Newsday's Al Iannazzone takes you inside the Knicks.
Dwight for Amar'e? Some fans in Gordon Gekko mode
If LeBron James has taught the NBA anything, it's that greed is good.
And it is never too soon to get the campaign started.
According to Ric Bucher and others among ESPN's army of NBA reporters, Dwight Howard has a list of preferred destinations if he is to leave Orlando as a free agent in 2012. The Knicks are apparently on this list.
But they're not at the top, and, if you're rooting for me, it means we can take a break from chasing daily rumors this offseason after two years of the LeBronathon and a season of Melopalooza.
You, of course, don't root for me. So my question then is: are you willing to dump Amar'e Stoudemire that quickly to bring in Howard?
That is the only real scenario that exists between the Knicks and Magic when it comes to a trade (because there's little chance Orlando just lets him walk as a free agent). Put away your slide rules and attempts to suggest the Magic would consider Chauncey Billups and some spare parts (OK, and who would be your point guard for this superstar front line?), Stoudemire would clearly have to go in a deal for Howard because you can't play two pick-and-roll bigs who don't have a post game.
Stoudemire played his high school ball the Orlando area, but would the Magic ever consider taking his contract, without insurance on the fourth and fifth years, and allow Howard to remain in the East?
More importantly, if you're the Knicks, do you really put Amar'e on the block a year after he literally saved your offseason by signing as a free agent? Sure, he had $100 million reasons to sign, but somebody had to be the first.
Those less sentimental among us will dismiss this as a cold, emotionless business decision. Howard fits perfectly in Mike D'Antoni's system, would be a fine complement to Carmelo Anthony and is younger, taller and, of course, a much better rebounder and defender than Stoudemire (though not as good of a scorer as Amar'e). Dwight would provided exactly the kind of defensive presence this franchise has missed since The Big Fella left in 2000. And Patrick Ewing is coaching him now, so any questions he may have about playing in the Big Apple can be answered pretty quickly.
It probably won't even get that far.
The Lakers are the rumored top choice and that franchise's history with great centers, that city's less media intense, more glamorous reputation, better weather (all important factors to Dwight) and the Lakers' possession of valuable assets to trade (Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom) compared to the Knicks' lack of anything in that category (aside from Stoudemire) make them a clear-cut favorite here.
The Knicks should obviously monitor the situation, but this shouldn't be priority. Nor should waiting for Chris Paul....unless he is ready to follow Carmelo's script and guide himself to New York by refusing to sign an extension with anyone other than the Knicks.
Wait...breaking news! Wasn't he seen wearing a Yankees cap recently?
Let the CP3-for-all begin.
* * *
*- It seems like Donnie Walsh is treating the negotiations regarding his own future the way he handles most trades: slow and steady. From what I have heard from various sources, Walsh isn't as much angling for total control as he is for a more controlled environment for the players. Appearances with David Letterman and Regis are no big deal and it's not as much the crowds that gather around the court before games at MSG - the players actually like that because it creates a big-game buzz and atmosphere every night. It's the madness that exists elsewhere, such as in the post-game locker room at the Garden, where visitors are mixed in with members of the media to create an environment unlike any other in the league.
Like we've written here, Walsh still loves the competitive fire and the challenge to build this franchise back up. But there's a lot of nonsense that goes along with the job and distractions have always been an issue around this team. And it's not exclusive to the current era.
In fact, one of the first things Red Holzman did when Ned Irish basically ordered him to swap jobs with Dick McGuire in 1967 was to ban family and friends from attending practices and traveling with the team. Holzman felt the players couldn't concentrate on the game and their responsibilities with so much going on around them, even when they were actually on the court.
In order to be serious about winning a championship, the Garden has to commit to letting the team be about basketball first and selling corporate sponsorships, tickets and everything else second. Winning will sell those sponsorships, tickets and everything else.
* - When Carmelo Anthony was on the Redeem Team, there was something that separated him from most of the rest of the players on that team. It wasn't talent or personality.
It was flab.
Consider that group and the chiseled physiques that were on display in the locker room on a daily basis: Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant...the best players on the team were also the most fit. And then there was Melo, every bit as talented and yet perhaps, ahem, flirting with the need for one of those "manziers" created by Kramer and Frank Costanza.
Carmelo heard about it plenty from those guys, according to several people who were around that team in the summer of 2008. He took it to heart and in the following offseason, he dedicated himself to a rigorous offseason program with a strict diet and intense workout program. And all he did was come back in the best shape of his career, much leaner and stronger. Knee issues, however, derailed what started off as an MVP-caliber season.
This season it appeared that Carmelo softened up a little. Perhaps the wedding and honeymoon (and subsequent campaign to get traded) sidetracked him last summer. But what does Carmelo -- who said he wants the Knicks to be the best team in the East next season -- have on the schedule this summer?
There's still a lot to prove for Carmelo. The two best seasons of his career (2006-07 and 2009-10) saw him put up impressive numbers and yet in each he didn't finish among the five finalists for MVP.
Let's put it out there now: for the Knicks to be a championship-contending team, Carmelo Anthony has to be among the five finalists for MVP.
When you watch the Miami Heat right now, just overwhelming the Boston Celtics, you see Wade and James, just physically stronger, with more endurance, than anyone the Celtics can put on them. Amar'e Stoudemire started the season off that way -- physically dominating opponents -- before he wore down after carrying so much of the weight through the season. He's so dedicated to fitness, it's something we should be able to expect every year.
There's no doubt Carmelo arrived not in the best condition and among the players that the Knicks need to make sure return in better shape -- Ronny Turiaf, for one -- the reaction I got from a few staffers when we discussed this topic is that getting Carmelo into top shape for next season isn't expected to be a problem.
Carmelo got his money and got his wish to be in New York. To be one of the league's most fittest star players should not be a problem.