On November 21, 2008, then-GM, Donnie Walsh, simultaneously traded Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph for nothing but expiring contracts. Normally, telling a fanbase that hadn’t seen it’s team on top in over 35 years wouldn’t go over so well, but after the Isiah Thomas era, the words “cap space” were music to their ears. Even more soothing were the words “LeBron James.” At the time, the new look Celtics were the reigning champs, and the only thing cooler than rooting for a Big Three was having your own MySpace page.
So Knicks fans put up with two painful seasons of Chris Duhon-led pick and rolls and Al Harrington commercials like this:
As flawed as the D’Antoni ball was, it made the team bearable to watch, even if it was only because basketball purists enjoyed things like Kobe Bryant’s 61-point Garden performance, or Blake Griffin’s dunkface on Timofey Mozgov. All of this was accepted because in due time, the Knicks would be contending for NBA titles of their own. Or so we were told.
It’s not that The Decision set the Knicks back. They still salvaged the offseason by nabbing Amar’e Stoudemire from the Phoenix Suns and finding him a point guard to coexist with. The Stoudemire-Felton combination sounds awful now, but four years ago they were a formidable enough duo to get the Knicks to the playoffs, which was more than satisfactory after two seasons that produced a combined record of 61-103.
But failing to sign two max players, as was promised, hurt them in the long run. Instead of using assets like Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari to acquire what theoretically was supposed to be their third star, they were used on what is now their primary player. STAT’s knees withered away and the organization took everything that Donnie Walsh worked so hard to maintain and spent it on guys like Tyson Chandler (four years, $58 million), Raymond Felton (again, this time for 3 years and $10 million ), and J.R. Smith (3 years, $17.95 million we think). Four seasons later, the Knicks have a win percentage of .389, just slightly above the .372 mark they were at while anticipating the Summer of 2010.
So now we’re told to wait it out until 2015. The Knicks decision to stand pat at the trade deadline only solidifies this. That summer, Chandler, Stoudemire, and Andrea Bargnani all come off the books, but is giving James Dolan more cash to spend a good thing? This organization has shown time after time that they aren’t particularly great at spending money. Just ask Jared Jeffries. And Jerome James. And Allan Houston’s knees. The list goes on and on.
The Knicks have been linked to the likes of Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, and just about everybody else under the sun, but don’t be fooled by the promises of more star power. Rondo is just 374 days removed from a major knee surgery, and Love has way more ties to the West Coast than the East. It won’t be easy to convince him to move even further away from home just to play for a franchise that’s only slightly more successful than the Minnesota Timberwolves. More importantly, Rondo and Love will most likely be dealt before they even sniff free agency, and New York simply doesn’t have the assets to compete with what other teams will be offering. At least not if they want to surround their “stars” with anyone halfway decent. This, of course, is all for naught if Carmelo Anthony walks away this July.
With or without Melo, 2015 is sure to be another spending frenzy for the Knicks. If they don’t do it wisely, they’ll be right back at square one, which is why we here at Turn On The Knicks are already formulating a 2020 plan. Since the NBA doesn’t allow teams to hand out contracts of more than five years of length, there is no one currently on the books for that season, so if the Knicks play their cards right, they’ll once again have plenty of cap space! They should also have three first rounders (2018, 2019, 2020), all on their rookie contracts, but for all we know, their rights could be traded by tomorrow.
Assuming that the best players will still be one-and-dones in college, the members of the 2020 NBA Draft Class are currently in the sixth grade, and sadly, these players are already being scouted. Dime Magazine has already treated us to this highlight of Marvin Bagley, a 6-9 eighth grader who the Knicks may have a shot at drafting in 2018 or 2019.
All joking aside, we should give the Knicks the benefit of the doubt and assume that the people in power can fit the right pieces around Melo. After all, the Steve Mills regime hasn’t show any propensity to botch trades, or make any moves at all for that matter. If Melo is truly interested in building something special, somebody will join him. It only takes one championship to make it in New York, especially for a franchise that hasn’t won it all since 1973. Plus, the Knicks can spend their way into and out of a rebuild whenever they please.