Two words I'd been waiting to hear since August, when this started to become a reality, were finally uttered to me tonight on a brief phone call:
Here are the details of a complicated three-team trade that was finalized Monday:
The Knicks get Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, along with former Knick Renaldo Balkman, forward Shelden Williams and guard Anthony Carter from Denver and Corey Brewer from Minnesota, as well.
Denver gets Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Timofey Mozgov, plus the Knicks' 2014 first round pick, two future second round picks, $3M in cash and a boatload of cap/tax savings as a result of the deal.
Minnesota gets Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph and $3M in cash.
From what I'm told, neither Brewer nor the first round pick may remain in the Knicks' possession beyond Thursday's trade deadline, but what either could be used for remains unknown. The deal leaves at hole at center with the departure of the 7-1 Mozgov. Right now the Knicks' size consists of 6-10 Amar'e Stoudemire, 6-10 Ronny Turiaf, 6-9 Shawne Williams and 6-9 Shelden Williams. Has Earl Barron kept working out?
What about Rasheed Wallace, who actually would be a perfect fit in D'Antoni's system? There was talk in January of Sheed possibly coming out of retirement to join the Celtics, but nothing has materialized. In fact around the time these rumors surfaced, his agent, Bill Strickland, shot them down quickly.
Marcus Camby is another that could be a perfect fit, but he has said he wants to stay in Portland and even threatened to retire if he was traded.
The Knicks could open up some roster spots by waiving Carter, Shelden Williams, or even Roger Mason, who are each on expiring one-year veterans minimum deals.
As for the future, the cap situation is impossible to project because there will be a new CBA in place for that season.
So let's just provide the payroll for now: $60,610,763 in salaries for nine players, with $1,577,744 in non-guaranteed money ($788,872 for second-round picks Landry Fields and Andy Rautins). But that's not taking into account the team's 2011 first round pick, which is an automatic cap hit. The Rockets, as part of the Tracy McGrady trade from last season, have the right to swap picks with the Knicks if Houston finishes with a better record.
We don't know what the new system will bring, but considering this year's cap is $59M, it's safe to assume the Knicks will be capped-out for the 2011-12 season. So, unless there is a shocking development in collective bargaining and the reviled mid-level exception survives, the Knicks won't be able to sign anyone. So forget making a play for Tyson Chandler or signing Marc Gasol or DeAndre Jordan to offer sheets. The most the Knicks will be able to do is add a few depth players on veteran's minimum deals.
So who will be the starting center in 2011-12? Don't laugh, but the team does have 2010 second round pick Jerome Jordan, a gangly 7-footer, playing over in Europe.
As we've explained here at the Fix before, the Knicks could get some cap space if they waive Billups within five days of their final game (playoffs count) of the 2010-11 season. After five days, his entire $14.2M salary for 2011-12 locks in. If he's waived, the team only owes him $3.7M, which means a $10.5M savings.
But, of course, it would also mean a huge deficit at the starting point guard position, which is an area you don't want to have to address until 2012.
The Carmelo trade, once he signs the extension, will have a major impact on the 2012 cap situation, of course. If you factor in the 105 percent increase (and check my math, Fixers, because you know I'm brutal), Carmelo's salary for 2012-13 will be $19,444,502. Amar'e is slated to make $19,948,799. The only other salary commitment the Knicks have, to date, is Balkman's $1,675,000. The team doesn't have a first round pick in '12 (that goes to Houston), but the salary for their '11 pick will also be included here, plus the anticipated extension that Fields is likely to get if he keeps up his quality play. But just factoring in the commitments currently on the ledger, the Knicks are locked in for $41,068,301 for three players.
Again, with the uncertainty of the new CBA and the system that will be installed, it's impossible to predict how much cap space the Knicks will have to spend to fill out a roster of at least nine more players to reach the requisite 12.
Will it be enough to be able to sign the much-needed third piece to the roster, a star point guard such as Deron Williams or Chris Paul? It might not matter. Considering that the Nuggets came away pretty well from the experience of trading Anthony rather than losing him for nothing the way the Cavaliers, Suns and Raptors did with their stars last summer, perhaps the Hornets and Jazz follow the same script.
If that's the case, the Knicks have acquired a valuable commodity in Billups, with a $14.2M salary slot as an expiring contract to help match a salary such as Williams' and Paul's $16.3M in a trade deadline deal. The Knicks would still need to develop at least one, if not more, quality young assets that would interest the Jazz.
But would Williams or Paul follow Carmelo's strategy and make it clear they would only sign contract extensions with a certain team. Williams has already said he wouldn't want to go through what Carmelo just went through this season.
You know what? None of us want to go through it again, either.