If you’re really a fan of NBA basketball, you have to like what the New York Knicks have accomplished in trading for Carmelo Anthony. What the Knicks have done is add Anthony, who along with Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant is perhaps the most versatile scorer in the league, to a front line that already includes Amar’e Stoudamire, a real superstar who like Anthony is approaching his prime and is hungry for the first championship of his career.
What has mostly been overlooked is their addition of point guard Chauncey Billups. While advanced in age, Billups, 34, still has a few good years left in him. Known as ‘Mr. Big Shot’ in NBA annals, Billups, the NBA Finals MVP with Detroit in 2004, is still a high-caliber point guard who will enjoy chasing another NBA championship — absent in New York since 1975 — alongside Anthony and Stoudamire.
Unlike the Yankees, the Knicks don’t engender the type of national love-hate feelings that their Bronx neighbors do. While the Yankees have stockpiled championships by simply buying players that other team’s couldn’t afford, Spike Lee’s favorite team has been more a symbol of the pervasive mediocrity (they have missed the playoffs seven straight years) and front office imbecility (James Dolan) that is rampant in the league’s worst teams.
It’s going to take some time for the Knicks to come together, just like it did for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. The Heat struggled at the star of the season but have since found their groove, going 9-8 to start the season but since then going 36-7 to stand atop the Southeast division.
It won’t be this year, but championship expectations will soon be upon the Knicks. Already there have been whispers that the Knicks are targeting a stellar young point guard to add in the future. As of today Deron Williams is off the market, having fled Utah for the seemingly more hospitable shores of New Jersey. So perhaps it will be Chris Paul (currently of the New Orleans Hornets), who talked excitedly at Anthony’s wedding last summer about joining him to play in New York.
This is precisely what the NBA needs to happen now, this marrying of superstar players in one location to form teams bubbling with star power. It was liberating when the Miami trio decided that they would take care of every aspect of their professional lives and unite in South Beach.
And to a degree, Anthony orchestrated a similar power move in New York. Anthony has always said that he wanted to play basketball in New York, and that means playing for the Knicks and at Madison Square Garden, not in Brooklyn for the Nets and Russian Billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov (note to the media: brothers don’t get off on that).
Nuggets president Josh Kroenke confirmed that Anthony asked to be traded to New York when the two met last August.
“As much as we did try to show him there was a future here, there was never any wooing,’’ said Kroenke, who tried in vain to get Anthony’s signature on a three-year, $65 million extension, said.”Carmelo made it very clear to me personally that it was probably going to be a situation where he wasn’t going to be here next year. At that point in time, I think that we needed to make a decision that was the best for the franchise.”
The league will benefit from this because, let’s be honest, there are some organizations that are so bad that they should be considered for omission.
No professional players should be as bad as LeBron’s former Cleveland team has become and still be allowed to charge admission. The Cavs just recently ended a league-record 26-game losing streak, this after pompous owner Dan Gilbert promised his distraught fan base that the Cavs would be better than the Heat, the ‘traitor’s’ new team. The Washington Wizards have managed to win just one road game this season and started the season by losing their first 25 away from their home court. Toronto is a beautiful Canadian city but their NBA franchise will never be successful because no star player wants to play there after his contract expires (see Vince Carter and Bosh).
If the league locks out the players at the end of collective bargaining agreement this summer, the publicity will be brutal. The players — and this is a peculiar phenomenon with the NBA — will be perceived as spoiled, lazy thugs. If the league takes this type of hit, there is going to have a long road to recovery. There may be indicators that the economy is getting better, but the ever-increasing price of an NBA ticket has already become out of reach for the average family, whatever that is.
There is a lot that’s wrong with the league today. A few more elite teams won’t cure the problem in its entirety, but it will create a more attractive product for a league that could use a boost.