ESPN's 'EXPERTS' - Pfff - Answer 5 Major Knick Questions
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The Knicks went 42-40 last season, their first winning campaign since 2000-01. And there was much rejoicing. But then the Knicks were quickly swept from the playoffs by the Celtics. Still, there was a revival of hope and excitement on the floor of Madison Square Garden. Carmelo Anthony's arrival after a Feb. 22 deal with the Nuggets was a blockbuster move that shook up the franchise.
And the hope is for more shaking, especially if a certain wedding toast truly hints that one of the game's best point guards would choose to come New York, perhaps as a free agent in 2012. The questions intrigue. Our experts tackle them, 5-on-5 style.
1. Fact or Fiction: The Melo trade, as constructed, was a mistake.
Patrick Hayes, Piston Powered: Fiction. The Knicks wanted Melo. Melo wanted the Knicks. The deal got done. Sure, a sound case that the Knicks gave up too much could be made, but they've craved a superstar for years and they did what it took to get one.
John Kenney, Knickerblogger: Fiction. Knicks president Donnie Walsh had his negotiating position hamstrung by interference from ownership, turning what should have been a Gasol-like heist into a sideways movement that kept the Knicks right at .500 last season. However, this trade should be judged by how the Knicks do in 2012-13, not how they did in 2011, and the future looks brighter with Melo on the court.
Devin Kharpertian, Nets Are Scorching: Fact. Just look at the numbers. New York before the trade: 28-26. After: 14-18, including the embarrassing sweep at the hands of Boston in the first round of the playoffs. Yes, Anthony can score, but they mortgaged an awful lot of their future for little payoff in the present.
Robert Silverman, Knickerblogger: Fact. I hated the trade when it was made, mainly due to a disturbingly personal affection for Danilo Gallinari and the rumors that Deron Williams would have been a NYer had the Knicks not caved. Melo's a great scorer (and much more fun to watch/root for than I expected), but if there's a hard cap going forward, the Melo/Amare contracts and redundant skill sets mean no championship for this team.
Matt Wong, ESPN.com: Fiction. The Knicks gave up a lot for a one-way player, but did you see Melo almost single-handedly beat the Celtics in Game 2 of their first-round series? Dirk Nowitzki reminded us that unstoppable shot-making is priceless in the playoffs.
2. Fact or Fiction: The Knicks will eventually form their own Big Three.
Patrick Hayes, Piston Powered: Fiction. Part of gutting your team in pursuit of a star is giving up all your assets. The Knicks have little of value to acquire a third star in a trade, and as the Knicks know better than most, planning to nab a player in free agency isn't as easy as it sounds.
John Kenney, Knickerblogger: Fact. If the talk of lowering the maximum salary in the new CBA is true, the Knicks' cap space in 2012 may be enough to snag a top free agent. And, if the lockout extends into the season, every game missed is another game that Chris Paul is not with the Hornets. The prophetic toast at Melo's wedding will be fulfilled, and CP3 will be a Knick. Book it.
Devin Kharpertian, Nets Are Scorching: Fact -- if they play their cards right. Even if a new CBA dramatically cuts the salary cap, the Knicks have only $41 million allocated in 2012-13. Not so coincidentally, both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are free agents that summer. All they need now is owner James Dolan not to screw up. Wait ...
Robert Silverman, Knickerblogger: Fiction. If New Orleans decides to move Chris Paul, there will be far superior offers out there. The 'Bockers already cashed in their chips to acquire Melo. I'd like to think CP3 would hold out 'til free agency and play for fewer ducats than he could garner elsewhere. I'd also like to think Phil Jackson will descend from the Black Hills to put a nice circular bow on his illustrious career. Alas, neither will come to pass.
Matt Wong, ESPN.com: Fiction. They already have one with Chauncey Billups. I'm not ready to write-off Mr. Big Shot, who turns 35 in September, just yet. If he (and Amare) stayed healthy last playoffs, who knows how far the Knicks could have gone?
As for a future Big Three, I don't see how it will work financially. But, as a Knicks optimist, I cling to the hope that is Chris Paul's infamous toast.
3. Fact or Fiction: Landry Fields is a legitimate starter for a contender.
Patrick Hayes, Piston Powered: Fact. Landry Fields didn't have a great second half, but he plays with effort, he's intelligent and he has range. He could easily be the fourth or fifth starter and a valuable role player on most contending teams.
John Kenney, Knickerblogger: Fact. But probably not on a team that features Carmelo Anthony. On a team with good spacing and great ball movement, Fields is quite valuable. I think he'd have been incredible on last season's Mavericks. However, the inclusion of iso-Melo doesn't jibe with Landry's free-flowing style, a problem which often left him looking lost and confused post-trade.
