Wherefore art thou Melo?

Are you sitting? Good. Brace yourselves: the Knicks have a history of bad-decision making. Such as:

*Letting Xavier McDaniel, Scottie Pippen’s personal Freddy Krueger, leave for the Celtics because they preferred Charles Smith. If I ever run into Pat Riley or Dave Checketts, I’ma be Jimmy Conway grilling Johnny Roastbeef.

*Trading 24-year old Rod Strickland for 33-year old Mo Cheeks.

*Trading 27-year old Mark Jackson for 31-year old Doc Rivers.

*Drafting Kenny Walker over Ron Harper, Dell Curry, and Mark Price, three guards better than any the Knicks would have until Allan Houston in ’96…after Ewing’s prime had passed. Mark Price would still whup Felton’s ass today.

*Drafting Jerrod Mustaf over Jayson Williams, Elden Campbell, and Antonio Davis.

*Holding picks 18, 19, 21 in a draft where Kobe, Steve Nash, Peja Stojakovic & Jermaine O’Neal all went between 13-17, and yet instead of packaging picks to move up, taking John Wallace, Walter McCarty, and Dontae’ Jones…WHO ALL PLAYED THE SAME POSITION!!!!!!!!! (and who, combined, played only 2 more games in their careers than #10 pick Erick Dampier)

*Lastly and leastly, in ’99, in maybe their worst draft decision ever, they bypassed Queensboro/St. John’s star Ron Artest to draft a guy who never played in the NBA, the only 7-footer in human history to have his soul eaten in a single bite.

(FYI: The 80s & 90s aren’t the only decades the Knicks made an art form of fucking up draft picks. Wanna get all 21st century with your pain? )

I’m going to admit a heresy I’ve never confessed aloud: I don’t know if Michael Jordan was objectively better than Patrick Ewing.
I think they both accomplished as much as anyone could with what they were given. But MJ and Ewing to me are like two chefs charged with opening a restaurant. MJ was given the finest ingredients: the rarest spices; the finest wines; premium cuts of Kobe beef (pun intended). Ewing was given some frozen Bubba burgers and a hot plate.
What if James Dolan had owned the 1984 Chicago Bulls? What if, instead of the draft-day deal that brought the rights to Pippen to CHI in exchange for the rights to Olden Polynice, a Dolan-like Bulls owner overrode his basketball people (as Dolan-like owners are known to do) and kept Olden? What if MJ’s co-star ended up being Horace Grant? Or Harvey Grant? Or Orlando Woolridge? What if the Bulls had hired John MacLeod instead of Phil Jackson? How would that have changed the course of MJ’s career? I’ll tell you how: he wouldn’t have won 6 rings. And with the Chicago dynasty never born, Ewing would have won at least one.
And history would be written by a different winner.

Carmelo Anthony is 29. When MJ was 29, his co-star was Scottie Pippen and his head coach was Phil Jackson. When Ewing was 29, his co-star was John Starks and his head coach was Pat Riley. Who is Melo’s co-star? Chandler (on defense)? JR (when he’s being good JR)? Who’s his coach? The Loaf: 

I don’t know what to make of the “you can’t win a title with Melo as your best player” talk. How many players CAN you win a title with as your best player? How many players in the league are clearly superior to Anthony? There are only 2 the Knicks would trade Melo for straight-up without a second thought: Lebron—cuz he’s clearly better—and Durant—cuz he’s clearly younger. Two. Out of 450. That’s it.

When Lebron joined Miami, he didn’t suddenly become a winner. He was already a winner. He didn’t become the best when he won a title. He’s been the best since 2007, the year he led the worst Finals team I’ve ever seen. His co-stars went from Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mo Williams to Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Did he suddenly become someone you could win with as your best player? Or did he finally play on a team a great player could win with?

So besides Lebron and maaaaybe Iceberg Slim, there was, literally, not a human being alive last year who could lead the Knicks farther than Melo did. If you lose Melo, who you bringing in with a higher ceiling? Kevin Love—and I’ve man-crushed on his game since UCLA—is not better than Melo. To subject Love to the same nonsensical criticism Melo gets, name one teammate Love has “made better” in Minnesota. Even if Chris Paul was available, he’s not better than Melo. They’re in the same class as every other great player in the history of the NBA: you can with with them…if you give them guys they can win with.

The Knicks are loaded with players whose salary exceeds their value. I’ma always love STAT for being to the Knicks what Pedro was to the Mets, and I harbor the man no ill will for his injuries and on a human level, I have no objection to his salary, but market-value wise, the distance between what STAT makes and what he produces is the distance between my fantasies of Cintia Dicker and the odds of them ever occurring. Tyson Chandler has come up small throughout his playoff history as a Knick, and his signing, given what it cost them beyond money, is in the discussion for worst Knick decisions ever (but that’s a whole other post). The Knicks didn’t give Bargnani his contract, but in terms of market value, he’s not worth what he makes.
The salary cap is a shade under $59M. Those 4 guys make $70M this year. Only one produces what he’s being paid for.

I don’t know how Melo would hold up given another 5-year deal. Everyone’s loving him as a 4—will that wear on him over time? Cause him to break down prematurely? He’s been pretty durable so far. Maybe he ages and slows and can’t shake younger guys like he does now. Maybe he’ll be best remembered for this.

Or this.

Or this.

Maybe he never wins a title in NY. Maybe he never wins 54 games or a division title again. Maybe the best has already come and gone. If that’s true, any disappointment there weren’t higher highs falls on ownership and management. Not the best player they’ve had for almost 20 years. The Knicks have many, many, many, many problems. Their best player is not one of them.

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