Starks Raving Mad: 5 Things that matter this year (w/o mentioning Lin)

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Starks raving mad
Starks raving mad

1. The chip on Felton’s shoulder

When Felton was traded back to the Knicks, he wasn’t exactly welcomed back by fans with open arms. How could he after the miserable minutes he’s logged on the court since he last put on a Knick jersey? When you-know-whosigned with the Rockets, Felton was an easy target to absorb fan rage. And let’s be honest, New Yorkers are more obsessed with weight than High School Girls are, so Felton’s portly physique made for an instant bullseye. You could only imagine how Felton must have felt to return back to the team played his best basketball with only to be completely disregarded.

 

Don’t think for a minute that Felton isn’t taking this personally. While it wasn’t exactly as exciting as last season, 2010-11’s “Felton-sanity” period was some pretty decent basketball by any standards. During that run, while some big names like Chris Paul and Steve Nash were putting up numbers like 15.9ppg & 9.8a (CP3) and 14.7ppg & 11.4a (Nash), Felton was averaging All-Star numbers with 17.2ppg and 9 assists while mastering a pick-n-roll offense with Amare that gave Knick fans the best basketball they have seen at MSG in by guys wearing Knick uniforms in years. Of course that had a lot to do with Dantoni’s liberal system, but that body of work lasted longer than “Linsanity” did.  Now with Melo as the undisputed nucleus of the team, Woodson’s grind it out system in place, and Amare out for God know’s when, Felton definitely won’t go back to being the player he was in that time.

 

What will be here is the same PG that wasn’t afraid to take big shots and loved seeing the Garden come alive during the 4th quarter. That same dude who at one time talked about Knick pride and playoff basketball as if he was a vintage Knick vet. I’m not saying to run and add Felton to your fantasy teams, but I do think the Knicks will have a PG that is somewhere in between 2011’s apex and last season’s nadir- and that aint bad at all for 3 years & $10M.

 

2. Amare as trade bait

 

Look I love Amare and don’t think he’s gotten enough credit for wanting to embrace the role of “franchise savior” when he signed with the Knicks 2 seasons ago. It’s just that we have gotten more than enough evidence to know that “Stat & Melo” sounds a hell of a lot better than how it actually works. I was one of the few who thought that it could work but after seeing how much more of an important factor Chandler was last year, I actually think that having Tyson and Melo on the floor at C & PF work much better than having Amare start.  Amare struggled not having the same space in the paint as he did before Tyson was here, but there is no way the Knicks would want to go back to not having last year’s Defensive Player of the year guarding the basket.

 

The problem is that you can’t put one of your highest paid players on the bench. Especially for someone like Amare who wears his heart on his sleeve and still probably thinks he is the same guy that was running up and down the court receiving lobs from Nash. It was just a matter of time before his knees gave out in him and it looks like its gotten to the point of diminishing returns. We all know what it’s like to constantly keep bringing your first beloved car to shop and come to that emotional realization that it might be better off selling instead of keep paying repair bills. I’m at this same point with Amare, but its obviously not going to be easy moving all $65M of him.

 

Amare had a tough year on and off the court last year and nothing would make me happier than to see him bounce back; as with most Knick fans. Still, the Knicks have made it clear that their contention window begins and ends with Carmelo and if this is the case, the Knicks are better served finding a better way to compliment Melo and Tyson. Maybe a change of scenery is just what Amare needs? After all, he has never been the same since the day Melo became a Knick. That radiant smile he used to have? Gone. That fierce tenacity he showed during games against the Celtics? Dormant. The All-Star that got MVP chants at the Garden? Ha!  For what Amare currently brings to the table, there is no way the Knicks justify keeping those knees around for another 3 years. While Amare is out for first six weeks, keep a close eye on how the Knicks adjust their lineups; it could very well be the future.

 

3. Winning the Atlantic Division

 

April 4, 1994. This was the date of the last time the Knicks won the Atlantic Division. Let that marinate for a bit. There are 18 year olds walking around the earth that have never experienced the Knicks winning a division title. Of course with half of the league getting into the playoffs, the “second season” is really all that counts right? Wrong. Winning division titles are a big deal. Think about your season in NBA 2K and how irked you feel when you don’t finish in first place. Somehow we’ve forgotten about what it means to be the best in your division and have other teams chase you throughout the year. With the Celtics re-tooling their team and propensity to coast on auto-pilot during the year, there is a huge opportunity for New York to finally compete for first place.

 

Obviously the goal of every team should be to win a championship, but let’s be real. The Knicks aren’t in that conversation yet. This is a team that celebrated just getting a damn “W” during the post season for the first time in over a decade. With the Brooklyn Nets dying to cut into the New York Basketball market, it’s become important to not only finish better than the Nets but also firmly finish atop the entire division to further solidify the Knicks’ historic basketball royalty. Besides, after the Heat completely decimated us last season, the last thing the Knicks want is to be in the middle of a rat race for lowering playoff seeding. No longer can making the playoffs be thought of as a major accomplishment. It’s time to shoot higher and that begins with winning the Atlantic. This should be the battle cry of the season if you ask me.