Devin Kharpertian, Nets Are Scorching: Fact. He's not a top starter, but Fields is exactly the kind of player you'd want next to a Big Three -- a guy who knocks down 3s, picks up hustle points, grabs rebounds and doesn't shy from big moments.
Robert Silverman, Knickerblogger: Fact. Even with a late-season swoon, Fields was the second-best rebounding guard in the league (after Wade). He finishes well on the break, has legit 3-point range, is a much better athlete than advertised, is willing to moonlight at Modell's to hawk his own jersey and go speed-dating with fellow rook, Andy Rautins. What more could one want?
Matt Wong, ESPN.com: Fact. Pre-Melo trade, he showed the potential to be a legit starter who can rebound, knock down 3s and play solid defense. And, at 23, he's just scratching the surface. Plus, as referenced in the Modell's link above, I heard he can go 1-on-5.
4. Fact or Fiction: This is the final season in New York for Mike D'Antoni.
Patrick Hayes, Piston Powered: Fact. I can't imagine the team would've hired Mike Woodson -- who clearly wants another head-coaching gig -- as an assistant coach if D'Antoni's long-term prospects were sound. If the Knicks start sluggish, there won't be much patience for D'Antoni.
John Kenney, Knickerblogger: Fiction. With a caveat: if Phil Jackson wants to coach this team, it's all his. But to all the D'Antoni naysayers, I ask you: Which coach out there are you suggesting should replace him? As Stills once sang, sometimes you just have to love the one you're with.
Devin Kharpertian, Nets Are Scorching: Fiction -- but the leash is short. D'Antoni has three seasons, one playoff appearance, and zero playoff victories on his New York résumé. If the Knicks can outperform expectations this year, he'll be safe. If they can't, expect the ire of Knicks fans -- and no coach can survive that for long.
Robert Silverman, Knickerblogger: Sigh. Fact. Despite what Vegas may say, events in sports, especially with this team, are fairly easy to predict (putting on my Criswell-style tux). The Knicks will finish with around 45 wins and exit in the first round. At which point, the tabloids/WFAN/the Net will go bonkers and insist, nay demand, that a defensive coach must be hired. After all, we's gots Melo and he's like, a star! Must be the Coach and his run-and-gun mishegas. Fire da bum! Then noble Mike Woodson, sitting handily nearby, or someone of his ilk, gets the gig. Double sigh.
Matt Wong, ESPN.com: Fiction. With a star-studded and somewhat stable roster finally, I don't think it's farfetched to foresee the Knicks winning 50 games, advancing a round (maybe two) in the playoffs and earning D'Antoni an extension. But James Dolan is still the owner of the Knicks, so what do I know? Ask Isiah.
5. Fact or Fiction: The Knicks are a top-four team in the East.
Patrick Hayes, Piston Powered: Fact-ish. If the Knicks get back a healthy Chauncey Billups, they would have a shot at surpassing Orlando, Atlanta and whoever else is in play for that 4-5 range in the East. If Billups is hobbled again, the Knicks will probably still be in the 6-7 range.
John Kenney, Knickerblogger: Fiction. The Knicks were an average team before the trade and were an average team after. Barring further deals, look for Amare and Melo to carry the Knicks to a 5-8 finish in the East this season. Knicks fans will be left hoping their second trip to the playoffs this decade comes without another beatdown at the hands of a team from Boston.
Devin Kharpertian, Nets Are Scorching: Fiction. Last I checked, Miami, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta and Orlando are all still in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks have a long way to go before they can lay claim to a top-four spot.
Robert Silverman, Knickerblogger: Fiction. They're top one in my heart, but alas, as presently constructed, they're fifth at best in the East. As presently constructed, Miami, Chicago, Boston and Orlando are all better. The Knicks are in the second tier with Atlanta and Philly. (Though if my top source, Incarcerated Bob, is to be believed, Howard is L.A.-bound).
Matt Wong, ESPN.com: Fact. After Miami and Chicago, who's next? With Boston aging and Orlando fretting over Superman fleeing, New York is ready to move up the ranks. Sure, the Knicks' D doesn't measure up with the aforementioned teams, but I'll do my best Patrick Ewing impression and guarantee that there will be a Game 1 played at MSG when the playoffs start next year.
Question 1: I agree with Matt Wong. He's wight. [crap joke]
To add to it, we absolutely gave away too much. Incorporating Minnesota was moronic, and Dolan is a **** burger.
Question 2: I agree with Robert Silverman. Entirely.
Question 3: I agree with John Kenney, and have said basically the same thing. I do, however, think he can find a niche with Melo, but Melo has to learn to pass more when Fields uses his excellent off ball game. That's basically it.
Question 4: Matt Wong! Nicely put. That 50 win total hangs on some pretty important circumstances re our roster.
Question 5: Wong Again! I'm liking the Wong. I don't see why not? Do you?