There were no burning jerseys. No bars filled with inebriated fans waiting to lash out against a once beloved superstar. The only cameras fixated on Carmelo Anthony Monday night, were those of TBS’ Conan O’Brian show. ‘Melo offered no hint as to where he would end up, though a few hours later he officially became a New York Knick. Certainly when Anthony missed a team practice to tape the show, the folks in Colorado should have known that their forward would be trading a Denver omelet for Long Island chowder.
What does this move mean for the Knicks?
It does not mean they will contend for a title this year. The Knicks gave up one core to receive another. While Anthony and Billups do have chemistry together, they still need time to find their place in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. This was revealed in Wednesday night’s debut as Anthony missed a couple wide open looks to Amare Stoudemire, and instead forcing bad shots going 10-25. Anthony did finish with 10 rebounds, but only one assist. Billups showed why he is one of the proven veterans in the game with a solid 21 point, eight assist performance. It will be interesting to see how he helps the development of Tony Douglas, a late first round pick out of Florida State. Douglas had 23 points on 10-12 shooting off the bench.
The fact is that the Knicks have not made the playoffs since Anthony has been in the league. They were hindered by a few bad years under team president Isiah Thomas, who proved that one man can ruin a franchise, a la Matt Millen’s torpedoing of the NFL’s Detroit Lions. Billups is the Knick’s most proven post-season player having gone to the NBA finals twice, winning once in 2004 where he was named Finals MVP. Anthony has been to the playoffs six times in his career, but has only won two series. Stoudemire has never seen the floor of an NBA Finals having been thwarted by the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs alike. Just as the Miami Heat needed a few months to work out the kinks, it may be too late for the Knicks to figure it out in time for a push to the finals.
The East is also clearly the tougher conference of the two. The Knicks currently stand sixth in playoff seeding, and could see the Chicago Bulls or the Orlando Magic in the first round (if they’re lucky). If they were to get past the first round, the Knicks would face either the Heat or the Boston Celtics. Those teams being the favorites to win the conference, it is not likely that New York will defeat them barring injury.
What does this move mean for Denver?
Giving up Anthony and Billups means the Nuggets are essentially giving up on the season. Billups is a Denver native, a fan favorite and the veteran leader that Denver depended on to lead them into the playoffs. Now the Nuggets have three new players with zero playoff experience, and one that suffered a sweep with the Charlotte Bobcats last season. Denver currently sits in sixth place in the West with Portland and Memphis sitting one and two games back respectively. The probability they fall is likely, having lost a potential 40 point scorer and one of the best guards in the league.
Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri should be focusing on what he can get for his newly acquired players. Gallinari and Chandler could be packaged nicely for a player of Chris Paul’s stature with a few draft picks of course. However, Paul could be looking to go to a contender like the Lakers or the Dallas Mavericks, both with aging point guards.
If the Hornets lose Paul (which is 99.99999 percent sure to happen), New Orleans will become just another of the bottom-tier teams that fans will no longer watch. Who will tune in to see a Wizards-Kings game? Where is the allure of a Raptors-Warriors match up? This is a scary proposition for league commissioner David Stern, but one that could work in his favor come negotiations this summer.
What does this move mean towards the pending lockout?
With Anthony going to the Knicks and Deron Williams traded to the New Jersey Nets just a day later, two more NBA franchises (the Nuggets and Jazz) have become irrelevant, again. Player’s association executive director Billy Hunter called the all-star break an unofficial deadline to measure the possibility of a lockout. Stern concurred, adding that the two were in agreement on one thing: the amount of money lost by the NBA due to struggling teams. At the end of the 2009-10 season, Stern estimated that the league lost close to $400 million. The estimated losses at the end of this season are slightly less, but could still reach $350 million.
The league is essentially in the same place it was last year. No new agreement has been reached, and the doomsday clock for a work stoppage is reaching the midnight hour. The NBA is seeking a $750-$800 million dollar decrease in player salary, a salary cap and implementation of a franchise player tag; all of which Hunter has deemed a “nonstarter”. A reduction of that magnitude could mean a two-thirds reduction in the $2.1 billion dollars the league spends on player salaries annually.
Hunter has made a counter offer that includes players receiving 57 percent of all basketball-related income. Stern has marked that offer as the central issue in the discussions, and has repeatedly shot the player’s union down.
Scenarios for a restructuring have been hypothesized. Anything from the moving of teams to other countries, to complete the dismantling of certain franchises has been imagined by executives and journalists. Will your favorite team be on the chopping block? The collective bargaining agreement expires June 30.