Posted on: August 17, 2010 5:20 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2010 10:21 pm
In a time when they have few real options for upgrades, Carmelo Anthony presents a unique opportunity for the Knicks, and one they need to cash in on immediately.
Posted by Matt Moore
The best and worst thing about the New York Knicks (beyond intangible things like history and their fans) is James Dolan. For all his gaffes, his petulant silence , and most damning, for his continued association with Isiah Thomas, the harbinger of New York Basketball Doom, Dolan brings the checkbook. And that's relevant. You don't have to be a big spender in a big market. Look at Donald Sterling. Or Jerry Reinsdorf. You can pull a profit, enjoy the perks, and not push the bill. But Dolan, for better or worse, spends money to try and make the Knicks a contender.
The problem? He's been willing to make deals and put his name on the marker for decisions that it wouldn't have taken much to refute. Say, calling a few friends to ask if they were good ideas. Or opening a window. Asking a taxi driver. Using the internet . Any of these options would have given him some level of insight that hey, you know what I shouldn't do? Anything Isiah Thomas tells me.
The result is that the Knicks are a team you can 100% count on to spend money to improve their team. Dolan will dive into the luxury tax like it's a nice warm pool. He's also had to do that in order for Donnie Walsh to clean up the mess at Madison Square Garden. It hasn't just taken money, but draft picks and roster compromises, though, and that's why they're seldom considered "on the rise" despite their summer overhaul.
The worst move of Donnie Walsh's time in New York was his concession of picks in the Tracy McGrady deal. The plan was simple. Get cap space to bring in two max free agents, regardless of what it takes. But in doing so, they agreed to swap with the Rockets next season (unless the Knicks get the top overall pick, in which case Walsh has bigger issues), and surrender their 2012 first rounder. This is after having to give the Jazz their 2010 pick in the last of the Isiah Thomas collateral damage.
For a team trying to go young, rebuild, and refigure, those draft picks are gold. Or more accurately, perhaps, they're timber. Imagine you're playing one of those civilization video games. You can harvest tons of crops, and train lots of soldiers. But if you don't have timber, you're not building any structures for them to live in. That's what draft picks are. And if the Knicks were going to try and aim for a top player in the league to team with Amar'e Stoudemire, fresh of the free agency gravy train, they needed those picks. It's why a deal with New Orleans was highly unlikely for New York, regardless of Chris Paul's wedding toast.
Quite simply, the reason most NBA fans and media don't think their team will trade with the Knicks is that they simply don't have anything to give back.
Which is why the Carmelo Anthony situation presents such a unique opportunity for the New York.
With Ken Berger's multiple reports that Anthony is angling his way out of Denver and recent word that the Nuggets have started to deal with that reality , even as they try and lock in a new GM, the Knicks are most talked-about as a destination. But Nuggets fans of course don't think the Knicks can return enough assets or, as I said, picks, to make the deal. But if you're looking at the big black barrel of losing Melo in free agency, the Knicks actually have a package that could be enough for Denver, if Denver doesn't take a hard line and if New York doesn't attach itself to outdated ideas.
First, you need money to make up for Melo's contract. That means Eddy Curry. And while taking on Curry may seem a bitter pill for Nuggets fans ("Trading Carmelo Anthony for Eddy Curry?! This is madness!" No, this is the NBA post-Miami Triad), his expiring contract will put them in a position to start rebuilding, which is what happens after you lose a star of Melo's magnitude. Next, they would acquire Wilson Chandler, which again, isn't a sterling asset, but is at least a capable scorer with a reasonable contract and would fill some of the gap. The big talent target, though, would be Danillo Galinari. The Rooster gives the Nuggets a pure scorer with as sweet a stroke as you'll find the league, young, versatile, and capable of playing at Melo's position. Throw in some 2014-2020 picks, and the package isn't toxic. It's not good, but it's more than what the Cavs got from Miami absconding with LeBron James.
There are other options, like recently acquired Anthony Randolph or tantalizing combo-guard Toney Douglas. But the point is the same. The Knicks can't offer a lot of teams what they would want for a star, and can't offer what the Nuggets would want in fair return for Carmelo Anthony. But that's honestly impossible to begin with. Either you're willing to trade Melo for less than he's worth, or you're not willing to trade him. Otherwise you're just standing there, saying "Multipass!" and not understanding why the strange man keeps looking at you longingly. And with the current NBA economic situation, with the CBA future in doubt, the Knicks provide an ideal partner, surprisingly.
