I haven’t posted in a while, but the future of the Knicks is now at stake, so I figured I would write down a few thoughts about Carmelo and his future here. I was an early adopter of the “let’s just blow it up” mentality. This season started off badly, and it only got worse. For a time, it seemed like Melo was a favorite to leave for greener pastures in search of that illusive championship ring. So the options were, let him walk, try to buy him with 129 million dollars that would cripple the Knicks for the length of this contract, or move him now as a rental for a potential contender and try to squeeze out enough assets to immediately start the rebuild. I wasn’t a huge fan of any of those choices, but it seemed that anything which would allow the Knicks to hit the reboot button before their next draft pick in 2025 was the way to go.
That all changed this weekend. At a press conference during the All-Star festivities Melo made some comments that have the potential to alter the course of Knicks history and vault him into my “all-time favorite Knick” slot.
“As far as the money, it don’t really matter to me. If I go somewhere else, I get paid. If I stay in New York, I get paid. As far as the money goes, it’s not my concern. My concern is to be able to compete on a high level, a championship level, coming in this last stretch of my career. I want to compete at that level. “
“I have a chance to attract come people to come to New York. I think playing in New York, and everybody saw this last year, how electrified that city was. The organization, the team, how much fun we had as a team when we was playing good basketball. So I want to kind of bring that back to New York. And if I can become a free agent to make that happen then, I want to do that.”
It was also reported that Lala, Carmelo’s wife, and his family love living in New York and that factors significantly into Melo’s final decision. Individually these are all a bit too cryptic to plan a franchises’ future around, but taken together it is a very positive development. So the question becomes, how much will Melo leave on the table in order to compete, and how can the Knicks avoid completely f**king it up?
The former, while extremely important, pales in comparison to the urgency of the latter. If Melo wants to take a cut that would be meaningful to give the Knicks room, his salary would likely be in the 17-20 million dollar range. That should give them just enough leeway to bring in two centerpieces (likely a point guard and big man) and grab some cheaper but effective role players. Melo understands that this process will have to wait at least one more year because Bargnani, Amare, and Tyson are all on the books until after next season. So the 2015 plan would remain in place, and presumably the 2014-2015 campaign would not be much better than this current season, which is fine considering the Knicks actually have a draft pick next year. If Tim continues to develop, and Shump either morphs back into 2013 Playoffs Shump, or they move him for some other cost effective asset, that is a decent building block. Add in the potential for Jeremy Tyler to be very effective and the possibility that Toure’ develops well, and their cost controlled options are not as bleak as you might think.
The next step is the most important. Targeting a franchise point guard, and defensive stopper will be the ultimate key to whether or not this team succeeds. At this point I don’t think Tyson will or should factor into their long term plans. I was a huge supporter of Tyson, and his 2011-2012 season was one of the more valiant, hard fought efforts by any Knick I’ve seen in a long time. But either his body is breaking down, or he’s just checked out mentally. Either way, he’s just not good enough, or healthy enough to be a part of this teams’ post 2015 roster.
So who can the Knicks target then? Well the first name would be Kyle Lowry, who the Knicks have shown interest in. I definitely do not want to make any sort of trade for him, considering his contract expires after this season. Giving up assets for a rental in a year that ended in mid-December makes no sense. Signing him after this season is fine if you can get a decent price, but I’m not opposed to holding off until 2015 when there is more than enough talent available, and the Knicks could potentially pull-off a “mini-tank” next year if the draft looks deep enough. Big names like Kyrie, Rondo and even Goran Dragic are potential targets, so I would be cautious about moving on Lowry. As I type this, it has been reported the Knicks may be looking to make a move for Jeff Teague, which would actually have my full support. I think he’d be great for Melo, and he is on a very reasonable contract. That could be a move that helps convince Carmelo the Knicks actually do have a long term plan.
The other piece would be securing a defensive minded big man. Essentially the perfect fit is 2011 Tyson Chandler, but unfortunately that isn’t an option. So who are the Knicks best options? Robin Lopez is available, and while some people might scoff at the idea, I think he would be an excellent fit on Carmelo’s Knicks. Other options include Marc Gasol and Omer Asik, although it is unclear how available any of these guys will be. The point is there is no lack of good players that would fit well with a 2015 rebuild. If Melo enters contract discussions with an understanding that his money would be targeted at a specific list, presumably approved by Melo himself, of players in the 2015 off-season, that might be enough to convince him to buy in.
So that leaves all of the pressure on the Knicks front office to have a detailed plan laid out so Melo feels he is working towards something, instead of potentially leaving tens of millions on the table just so the Knicks can max out Bargnani two years from now. I tweeted this a few days ago; if I’m Melo I would demand final say on any and all signings or trades to ensure that I build a team I want to play with. Enough, “Well I’ll leave that up to management”, or “Those decisions are made by the front office.” Melo needs to take complete control of this team and ensure that Dolan’s impulsiveness and stupidity don’t get a chance to ruin a potentially workable plan. Dolans unwillingness to give up too many assets in the proposed Lowry trade was a step in the right direction, but Melo deserves a security blanket. I think this really can work, and if Melo does his part by giving the Knicks workable cap room, they might just have a shot to save this team. Melo’s public statements opened up a whole new world of possibilities, and if he pulls it off, New York will love him forever. So save us Melo, and if you succeed you will own this city forever.