I’m not sure if you heard, but about a month ago, Carmelo Anthony got traded. It was kind of a minor deal and mostly flew under the radar, so it’s absolutely understandable if you scrolled past it on your Twitter feed, or missed your opportunity to Digg it. To be honest, I don’t think that many guys got moved, and I don’t completely remember where he ended up…
Okay, none of that is true. So why are we talking about this again? As far as ‘Melo is concerned, last night marked roughly 28 days since “sources” reported he would spend his workdays at Madison Square Garden. And with both the Knicks and Nuggets playing last night, it’s time to check in on their post-trade progress. Let’s go to work:
Rocky Mountain Rollin’
To me, this trade created some clear personal conflict. While we all know that you have to go get a legitimate star if you’re given the opportunity, but as a Knicks fan, it burns like Taco Bell to see such a likeable group move and have success out West. Gallo, Chandler, Felton, The Moz – these were our guys. We either drafted them, watched them elevate their game to a new level, or liberated them from some KGB prison in Moscow. To see them do so well in the powder blue – though sick – is essentially bittersweet
But even without a real NBA superstar, Denver has found legitimate ways to win games. Trying to run with Nene, Lawson, Felton, J.R., Chandler, K-Mart and Gallo every night, especially in that thin mountain air, is exhausting for teams that have played around 70 games this year. Yes, they have some holes in the middle defensively – remember, this was once partially a Mike D’Antoni rotation – they make up for it with the effort and grit that it takes to keep a spot when there are 10 rotation guys grinding for minutes. That’s how you win nine of 13 games in the pre-postseason NBA. That’s how you blow out teams that just don’t have the talent to run with you. It’s all about effort.
And it doesn’t especially hurt that key guys – both old and new – have started to flourish without the weight of a star. Nene is so skilled that he absolutely could be a go-to, but interestingly prefers to be unselfish and make the right play over posting up and doing that one-armed, call-for-the-ball wave. He also shoots over 60 percent. It’s kind of crazy.
But the buck doesn’t stop there. I used to think that the arrival of Amar’e Stoudemire to New York would stunt the also tall-and-talented Gallinari’s growth. It’s starting to look like that may have been true. In the small sample size he’s been healthy enough to provide, he appears to be foregoing some of those three-balls to get to the line whenever possible. And lately, that’s been a lot. I also thought that J.R. Smith’s previous huck-it-up reputation would only be expanded now with Anthony’s departure, but it looks like that’s not been true at all. Now that he knows he’ll get his fair share of shots on a night-to-night basis, Smith looks less inclined to force them.
Best Trade By-Product: That beautiful ’09 Thunder-esque blend of winning games while gaining experience at the same time. They are the current NBA incarnation of human beat-box Rahzel.
Worst Trade By-Product: Any and all Mozgov post-game interviews. They have it all: the bear-like chuckle, the complete disregard for verb tense and the second-language apologies. So awkward it makes your shoulders hurt. (This might actually be the best by-product.)
Conclusion: A playoff team that will only get better by extending Nene. They could win a playoff series simply because they’re so tough to beat at home.
Blue York, Blue York
So you went out and got yourself a second superstar? Check. And you upgraded at point guard? Check. And somehow you re-acquired a solid seven-foot defender with no discernible offensive skills? Check. So what’s with all the losing?
Now I’m with everyone else in that I don’t believe the Knicks are competing for a ring this year, but I do think they immediately upgraded themselves from “happy to make the playoffs” to “we just might give someone a series.” They have depth concerns, they’re generally small and their interior defense – especially when Amar’e gets some early fouls – gives me night terrors, but these guys can definitely score. And once the Billups-Anthony-Stoudemire triumvirate can actually contribute with some team-earned baskets, they’re going to score even more.
But when they lose, we blame the chemistry. Isn’t that what the Heat did this fall? But the Knicks right now are not Miami. Actually, they’re the anti-Miami. After 16 post-trade games, the Knicks are 6-3 against teams above .500, and 1-6 against teams below. Chemistry should not be the reason why talented teams lose to bad squads – that’s just hustle. If you can go out and win six games against playoff-caliber teams, then you are certainly cohesive enough to avoid six losses against teams operating below the equator.
Best Trade By-Product: For comedy’s sake, every off-angle camera shot of Shelden Williams’ face. I watched the Sunday game at my parent’s house, which led to my mom dropping an extremely brash, “Who is that guy?!”
Worst Trade By-Product: The loss of that we-will-outwork-you-tonight identity. I loved being one of those teams. I’ll love winning a series even more.
Conclusion: A team with so much talent, I think they could absolutely run with Chicago and Miami in a series. TBD if they have actually have the heart to do it.
What do you think?
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