One thing I learned long ago in this business, is that there’s a time to think and there’s a time to vent. At times they intersect, at times it’s a tsunami of misguided and entertaining rage, and every once in a while, simply stated, it’s absolutely perfect. Every syllable flows, every word resonates. It’s a verbal barrage with many twists and turns, and despite its unpredictable and fast-paced rhythm, you, the audience, is along for the ride, nodding in agreement, punctuating points with fists or characters on Twitter.
Buckle up, because I’m about to take you on that elusive ride.
First, a general commentary about my beloved New York Knicks. Encompassing 40 mostly pathetic years since their last crown, their road map to success is still written in Latin. Regardless of who they hire, fire, draft, sign or trade for, they are no closer to the secret sauce than some two-bit burger chain trying to take a bite out of McDonalds.
Put it this way: no franchise in NBA history consistently fails their superstars like the boys on 33rd and 7th. Was Bernard King really expected to beat the Celtics with Louis Orr and Rory Sparrow logging major minutes? The only reason they landed Ewing is because they were so pathetic and invisible, the commissioner (allegedly) tossed them a bone, and with good reason. Back then, without the true power of cable and all-access to everything, the NBA was better with New York in the mix. Can we still definitively say that now? It wasn’t so much about Stern helping the Knicks, by the way, as much as it was about lining his own pockets and securing and stabilizing his growing empire. The NBA needed Patrick Ewing playing Broadway, especially following those Big East wars with Mullin and the Johnnies in the mid-80′s. As hot a prospect ever to come out of college, that was # 33.
During Ewing’s prime, it was a rotating cast of aging, fading stars like Kiki Vandeweghe and Ro Blackman or one-dimensional chuckers like Gerald Wilkins and Johnny Newman. They failed Ewing so miserably, it actually hurts to relive his era at times.
When they finally stumbled on some legit talent, he was shot, no longer dominant, and eventually, no longer relevant.
Sadly, they are doing the same with Carmelo Anthony, like zombies tracing over the wayward steps of their front-office predecessors.
Because J.R. Smith was so miserable the last few weeks, they’ll probably be able to retain his services. Like many, I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Truthfully, at $5-7 million per season, coupled with age and talent, it’s a deal I would sign off on, but I would do so out of sheer desperation. I will never, ever trust him again. Ever.
Yet, as maddening as he was during the tale end of the Boston series and the entire Pacers series, imagine the Knicks without Smith this past season. 39, 40 wins?
Incredibly, they signed off on 3-year deals for both Jason Kidd AND Marcus Camby, further limiting their options this summer and beyond. While both deals were relatively cheap, combined, they could equal one player good enough, or specifically, tough enough, to theoretically put them in the Eastern Conference Finals next season. I mean, was that “plan” concocted over bong hits and shots of Grey Goose? Who the heck would, in a balanced state…forget it. The stupidity is obvious, so I’ll summarize it this way: J Kidd, start working on your Hall of Fame speech now. It’s over. It got beyond ugly. Time to hang ‘em up bro.
I don’t care what you read this summer about “how healthy he is” and “how good he looks,” it’s destined to be another season of intermittent surgeries for Amar’e Stoudemire, trying to figure out where or if he fits when he’s once again shoved back into the rotation. He’s due $21.6 next year and $23.4 in 2014-15. Those guys don’t sit forever. Kind of sad, because I really like Amar’e. One look at his body, and it’s obvious that he has pride and cares about his craft. He added some post moves this summer after spending time with Hakeem Olajuwon, more evidence that he’s willing to reinvent his game, even with veteran status and a bank account that resembles Fort Knox. Tremendous respect for the former All-Star, but when the body goes, it goes. This train has left station, sadly. It’s over.
As for Tyson Chandler, I am trying to balance my healthy respect for his passion for the game and leadership skills and the injuries that basically transformed him into a skinny Eddy Curry the past few weeks: no defense, no rebounding. To be fair, at least Eddy had an offensive move or two. He was a threat. Chandler couldn’t stick a 15-foot jumper if we spotted him 12 feet. He is a complete zero on offense, not a single post move, which just amplifies the strong undercurrent that will slowly swallow this version of the Knicks up for good. Too often, the Knicks play 4-on-5, and unless you’re playing the Bobcats 82 times, that’s not going to work.
.By overpaying for Steve Novak, the Knicks are in a position to possibly have someone swipe Chris Copeland’s services right under their noses. This kid can obviously shoot, but more importantly, he’s willing to shoot when it matters, when the season is on the line. Can’t say the same for Novak. Either Cope signs elsewhere and the Knicks are stuck with Novak’s limited game, or they retain Cope and have more money wasting away on the end of the bench in Novak. Either way, they’re kind of screwed.
Let’s talk about the coach, Mike Woodson. Average. Limited. Actually, in big games, completely overmatched. Not only will he not elevate this team to a championship, but I submit that he actually does the opposite: he retards the progress of his team. How are we able to identify from our recliners such obvious substitution patterns, like pulling Kidd and playing Prigioni, pulling Smith and playing Cope, pulling Chandler and playing anyone, but the head coach cannot?
Seems like a nice guy, but nice guys win nothing in this league, not coaches anyway. You want me to stop beating around the bush? How’s this: I simply do not believe in him at all, and that will never change. The man was eaten alive in the 2nd Round of the Playoffs, what the heck would happen in the NBA Finals? Quite possibly, the worst coaching job I have ever witnessed in a playoff series, and I’ve been watching the league intently for a long, long time.
This brings us to Carmelo Anthony. Even with his 4th quarter follies throughout the playoffs, I still support ‘Melo. His tantalizing offensive gifts, if paired with the right superstar, eventually, it should lead to chip, no? He beats you off the dribble, his midrange game is unstoppable, he has effective 3-point range and he gets to the stripe with great frequency. He’s mauled by 2,3 Celtics or Pacers, and after he fixes his headband, heads to the line, undeterred. Carmelo Anthony is both street tough and physically strong, and while it’s easy to blame the man with the biggest target and contract, I don’t believe that is fair nor is it accurate.
However, with ‘Melo, it’s less about tangible skills and more about things far tougher to quantify, like leadership or the way he relates to the rest of the guys on the roster, on the floor.
As much as I’ve defended Anthony, something I read this morning stopped me dead in my tracks, and forced me to reevaluate things.
“We kinda teased the city of New York a little bit, because now everybody expects us to play at this level, this high level.”
High level? What?
Your team was punked by a bunch of kids in Indianapolis. PUNKED.
Imagine Jordan or Bird or Magic or Kobe or Lebron or Duncan saying that?
Along with the rest of hoops-starved New York, not to mention the rest of the NBA community, I just finished watching a 6 game , lopsided steel cage match. Rather than bleeding and fighting and punching and kicking your way to the Conference Finals, your team crawled out of the ring and meekly into the offseason. Your were pounded on the boards every game, and shot as accurately as a collection of 7th grade CYO players.
That quote, the strong inference that for Anthony and the collective effort against Indiana remotely resembled anything any player should be proud of, that stopped me dead in my tracks. It really made me think.
Sure, Carmelo Anthony wants to win a title, I don’t doubt that. What I do doubt, is his ability to lead any team over the requisite two-month journey of EFFICIENT basketball it takes to actually secure that lofty status.
Yes, the Knicks failed Carmelo Anthony, just like they failed Ewing and King earlier. They continue to talk a big game, until things go awry. Then they pull their head coach of off radio shows and act totally unprofessional.
As good as Anthony is, he’s not good enough to reverse 40 years of empty promises.
As much as I love the Knicks, I have to admit: it’s hard to like the Knicks.