Any deal for Anthony will be contingent on an extend-and-trade, where Melo gets the three-year, $65 million extension the Nuggets are offering and gets the new team. The trade partner has to not only be able to swallow his current contract, but willing to take on that kind of deal with the looming possibility of a greatly reduced and possibly hardened salary cap coming about from the CBA talks next summer. To handle that contingency, you need someone with deep pockets. A little down the road, whoever does take Carmelo and his extension, even if it's the Nuggets going forward, their ownership will likely resist any adjustment that eliminates their flexibility. Count Miami and Los Angeles in on supporting that paradigm.
Dolan's checkbook can speak volumes, for better or worse. And if the new CBA restructures the NBA to a hard cap, it'll be for the worse. But just as it's been in the past, Dolan and his wallet will cross that bridge when they get there.
Posted on: August 5, 2010 4:31 pm
Posted by Matt Moore
Ken Berger's report on the upcoming meeting of the players' union and ownership is probably only going to go as well as the last meeting did. Here's a little dramatic re-enactment of that exchange:
Players' union: "Psshaw!"
Players' union: "As if!"
Owners: (Rabble rabble!)
But among the information KB passed along , there is the one that keeps coming to life:
Like partygoers ordering the last few rounds of drinks on the Titanic, owners doled out more than $1 billion in salary commitments during free agency. Five-year deals north of $30 million for the likes of Channing Frye, Drew Gooden, Amir Johnson and Travis Outlaw were among the head-scratchers -- or, as one person on the players' side of the debate called it, "the height of stupidity" for owners heading into a labor fight.
In politics, I'm told there is a drive to create easy-to-digest slogans. And "You gave Darko Milicic $20 million" is the union's new rallying cry. And it's certainly a valid one. But wrapped up in all this two-faced jesterdom is a question that started bugging me. KB notes that teams gave out up to a billion dollars in free agent money this summer. But then later, there's this sobering, theoretically unrelated note, again, something we know but that bears repeating:
"There's a concept known as the self-fulfilling prophecy," one of the people involved in bargaining said. "When you have both parties saying there's going to be a lockout, the likelihood of it happening is very high. ... My interpretation is, I don't think either one of these guys is ready to move."
So just to go over this once more. The ownership group lays out $1 billion dollars the summer of free agency and takes on water for it. At the same time, the ownership group is steadfastly moving towards a lockout with seemingly no concern over how long it will go on. Anyone else picking up a paradigm here? The owners gave out a considerable amount of money over a given number of years... but are almost positive they will not be giving the full amount.
A lockout season prorates the players' pay. With players paid twice a month, if the lockout lasts into half the season, that scrapes off half that first year's salary. Take a swing at how much less those salaries become depending on how long the lockout lasts? Meanwhile, the ownership group negotiates for a tougher deal which will curtail spending in the future. So we've got a primary element of the union's case that probably won't be true. It won't stop the union from being able to use it as an argument, but then, the more the union uses it, the more likely a lockout becomes, which of course, drops the price off the contracts.
Even if the lockout only lasts a month into the season, that could drop millions off a team's payroll. Combine that with whatever revisions the owners force the players to concede, particularly those top-end players, since they aren't making their presence felt at the meetings, and there's a pattern forming here. The owners seem like they're a step behind. But it's possible that Berger's source was right:
"[The owners] are not remotely worried. They're fully prepared to shut the thing down."
The union's campaign slogan may ring true in theory, but it's possible the owners are a step ahead, regardless of how these talks develop.
Posted on: July 30, 2010 8:45 pm
Posted by Matt Moore
Ken Berger's column today touches on the future of the league through the ever-narrowing window of the upcoming CBA talks. The column itself specifically touches on the viability and reception of an NFL-style franchise tag in the NBA. But a salient point might get lost in the column, one that belies another level of complexity in the talks that will occur over the next 12+ months.
From KB's piece :
“The league would love to have [a franchise tag] in place to maintain competitive balance,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the Sports Law Program at Tulane University. “The small-market owners would love it, but the big-market owners wouldn’t. It’s not just a struggle between the owners and the players. It’s a struggle between the owners and the other owners.”
