The message remains consistent and familiar, even after a summer of upgrading the roster: The Knicks just don't have enough assets to be legit players in a blockbuster trade for a high-end talent such as Chris Paul or Carmelo Anthony. In fact, as we reported in the July 28 editions of Newsday, they don't even have enough to make an amenable deal for Rudy Fernandez.
We also first told you in that story that Fernandez would bolt for Spain rather than spend another season being miserable in Portland. A source close to the player made it crystal clear that Fernandez would have no problem sitting out a year back home waiting for his contract to expire before he could sign with a team in his home country.
It's the only leverage Fernandez has to force a trade, though the Blazers, so far, aren't blinking and aren't at all interested in what the Knicks could offer. They'd like a first round pick, but the Knicks can't offer one until 2014.
Meanwhile, as we told you in Tuesday's editions of Newsday, the Knicks can't engage the Nuggets in talks for Carmelo -- even if that's the player's preferred destination -- because the Nuggets first need to hire a GM. David Griffin, the former Suns executive, is considered the lead candidate.
And naturally the minute the stories started to come out that Carmelo plans to pass on the Nuggets' three-year, $65M extension offer and intends to sign with the Knicks, the rebuttals that the Knicks don't have enough value to trade for him and that other teams could make a play, instead (Nets, Rockets) were sure to emerge. SI.com reported, citing sources, that the Nets and Rockets are also on Carmelo's list of preferred destinations.[The Nets I can understand, because of the proximity to New York City and the pending move to his Brooklyn roots, but Houston? How does a move to Houston make any sense when you consider why he'd leave Denver -- to get back East and in a major market?]
As we said here in the previous blog, this situation could turn into another LeBron James/Cavaliers fiasco for the Nuggets if they aren't proactive. But that doesn't mean they need to make a trade in August or even September.
The Knicks, in fact, would probably prefer to wait until November or December, if not before the February trade deadline, to get something done mainly because it gives them the time they need to -- they hope -- showcase one or two of their young players. For instance, they have Anthony Randolph and believe he can be a dynamic talent, especially in Mike D'Antoni's system. There is also Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari. If one of them starts putting up strong numbers, their value would go up and perhaps that would be enough to make something happen on a grander scale, such as a blockbuster trade for Carmelo.
Of course the argument is that the Knicks could avoid giving up any of their young players and just wait until July when Carmelo becomes a free agent and sign him with their available salary cap space (they'd have to wait until a new CBA is completed, however, with the probability of a new system in place). But the Knicks have to be careful not to let Carmelo slip out from under them if the Nuggets decide they would rather trade him now and get legit value for him rather than putting on the same blinders the Cavs wore last July and lose him as a free agent for nothing.
The Fernandez-to-Spain situation could also find the Blazers more motivated to deal before the season, though it's certain the team would first suspend Fernandez if he went AWOL and refused to report. They could effectively keep him out of the NBA out of spite, unless, of course, a team comes along with an offer they liked. The Bulls and Celtics have made strong overtures -- Chicago would be a perfect destination for Fernandez -- but the Blazers have yet to engage.
Still, as we said at the top, August is not the time to make these types of deals. Expect the activity to peak before and during training camp.
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* - On Friday night, Yonkers Raceway will host the inaugural Dick McGuire Trot, a four-division event that right now has a total purse of $283,848. McGuire, who spent more than 50 years in the Knicks organization as a player, coach and scout, loved playing the horses. He passed away in February at the age of 83. The entire McGuire family will be on hand for the races and will present trophies.
* - Programming note: Knicks Night Live (MSG Network) will start at 9:30 p.m. Thursday night, rather than the usual time of 8 p.m., as it will follow the Liberty game.
The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.