By Brett Malamud
When Knicks Owner Jim Dolan brought in Phil Jackson to be the President of Basketball Operations, Dolan expected Jackson to do two things:
A) Take the pressure of being a New York team off of Owner Jim Dolan
B) Attract marquee free agents to New York
Last June, Jackson attempted to do both, and the Knicks acquired three-time NBA All Star and 2011 NBA Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls for Jose Calderon, Jerian Grant, and Robin Lopez. The Knicks also received guard Justin Holiday and a 2017 2nd round pick in the deal. To take the words of former Knick Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks were back. At the time, the thought was that the deal would turn the Knicks into a new era, and all would be well in the Big Apple.
By trading for Derrick Rose, Jackson took a flier on a former MVP and a former number one overall pick. If it didn’t work out, that would be ok too, as Rose’s $21 million salary comes off of the books at the end of the 2016-17 season. At the time, the Knicks decided that if Rose isn’t worth the headaches, they can just let him walk at the end of the 2016-17 season, and go chase a marquee free agent player. That said, the Knicks set themselves up to have over $60 million in cap space for the summer of 2017, where player of the like of Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Paul Millsap, Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe, Rudy Gay, Andrew Bogut, Jrue Holiday, Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala, J.J. Redick, Taj Gibson and George Hill would all be available. Or so they thought.
After all, the move created an attractive place for summer 2016 free agents, and Kevin Durant would be sure to look at the Knicks a little harder than he would have the week before. Players like Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Joakim Noah, who were all linked to the Knicks after the trade was made, were being mentioned as plan-B options if they didn’t get Durant.
Fast-forward a week, and they didn’t. Instead, Durant joined the Warriors, and the Knicks came away with two-time NBA All Star and former Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, on a four year, $72 million contract. Suddenly, a pipe dream was gone. The Knicks were giving $72 million to a player coming off major shoulder surgery, and whose numbers declined in almost every category each season since he was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 2014.
Fast-forward eight months, and that’s a contract that the Knicks wish they never handed out. In fact, it was totally unnecessary, because the big-man that they wanted was already on the roster. That was 22-year-old rookie Willy Hernangomez, who has averaged 11.0 points and 9.4 rebounds in the month of February, all well Noah tweaked his hamstring just five games before the All-Star break.
The Knicks find themselves without that $70 million in cap space for this summer, but rather anywhere from $20-25 million. Yikes. Yes, the Knicks still have their first round pick for this season, but with Russell Westbrook off the market, and reports that Chris Paul will stay in Los Angeles for north of $200 million, the point guard market is slim pickings. Sure the Knicks could always re-up with Derrick Rose, but do they really want to spend most of their remaining cap space on Rose? Rose apparently is seeking a max contract this summer, and after multiple knee injuries, paying him a max deal wouldn’t be a wise investment. Instead, the Knicks should seek a trade, so at least they can get something for Rose. One proposed deal sees Rose being shipped to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Ricky Rubio. The move is intriguing from both sides. For Minnesota, the Tom Thibodeau-Derrick Rose reunion could work, as Rose attempts to rekindle his career in the hopes of landing that max-deal that he desires. If Rose leaves at the end of the year, Minnesota has rookie point guard Kris Dunn waiting in the wings. On the other side, the Knicks would get a solid player in Rubio, and wouldn’t lose Rose for nothing, The 26-year-old Rubio is also under contract for the next two and a half years, averaging a reasonable $14 million. Yes, the deal would take the Knicks out of the running for a marquee free agent in the summer of 2017, barring an extremely unlikely major cap dump. Normally the Knicks wouldn’t sign up for being out of the running (See Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, and of course LeBron James) before the sweepstakes begins. But the timing is right and Rubio would be a good young piece to place with Hernangomez and Kristaps Porzingis.
But then we come to the bigger issue at hand:
The Melo Conundrum.
Yes, Carmelo Anthony has been shopped around by Phil Jackson. That much is confirmed. The Cavaliers, Clippers, Celtics, and Lakers are rumored destinations but it all hinges on Anthony waiving his no-trade clause, and at this rate, Melo has been stating his desire to stay in New York. But let’s explore the scenario for a bit, as Anthony is hungry for a championship, and clearly won’t get that scenario in the near future with the Knicks. The only realistic piece that would change the culture of the Knicks by trading Carmelo Anthony (if actually trading him at all) is Blake Griffin (sorry Austin Rivers fans). Of course, the Knicks would have to trade Rose first, because of the CBA rule stating that two players under a certain rookie contract extension can’t be paired on the same roster. That said, the Clippers are holding on to the hopes that Griffin stays with the team and does not view the Clippers as an aging team with a window closing fast. A fresh start with the new look Ricky Rubio Knicks on a max deal sign and trade wouldn’t be the worst thing for the soon to be 28-year-old Griffin, and as for Carmelo, he’d get a shot to go for a title with his good friend Chris Paul. The pipe dream reopens for Knicks fans, and the Knicks are back.