The point belies something lost in the offer-counter-offer-counter-counter
The league will first and foremost side with the owners. They have a responsibility to ownership to protect their interests. But the league is also torn on the interests of the big-market teams versus the small-market teams, who have competing interests within the owners contingent.
For example, a franchise tag as Berger outlines would have helped Cleveland keep LeBron for another year, buying time to make another run at a title, provided the Cavs targeted an “exclusive” tag for James. Even a non-exclusive tag would have prevented the Big 3 from forming by demanding two first round picks in exchange for James, making the sign-and-trade for Chris Bosh that much harder, especially if Toronto also oped for a franchise tag on Bosh.
And that's great for Toronto and Cleveland, but the teams that have led the labor negotiations have been the very teams that would hate a franchise tag, those teams that were in contention for LeBron this summer. New York. Chicago. New Jersey/Brooklyn. LA Clippers. And the Miami Heat. It's those owners, along with those in Boston and LA who have the most to lose from restructuring, that could prevent change at this level.
But the franchise tag is a concept. There's a very real battle that will be fought during these negotiations, one that could drive a wedge of confusion into the owners' obtuse fortress.
Revenue sharing is a players union issue. At least that's how the union sees it, and it has been pushing for changes to the revenue sharing system aggressively. David Stern said at the All-Star game that revenue sharing was a priority for the league, but also made it clear that it would be a separately negotiated process internally with the owners, not something the league would allow the players to negotiate during the CBA talks.
This is likely to be a major issue of contention, to the point where the union may have to employ labor law in order to force the issue onto the table. But the owners may not just be having to fend off this push from the union. Forces within the owners group may have a rising contingent of newer owners who are unhappy with the current model, which essentially gives the big market teams significant advantages at every turn, trapping small-market teams at the bottom in a rich-get-richer, poor-get-poorer model. There are obvious exceptions in San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Orlando, but both the Spurs and Magic have spent a considerable amount of money in order to overcome that gap, and the Magic have yet to claim a title while the Thunder are merely projected towards success.
As a few examples, in the NFL, which is clearly the most successful sports league in America, television revenue is split among all the teams while in the NBA, the home team negotiates its own television deal. The NFL home team splits the gate 60/40 with the away team, while the NBA home team keeps all its revenue.
An adjustment like this may seem indicative of a move towards welfare ownership that could lead to bad ownership allowing to float, but it's hard to argue that's a worse arrangement than the massive gap between the small market teams and the big markets. Newer ownership, though, has made noise about wanting to move away from the status quo.
Meanwhile, as the owners are trying to shore up their own front, they are likely to tailor their proposals to the union to benefit the non-superstar players while restricting the top percentage of players. Appealing to these players with concessions could help them with their overall goal of capping exorbitant spending (on non-Darko players, of course). This sets up a scenario of there being five separate entities in the CBA talks. The superstar players, the role players, the big-market owners and the small-market owners, with the league trying to keep tabs on everyone in the hopes of getting a resolution (that obviously favors their constituents, the owners).
Things are going to get a heck of a lot messier before they get better.
Posted on: July 27, 2010 9:19 am
Posted by Matt Moore
Hey look, Jamal Crawford was polite. He waited till the ink was dry on Joe Johnson's new max contract before making it clear he wants more money over more years.
ESPN.com's Chris Broussard reports that Crawford has contacted Hawks management and informed them he wants a contract extension before his contract expires next year. Crawford, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, was an integral part of the Hawks' success last season, which despite its dismal ending against the Magic, had the Hawks make the playoffs as the third seed, and sweep the Boston Celtics in regular season play. Crawford provided a dynamic scorer off the bench that overwhelmed opponents after they had exhausted personnel and schemes on containing Joe Johnson.
This move is likely one of the first of a series of extension requests that should come over the next few months. With the CBA negotiations in full lockdown, and a lockout an unavoidable eventuality, players will be wanting to avoid the stricter salary restrictions that will accompany the new agreement. As such, these kinds of requests should become the norm over the next few months.
The problem, of course, is that the Hawks have just given Joe Johnson a max contract, and along with all their other players, face a strict cap situation regardless of how the CBA works out. This is on top of the fact that Al Horford will need either an extension or re-signing at the end of his rookie contract. With Horford sharing Johnson's agent, Arn Tellem, and with him being an All-Star, there's a good chance the Hawks may not be able to commit the money to Crawford. This is what happens when you choose to spend the boat on the nicest oar onboard.