There's little question that timing is everything in life and in basketball.
Had the Knicks won their last four games to climb above .500 and finish the first half of the season with a 22-19 record, we'd probably be licking our lips in anticipation of the final 41 games. We'd be waxing rhapsodic about the ball movement, the growth of Wilson Chandler and the spirit of the first Knicks team in ages that's actually worth watching. We know that's true because that's been our reaction to every one of their winning jags this season.
They aren't on a winning streak, though. They've lost their last four and 10 of the last 16 as their offense sputters to provide any help for Amar'e Stoudemire. They are clearly an improved team, but the lack of another consistent scorer clearly makes them easy to stop on any night when they aren't shooting lights out from the floor. All of those problems still existed when they were 21-14, but they've been brought to the forefront as we hit the midway point. That's why it is time to make a serious push for Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony gives you a scorer who will force defenses to decide between getting beaten by him or by Stoudemire. He gets to the line at a healthy clip, just like Stoudemire, and that will further hurt the opposition by forcing them to go deeper or change their defensive intensity to avoid foul trouble. His presence would mean that the team would be less reliant on distance shooting to carry the offense, something that has to happen to make the next step up the ladder.
There's a lot of resistance to such a deal right now, so let's take it point by point and explain why it is time to make the deal happen.
Just wait until he's a free agent: Obviously this is the best-case scenario, but is it really a risk worth taking to keep players like Chandler and Gallinari who will become largely superfluous with Anthony's arrival? Given the coming labor issues and almost certain work stoppage, it is hard to recommend assuming status quo when it comes to free agency, salary caps and player availability.
Build what you have now and wait for Chris Paul/Deron Williams/Dwight Howard in 2012: Same problem you have above with the changing nature of the financial aspect of the game and a lot of eggs to put in a basket that might never arrive at your doorstep. Hesitation moves work well one-on-one on the court, not so much off the court during trade discussions.
'Melo doesn't help defense or rebounding: Very true and very meaningless. The Knicks don't defend or rebound now, so why would it be a negative to continue to not do those things while being a better offensive team? You're going to have to outscore the opposition to win games and you have a better chance of doing that with Anthony than you do with Chandler and Danilo Gallinari.
You're breaking up a good young core: Let's say those two players, Eddy Curry's carcass and a first-round pick or two go to Denver in a deal, okay? That's two starters, a lot to give up, but it is two starters on a team that is just over .500. Chandler's improved this year, but he's also a player who has never played a full season and prone to long bouts of ineffectiveness. Gallo has also shown new dimensions to his game, but either because of scheme or personality he is far too deferential down the stretches of games. You'd be keeping Landry Fields, the real breakout player this season, although if push comes to shove it is hard to see making him the bridge too far.
What's more, you'd then have a core of Felton, Stoudemire and Anthony which is the kind of balanced trio everyone has been saying the Knicks need for quite some time. Adding pieces that enhance that group would be less difficult than finding the kind of stars that the current core needs to take the next step.
Anthony stagnates the offense: More than a bunch of guys standing around the perimeter bricking shots while Stoudemire gets swarmed down low? Anthony has been a ball-stopper in Denver but he also was part of the beautiful offense that Mike D'Antoni helped put together at the 2008 Olympics. Playing in a different system with different teammates leads to a different role, one that there's absolutely no reason to believe Anthony can't play.
They need a big man and a backup point guard more than Anthony: They definitely need those things, but do they really give the team a bigger net gain? And, since we're at it, it is pretty clear that D'Antoni sees the lack of a big man as a much smaller issue than the world at large. He likes Stoudemire's quickness advantage on offense more than he likes having size in the lineup. That doesn't make him right, but since he's the guy calling the shots you might as well give him the weapons that help him succeed.
We'll try to stop obsessing over every twist and turn in this story, although we'll stop short of making any promises. The 'Melo Watch shows no signs of drying up and the Knicks figure to be right in the middle of every new development.