 

4. Melo’s Redemption


When you-know-who gave the Knicks one of the most exciting runs in all of basketball, Melo must have known that it would somehow come back to him and his so called deficiencies as a basketball player.  Only a select few know for certain what the situation in the locker room was during the Knicks acrimonious descent out of the playoff race, but many stories floated around about him not being happy that he wasn’t the one that seemed to be the franchise gem. How could he when fans were openly booing him and the press viciously ripped apart for ending “Linsanity?”

 

While Dantoni hasn’t given any interviews since he “stepped down” as coach, the most common narrative being told is that Melo “got his way” by Woodson quickly installing a slow Iso-ball offense that put the ball back in his hands. This is unfair to Carmelo and probably not as simplistic as it seems. It is pretty obvious that there was in fact some tension over you-know-who’s contract offer, which Melo publicly described as “ridiculous” and others like JR Smith joining in to chastise (something that just doesn’t happen publicly amongst athletes). Regardless of what the specifics are, the keys to the franchise have once again been given to Carmelo Anthony.

 

However, there’s another side to the script that also needs to be remembered. There is a reason the Knicks went all in on Carmelo two seasons ago and we all were reminded why most recently during the summer Olympics when he prolifically scored 37 points in just 14 minutes of play. When he’s on, it’s a thing of majesty to watch. Melo is the kind of player that teams spend years of tanking to get, the one that usually plays against the Knicks, and not the one wearing a Knick jersey.  He’s been on the team for a season and a half and yet it still feels bizarre to usually have the best player on the court be a Knick. This will be Melo’s 10th year in the league and it will undoubtedly be one of his most important. This is the season he either breaks his streak of not winning a playoff series and proves he can be the center of a team, or further cement himself as a one dimensional gun for hire that needs another Alpha dog around him to make a difference. And as a Knick fan, it will kill us for Marv Albert to be right about him being the former.

 

5. I lied: Jeremy Lin still matters

 

Yes Jeremy Lin has really struggled through the preseason while Felton has impressed, but its way too soon for Dolan and Knick fans to declare victory. Regardless of what kind of season the Knicks have this year, what happened during the offseason was another low point in Dolan’s long history of tormenting the best and most loyal fans in the world.  Let’s be clear, not re-signing Jeremy Lin wasn’t a basketball decision and it wasn’t a business decision either. It was another instance of Dolan’s personality disorder interfering with both business and basketball.

 

In early July when stories of Lin meeting with Woodson, Chandler, and Melo to discuss strategy began to surface it was widely reported that the Knicks were willing to pay up to “a billion dollars” to keep Lin a Knick. With the Knicks steady history of brazen fiscal disregard and short sighted knee-jerk roster moves that resulted in millions spent for the likes of Jerome James, Eddy Curry, Larry Brown, Tim Thomas, and most recently in Amare (who wasn’t even able to get his knees insured), many fans fully expected Lin to get a king’s ransom from the front office. It’s just the Knicks way of doing business, but this time instead of over-paying for a suspected malcontent or another NBA fossil, Lin represented a far different the kind of player than the ones fans have become accustomed to seeing on the roster. For once the Knick found a young point guard (By the way, the Knicks’ quest for a young PG has been something I’ve read about since I was in 4th grade) who was absolutely adored by fans and attracted worldwide attention that MSG fully embraced (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bq6VVDn7tec). So what happened between then and when Lin was offered a contract by Houston- a team that desperately wanted to atone for letting Lin go?

 

We all know the adage about [insert sport here] being a business. Front offices are the first ones that remind fans about this after a player is traded.  What Lin’s agent did by going back to Houston to report NY’s offer was exactly what he was supposed to do. Us civilians do this all the time while being on our own job hunts, but for some reason athletes are held to a different standard. Yea, $25M for 3 years is a sizeable contract, but for the free spending Knicks, when on earth did the front office ever buckle on overpaying for a player, let alone someone that brought in a marketer’s dream in endorsement opportunities amidst a hyper-globalized league. Here’s the thing about Lin’s offer from Houston, his contract isn’t as simple as dividing $25M by three years (a reasonable $8.3M a season, which was pretty much what the market yielded to Goran Dragic). The “poison pill” third year $14M scheduled in 2014-15 would have put the Knicks back in familiar salary cap penalty territories that Isaiah Thomas became infamous for. This is three years from now though and three years away from a roster that probably will look completely different than what the Knicks have now, which could void the whole “poison pill” issue as long as the league still allows cap flexibility trades- which has become the rationale of about 90% of the trades that currently happen.

 

Lin and the Knicks will forever be tied together in the same way as every botched Knick trade has. Remember when every conversation about Ron Artest turned into a reminder that the Knicks drafted that tall VC dunk victim over him? Maybe it’s not as epic as the old Ruth-Red Sox curse, but you get what I’m saying. The same thing is going to happen with Lin, and with that will be a constant reminder of the buffoon that seemingly has gotten off on a legacy of trolling Knick fans. Lin serves as a constant reminder of just how dire the Knicks front office will be under Dolan’s scourge. It’s quite simple really: the best fans in the world are at the mercy of the worst owner in sports; and until Dolan is removed, the Knicks will always remain their own worst obstacle to overcome before they even take the court. It’s Dolan’s money and his team, but his thin skin will always get in the way of both basketball and business, and that is what will always matter to Knick fans.

 - Rich B.

 

Richard is an active member of our growing community, posting under the Starks nickname and has recently started his own blog called http://starksraving.com - make sure you read it!

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