But it’s not looking as if Carmelo will be traded, and the idea remains—yes—a pipe dream. It’s still worth returning to the reason why all of this is happening: Phil Jackson. With a series of cryptic tweets bashing the team’s superstar, Anthony, the Knicks are quickly becoming a toxic wasteland, and as a result, the pressure is on owner Jim Dolan again. Jackson may have to make a few moves before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline to save the Knicks ship from sinking, or it could be his job on the line.
Brett Malamud is a graduate of Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy
By Alex Horowitz
For the first time ever, Phil Jackson is at the helm of a losing team.
Entering December 1, the Knicks stand at a dismal 4-14 record and are 9.5 games out of the first in the division. Despite my overly optimistic feeling entering this season, this is simply not the Knicks year at all. One would think that a team with a star in Carmelo Anthony would lead his team to a decent record, especially when surrounded by players with enormous potential and leadership like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jose Calderon, respectively. Not these Knicks, though. Even after acquiring Calderon from Dallas, a new point guard has not changed the team’s fortunes. Their offense ranks 23rd in the league, while the defense is even worse at 26th. But could this have all been a part of Jackson’s long-term plan for success?
Fast-forward ahead six months. It is right before the NBA draft and the Knicks have a first round selection. Yes, you read that correctly. Even though it seems as if the Knicks trade their prized first round selection each year, the NBA luckily prevents such foolishness from occurring on a yearly basis; teams are unable to trade away a first round pick in consecutive drafts. With a first round pick in their arsenal, the Knicks will have a shot at drafting Duke’s Jahlil Okafor or Kentucky’s Karl Towns, among other top prospects. The catch is, though, that they’ll need to be bad in order to have a chance at grabbing one of those guys- and really bad, at that. Okay, maybe not 76ers bad. But nonetheless, bad enough to be at the top of the lottery.
So, let’s theoretically say that Okafor comes to New York. Already a huge improvement over Samuel Dalembert. Jackson won’t be done just yet, however. It has long been known that the Knicks will heavily pursue Marc Gasol, who is one of the top available big men in the 2015 free agent class. His brother Pau played with Derek Fisher and was coached by Phil, so he’d be key in convincing Marc to come to Manhattan. The Knicks will have ample cap space too, so a max deal is definitely in the realm of possibility. Let’s go with 4 years / $85 million. Let’s also assume that they fill out the remainder of their roster through low key and minimum salary contracts. Here’s what the 2015-16 opening night starting lineup could look like:
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Iman Shumpert
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Jahlil Okafor
C: Marc Gasol
Playoff caliber? No doubt.
Championship contender? For sure.
Realistic? Maybe. Obviously I’m banking on a ton of good stuff to turn in the Knicks favor, but hey, it’s the Knicks; they’ve been without a championship since 1973- they need some good luck for once. Knowing the capabilities of the Zen Master, this dream scenario may be anything but a dream come this summer.
During a lost season, it’s tough to find positives to look forward. And, quite frankly, I hate to root for my favorite team to tank. But I see what the Knicks’ plan is leading towards. It’s a process, and not one for the hasty minded fan, but if all goes according to plan, the end results will be basketball paradise.
For the first time ever, Phil Jackson is at the helm of a losing team. Hopefully it’s his last.
Alex Horowitz is a senior at Briarcliff High School and is an aspiring sports writer. As a lifelong sports fan, he has rooted for the New York Knicks, New York Mets, and Detroit Lions. You can follow him on Twitter @alexhorowitz3
By Brett Malamud
Carmelo Anthony has announced on thisismelo.com that he has re-signed with the New York Knicks. The 30 year old chose New York over Houston, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Let’s get this straight, the news comes as a huge blow to Chicago and a huge sigh of relief in New York. Knicks president Phil Jackson pushed hard to retain Anthony, and keep him away from his other options. Phil needed Carmelo and honestly, Carmelo needed Phil. The Knicks were Melo’s best option for teaming up next season with a big name free agent. Speaking of free agents, Melo was spotted with Kevin Love and Kevin Durant at UCLA a few days ago. Love and Durant will be free agents in 2015 and 2016, respectfully. You can bet that Carmelo was in their ear about a possible change of scenery for them. With an attractive option like the Big Apple, Phil will continue to recruit into the future but for now, Knicks fans can rejoice. Their top dog is on his way back.
Brett Malamud is a Computer Science Major at Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy