Sunday, 31 July 2011
N.Y. STATE OF PLAY
The Empires new core of Knick basketball.
BY TIM DAVID HARVEY
New York, in the concrete jungle dreams where made last season. After the months of back and forth, the 'if LeBron can do it', speculation and rumour, this Carmelo Anthony situation ended in a New York minute. That infamous Denver contract offer was left on the table only to pick up coffee rings, but still there was no 'melo yellow and Laker purple, or 'Melowlands' in the Garden state. After all that 'melodrama' Anthony's new jersey would not be a Net one. Instead, last season Carmelo crossed the Hudson to another Garden, becoming an instant classic Knickerbocker. Thus forming a Mecca team for America's most popular sport in the worlds most famous arena. Now entertainment is back on Broadway.
Madison Square Garden has never looked so good, (renovations pending), not recently anyway. Even before the Ewing era that shined with all his sweat, or when talent was Starks. We are talking back when there where players that dressed like pimps and pearls in those old locker rooms. Were talking about championship days, even if it only was one day in the franchise's storied history. Carmelo Anthony brings his top 3 game to the Garden, planting the roots of contention in the Big Apple with core-talent and free-agent pick up Amar'e Stoudemire, proving that the apple of New York basketball is finally fresh with two new picks. This N.Y. team is about to make the competition look like maggots, things might soon become a walk in Central Park for this classic franchise who may now be able to add a legendary era to their legacy.
Sure there is hell of a lot standing in the way of this heaven sent collection of trading card players, this is not a video game. The Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics and most importantly the champion Dallas Mavericks are still NBA reality and royalty. Everything must go through these seasoned, established NBA strong-holds. Still the Knicks have as good a chance as anybody and everybody, including their trend setters the Miami Heat. Now that the critics and the comments have caved a little (thanks in some part to Carmelo) LeBron and his 'superfriends' of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh look to make things like great expectations and predicted promises happen down in South Beach. Still as New York assemble their own 'superfriends' in Manhattan, superhero's are back in NYC like the reboot and return of Spiderman. Now that's something to really marvel at. This web of talent look to really challenge any big three, Miami's, L.A., San An or Celtic.
Still this heated, Knick/Miami rivalry has been re-ignited and intensified for the first-time since the Ewing/Mourning, Georgetown graduated giants era. As the Knicks go from most-improved and playoff bound to direct contenders, it's hard to pick a finalist or a champion for next year from this talented mix. Nothing symbolises this rivalry better then the friendly competition between Carmelo and LeBron. Part of the same '03 draft class of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, these two players came up together and have had mirrored careers, with some opposites however.
Throughout their seven and a half years in the league critics have tried to reflect on who's the better player. When Carmelo came out of college and LeBron high-school the two players have had great battles, from their high-rating match-ups to their various attributes and achievements. Now as they both vie for a ring-playing for rival teams-the debate of who's the best will rage on for the next decade, especially when number 24 is deciding which jersey to retire. Both 'Melo and 'Bron turned basement teams into contenders and now their in the high-rises who knows how much of the sky they'll scrape. It was like this next chapter of the James/Anthony saga was meant to happen, like it was set by the NBA powers that be.
Some may think that the Knicks can't touch Miami or Boston for that matter, but the playing field is as wide as M.C. Hammer pants. The Knicks have a strong inside, out game, as Stoudemire chips away at the paint with his power plays, donut tag destroying dunks and STAT stuffers. As Carmelo takes care of the perimeter and everything between, bridging the gap between the 3's and the 4's of this league he makes the Knicks become a double or triple team nightmare. This isn't a dream. The league hasn't been hit by an inside, out one, two punch as strong as this since two guys named Shaquille and Kobe got it together.
Don't discredit the fact that New York have a three as big as any in the association. Sure all the hype on this trade has been on Anthony-like it has all year-but Chauncey Billups is a real important acquisition too. He may be getting older-and an down-grade in age from Raymond Felton-but Chauncey is still one of the best point guards in the league and a real upgrade for these Knicks. The quiet legend has hit many high-notes in his career, despite being an unsung hero at times. Still Billups has dished his way to a Championship, and set the table with an NBA Finals MVP. It's this type of invaluable experience and selflessness that affords the Knicks to be accounted for title contention. Billups may just be the Rasheed Wallace pickup of his 2003 championship Pistons to these 'bockers. Or Mr. Big Shot may just be the third installment of the Mecca's grand trio.
