The New York Knicks were eliminated from the NBA Playoffs Wednesday, losing to the Miami Heat in five games, making only two of those games look anywhere near competitive. In the midst of that they lost two of their guards to catastrophic knee injuries and lost one of their cornerstone big men for a game because he lost a fight a fire extinguisher. Even in a not so competitive series the Knicks found ways to keep us interested which is about the only thing this franchise is good at, keeping us interested. They were expected to compete for a title this season and didn’t for a variety of reasons. Recent history shows owner James Dolan might be tempted to hit the panic button and try to start over. The Knicks should not do that and even if they tried they wouldn’t be able to. Like it or not, Knicks fans are stuck with another over hyped team for the next year or two.
A lot of what’s been written since the Knicks were swept out of the playoffs last season is whether Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire can co-exist. The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. They have to co-exist. For the time being ‘Melo appears to be the Knicks darling at the moment, though “Linsanity” proved he can become the villain in a matter of days, and that’s fine. He’s the Knicks most talented player and one of the two or three best pure scorers in the league. It would appear, especially if Mike Woodson sticks around, that the Knicks are his team. Trading Carmelo Anthony seems highly unlikely at this point and considering his unique skill set and massive yearly salary, would you even like what you’d get back for him? Amar’e’s situation is worse. He makes as much money as ‘Melo, doesn’t seem to have the same offensive explosion he used to and hasn’t improved any other facet of his game to make up for the loss of his legendary athleticism. He would be the likely trade candidate except, as we’ve covered before , he has an uninsured contract and a history of injuries. If were an MVP caliber player you MIGHT be able to find a trade partner who will give you something of value back for him, but for a guy who might not even crack a top 10 power forward list, there’s no way you get anything back that you want.
Tyson Chandler was arguably the Knicks’ most steady contributor this year. Trading him would most likely cause more problems than it would solve. Unless they can convince Steve Nash to sign for a team Mike D’Antoni didn’t want to coach anymore for the mid-level exception, the Knicks have to resign Jeremy Lin. Tim Legler said recently on ESPN’s NBA Today podcast that he thought Lin would end up being a guy who would average 12 or 13 points and six or seven assist per game and that a team would be OK with having their starting point guard do that as long as he could cut down the turnovers. Would a line up of Jeremy Lin, Landry Fields, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler (let’s remember Iman Shumpert just suffered what is usually a nine to 12 month injury) be a title contender? Doubtful, but it would be a playoff team and probably even a team that gets in to the second round if everyone’s healthy. That’s the ceiling you’re looking at Knicks fans. The contracts and style of play of your two best players won’t win you a title, but they’ll also keep you competitive. You can’t amnesty one of them, you did that to Chauncey Billups to sign Tyson Chandler. All Knicks fans can do is hope ‘Melo and Stoudemire stay healthy for an extended period of time (something they haven’t been since ‘Melo’s arrival last February) and hope that whoever their coach next season can put a system together that creates enough space for everyone to be able to operate in without losing interest or focus any other areas of the game. Of course this only works if ownership, the players themselves and fans all don’t have an irrationally high opinion of what this team can be, and we all know that’s not the case.