really looking good coming out of this trade. The Knicks have their superstar, and if they’re smart about how they build their team in the next couple years a few championships may not be out of reach. Not to mention, Lala Anthony’s movie career(?) can finally take off like she’s always wanted. Everybody wins; except the Knicks right now. In short, I really think this will go down as a great trade for both sides. Now, let’s wait another month to see how wrong I was about everything.

Later days,

Sagramore

 

P.S-Sorry about the horrible “Melo” pun in the title, but every other sports writer is doing it, so I thought I’d follow suit.

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