Almost immediately after sources reported that the deal that would send Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks had finally been completed, I got sick.
I’ve been referring to it as catching the Melo Fever, though I haven’t gotten an opportunity to actually say this out loud to anyone. It’s been like the movie “Outbreak” without the sweet HAZ-MAT suits, nor Dustin Hoffman’s charming good looks. I might have ebola. I might not make it.
While it might seem like my present condition is tempering my excitement, don’t buy into the whining. This has been the greatest few days of my life. Well, since I discovered that crusty Kahlua bottle in the back of my mother’s liquor cabinet. I was 15 then and she never found out. Watching ‘Melo sink an 8-foot fadeaway to ice last night’s win (after Amar’e Stoudamire had already fouled out) was (almost) better than that. My weak-ass fist pump did not do it justice.
On a night where neither of the major Knicks acquisitions shot the ball well (Chauncey was 4 of 12, with Melo starting slow, but finishing the night 10 of 25), how much better they’ve immediately become shined through. Amar’e and ‘Melo (hell yeah, apostrophes!!!) both benefited from help defense and double-teams shading towards the other guy. Chauncey went to the line 12 times. Toney Douglas hit a bunch of open 3s. This is a team that now can and will find a number of ways to score, even if one of their go-to’s isn’t having a career night.
While the defensive inadequacies were absolutely present (Carmelo had some horrendous rotations over to corner-3 shooters), all the talk so far with the two superstars has been about defense. Interesting because they might be the only guys in the rotation that historically aren’t solid defenders (maybe Bill Walker makes that cut too). If they end up walking the walk as much as they’re talking the talk (I didn’t make that up), they might be able to get a few stops. And if this team can get just a couple of stops in crunch time, they will be very very very very good.
The End of An Era: There are lots of fans and media-types that have been really harping on Isiah Thomas’ influence on this trade. Don’t listen to those people. I’ll crush them. This trade smelled of Donnie Walsh and his English Leather cologne (Donnie’s cologne choices have not been verified) right from the beginning. Yes, Donnie and D’Antoni were clearly hesitant to gut all the young guns, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t gonna do it. Donnie is a legitimate gangsta (The O.G. G.M.), and I’m sure throughout the entire process he was simply playing the game. At the point right before the trade, any piece out of the Chandler-Gallo-Mozgov trifecta that gets kept is a win. A bigger win: getting Carmelo Anthony.
I’m positive that throughout all the Melo-Drama, Donnie knew this. Swapping Felton for Billups (who shoots the 3 at a MUCH better rate) already looks like a clear upgrade, and sneakily adding the uber-athletic Corey Brewer as a long perimeter defender is just what Donnie Walsh does. I almost feel like the last-minute adds these players to the deals without telling anyone. Not sure how it happens, but I like it.
But more importantly (maybe MOST importantly), this trade marks the final goodbyes of the last Isiah guys. Wilson Chandler (my boy) and Eddy Curry (not my boy) were the final remaining pieces leftover from the Isiah era — and while Will turned out to be an awesome guy and a steal in the late 1st round of the 2007 draft — these two (mostly Curry) marked the ultimate sour whiff leftover from the Isiah stank that permeated throughout the Garden for so long (It smelled like tacos. Bad, bad tacos.) Yes, the return of Renaldo Balkman does slightly skew this, but he was extended by Denver and is on a reasonable contract (not very Isiah-esque), so I’m not counting it. This was arrivederci for the Baby-Faced Assasin. As I have so cleverly titled this column, I’d like to wish him a warm “Bye-siah Thomas” and a cold good riddance. Suck it Isiah.
The Trade: Top 10 things (in no order) that will be missed with the loss of our former boys to Denver & Minnesota: Michelle Trachtenberg, the Anthony Randolph face, Eddy Curry fat jokes, Ray Felton’s sick cross-over that almost always precluded a terrible jumper, the hilarious Timofey Mozgov fake twitter (sample: “Bear meet and toast = brekfast of champiuns,. Ready for war at praktis b4 we head 2 Italy. Ya gotova!!!!”), all and every ferocious Wilson Chandler dunk, Danilo Gallinari’s un-gelled hair, referring to Mozgov exclusively as Drago, the “And One” guy tattooed on Will’s shoulder (who does that?), and last but not least Eddy Curry’s heart condition. Some of these are not sarcastic, but it might be embarrassing to admit which ones.
Why This Makes Them Better: Oh let me count the ways. Amar’e can remain aggressive defensively even while he’s in foul trouble. He’s got a knack for help-defending (but not a whole lot of other forms of d) that he has been abandoning whenever the fouls start to add up. Just a theory? (like you folks and your gravity). No way. Last night, Amar’e and his five fouls legitimately protected the paint knowing full well he might foul out. He did. A week ago, the Knicks would’ve immediately built a 3-story condo with bricked 3′s and blew that game. But now that guy Carmelo Anthony is on their team. Let me re-phrase that: now Carmelo Anthony is on my team. And he’s pretty good.
What else? Other than the obvious scoring capabilities, a poor rebounding team absolutely upgrades with a Turiaf-Amar’e-Melo frontline compared to the previous Amar’e-Chandler-Gallo arrangement — especially when Turiaf’s sole responsibility on this team is to defend, rebound, dunk and dance on the bench. It’s not like they’re going to be monsters on the boards, but they do have the size and general thickness (wow, what a weird way to say that) to hold their own on the glass. In closing, let’s all hold hands and pray that increased minutes for Turiaf marks the return of the Hammer-down.
My Prediction: I’m thinking/hoping this team stays in the 6 spot (I think we get KILLED by Dwight and the Magic if we move up at all) and plays Chicago in the 1st round. Why? Because I absolutely believe that the Knicks can beat them. I agree that Chicago is excellent defensively and Derek Rose is just 3-chromosome-retarded most nights, but I’m not sold on their sexy-elite status yet. Maybe it’s just me, but I think Chicago struggles to stop the Knicks, where I think the ‘Bockers match up pretty well defensively with Los Bulls. That’s assuming that they match up well defensively with anyone. We shall see.
Thanks for tuning in, folks, I’m gonna go get medicated.
CJ Aquilino is a guy who likes basketball more than any out-of-shape young white man should. He currently has two years left of NCAA eligibility. Read his full HV archive here.