Still the orange and blue lost some colour in their big transaction, (this was no Pau Gasol trade) including a core of young, promising talent. Italian hot shooter Danilo Gallinari will be missed by the fans and box scores alike, while Felton has proved his worth at the point. Tough and tenacious Wilson Chandler has been a great rising star for the Knicks, as has the Odom versatile but seldom-used Anthony Randolph. The loss of Timofey Mozgov, 3 mill and some draft picks hurts too, but the Knicks still gained a lot in return and also unloaded that killer contract of Eddy Curry. Which N.Y. wanted to get rid of as it was doing criminal damage to their books like Frank Lucas. Still the Knicks may have lost a lot of potential franchise talent, but they've rebounded from losses like this before (see Lee, David) and besides they got their man and with true grit and dedication they where prepared to give everything they had to get him.
Still, in any true trade what the Knicks lost they found in new talent, Mr. Candace Parker, Shelden Williams is yet to show the NBA what he did in college, but time is on the side for this dependable, hard, dirty working back-up. Anthony Carter has been a great backup for Billups in Denver and expect one of the L's best reserves to continue this coming off the pine in the Garden. Renaldo Balkman also returns to the Knicks where his hustle and energy made him a favourite from the coaches to the nose-bleeds. In blockbuster trades it's important when many players come from one team to another to establish familiarity, unity and comfort with each other in a new situation, Balkman is the perfect bridge between old Denver players and current New York ones. Sending Randolph and Curry to Minnesota, the Knicks also gained Corey Brewer. A spark-plug, dunking dynamo that gave N.Y. it's Shannon Brown they tried to get last offseason, but then they released him to get bigger and more experienced and dynamic with Jared Jeffries.
Plus rising rookie and star Landry Fields is still on board, as are Shawne Williams, Roger Mason and bench energiser Ronny Turiaf and all his passion, getting behind and rounding out this brilliant roster. Let's not forget that running this team is one of the leagues best and flashy, brightest coaches Mike D'Antoni. A man who gives this team the experience and flair to run and gun to the top. It doesn't end here though. The future is as bright as the Manhattan skyline on July 4th. This team doesn't have to appeal to lottery picks anymore, they won't be getting any. Free-agents are the ticket now and if Chris Paul gets his wish this team's Empire State reach could scrape the stars. The sky really is the limit as who knows what's next for a team that's achieved the unimaginable and the impossible twice. 'Superfriends 2' isn't just in the works. It's in production. Now who else will be cast in support?
The most valuable franchise in the league are looking even more like a billion dollars hitting the .500 mark for the first time since 2000. This new decade belongs to them. What a difference 365 days make. This time last year the only star power New York had rested on Tracy McGrady's expiring knee and contract. The Knicks were still a joke, turning predicted potential into more broken promises and free-food give-aways to keep fans appetites. Now the MSG faithful are hungry for more as amendments have made this team. Now you can see this team rising even further then their first round playoff exit, especially after 'Melo's debut, game saving 11.4 seconds, in then the teams highest-rating four quarters since M.J.s '95 return at MSG. Now the only things that could stop these rangers is for the roof to cave in with asbestos after a hockey game again. Still that would only postpone the inevitable. Expect more buzzer beaters, sell-outs and wins next season. Whenever that starts.
The only losers now are the fans who decided to buy Mets tickets instead. The only donut's across the street, round the court from Fuse. The only similarity there to these Knicks is the dunkin'. Now Q-Tip's rally cry, 'Go New York' can be sung with pride. Now Kanye West wants a courtside connection. Time to book those Spike Lee seats, instead of imagine how you could trip a referee like Larry David did Shaq because now the Mecca of basketball is the hot ticket once again. As this team graduates to the high-life, 'Ball Players (and) rap stars (will be) addicted to the limelight". You don't want to be left without a seat in the Garden as New York is on the rise. Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan, Madison Square stand up! N.Y. is the city. Let's hear it for New York.