While the fate of Carmelo Anthony rests in the free agent balance and all sorts of fantasies and possible scenarios buzz by our collective heads like bullets from a South Central drive-by in ’86, Phil Jackson and the Knicks aren’t setting off the regime by sitting on their hands and hoping for a miracle. They did that in 2011 and Lebron James gave the city that never sleeps his proverbial ass to kiss.
Having Melo would be nice as Jackson said, but in the meantime the Knicks have begun cleaning house of the old regime and preparing to start The Phil Jackson/Derek Fisher Era with some fresh faces.
According to reports, the Knicks and Dallas Mavericks have agreed in principle on a trade that will return center Tyson Chandler to the team with which he won an NBA championship in 2011. Chandler was a defensive force and vocal team leader when he first arrived in NY in 2011, but injuries have kept him sidelined for crucial stretches and deteriorated his game. The deal will also send Knicks point guard Raymond Felton to the Mavericks in exchange for Dallas point guard Jose Calderon, center Samuel Dalembert, shooting guard Wayne Ellington, promising 21-year-old point guard Shane Larkin and the 34th and 51st pick in Thursday's draft.
Felton had to go. His gun rap—an explosive conclusion to ongoing domestic problems with his boo—resulted in an embarrassing public arrest. Add in the fact that Felton appeared overweight and slow as molasses and his overall game just wasn’t the same in his second go round with NY, and the Knicks were ecstatic to be able to dump him on Dallas.
This move doesn’t make the Knicks roster situation for 2014-15 any clearer but it does show an evident philosophical shift by upper management. Rarely do the Knicks dump salary and acquire draft picks in deals. Traditionally, the Knicks are trading away picks for someone else’s garbage. In this instance, the Knicks get to dump their damaged goods on another squad. This Phil Jackson guy just seems to move like a boss already. His first personnel move after acquiring Fisher seems like a big win for NY just by process of elimination.
"The journey to build this team for the upcoming season and beyond continues," Jackson said in the announcement. "We have added players with this move that will fit right in to our system while maintaining future flexibility.”
The Knicks get some financial flexibility and Calderon’s a vet at point with shooting and passing skills. If the Knicks keep all players acquired in the deal they will have saved $3 million in cap space for this summer. The Knicks are currently over the salary cap and will only be able to use trade exceptions to lure free agents this summer.
Calderon is slated to make about $7 million a year for the next three seasons. Dalembert has a partially guaranteed contract for next season. Larkin, who’s the son of Baseball Hall of Famer Barry, didn’t get much burn in an injury-filled rookie season after being drafted 18th overall from Miami last year and is on the second year of his rookie contract.
Knowing the NY media and the fact that Knicks fans are rarely in a situation to enjoy the draft, that 34th and 51st pick will be the most scrutinized and discussed 2nd round picks in the history of the NBA Draft. As far as Knicks fans are concerned, that 34th pick is a first-rounder. ( I’m getting an awful chuckle just thinking about it. Will the crowd boo when the Knicks take John Doe, a 6-foot-7 all-purpose guard from a D-II school with the 51st pick?)
These dudes might not even make it to opening night. They could be used as pieces to acquire other players or picks. Who knows what Phil’s got percolating in that Zen Master nugget of his? But their current existence is proof that Jackson’s future plans don’t include Melo having the Knicks in a bind. It also gives Knicks fans a reason to watch the damn draft.
Phil is hustling to put the Knicks in a healthier long-term financial and talent situation. He knows when to cut ties with cats that just aren’t popping anymore. Wednesday’s trade wasn’t major. It doesn’t solve the black hole that exists if Melo bounces, but if you’re a Knicks fan who doesn’t have to watch Chandler and Felton underachieve for another miserable, uninspired season, you have to feel like you’re in good hands with Phil.