Seven months after his wedding in New York City started all this, Carmelo Anthony is finally a member of the New York Knicks. The Denver Nuggets finally traded him, along with Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Anthony Carter, and Shelden Williams, and in exchange, they'll receive Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, and Raymond Felton.
The Nuggets will also land New York's 2014 first round draft pick and a couple second round picks, while the Knicks flipped Anthony Randolph and Eddy Curry to the T'Wolves for Corey Brewer. And now everyone asks: Who wins this trade? And on the surface, it looks like everybody came out okay. That's not quite right, though. After all, it's the Knicks!
The Knicks don't win trades, they just lose less dramatically. I mean, all you need to know about these negotiations is that Isiah Thomas was prominently involved as an advisor. Of course the Knicks lost.
To understand why New York comes off as losers here, doing our best to forget the positively Favretastic rumor mill that dominated the past six months, let's remember when it all began. At Carmelo Anthony's wedding, with a toast from Chris Paul. From the New York Post:
According to a person who spoke with wedding attendee Amar'e Stoudemire, Paul made the reference during a speech of a potential union of himself, Stoudemire and Anthony, saying, "We'll form our own Big 3," Paul allegedly said.
James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh vs. Stoudemire-Anthony-Paul. Can you imagine?
Remember just how far-fetched and purply that seemed back in July? Like: "Yes, New York Post sports writer, we can imagine. Now quit stirring up ridiculous rumors."
But now we know that the toast relayed by "a person who spoke with wedding attendee Amar'e Stoudemire" really did happen, and a little more than six months later, the ridiculous rumor is a whole lot closer to becoming reality. And it all began that day in July.
Just as soon as a superstar can make a trade demand, pipe dreams can become reality in the NBA. Now here we are, and Carmelo's a Knick. It says a lot about where the league is right now that it could happen so quickly--maybe too quickly for everyone's good. Nevertheless, Carmelo wanted to get to New York as soon as possible, and New York wasn't willing to risk that he'd change his mind.
Here's my problem, though: Why now? Why not this summer, when New York could have gotten Carmelo for nothing? And if they were going to trade for him, then why give up just about every valuable asset on their roster? On its face, the Carmelo trade makes sense for everyone.
It's a fair package for Denver, Carmelo gets to sign a huge contract extension before the new collective bargaining agreement restricts that sort of deal, and the Knicks get a superstar without giving up much more than Danilo Gallinari. They weren't re-signing Wilson Chandler this offseason, and regardless of how well he's played lately, Raymond Felton was still nothing more than a place-holder until 2012, when New York will make a play for Paul or Deron Williams. So again, it looks good. Or at least, it doesn't look that bad.
But look a little closer.
What happened with Denver and New York the past six months was essentially a game of chicken, and after stonewalling Denver right up until this past weekend, the Knicks blinked.
That's the part that's kind of insane here. Despite what it looked like, this wasn't a case of mutually assured destruction. New York let themselves get suckered into a game of chicken where the trade deadline loomed with a death blow to their dreams, but only Denver was really at risk of get splattered by all this; if the Nuggets hadn't pulled off a trade, Carmelo would have left for nothing this summer. Left for New York, to be exact.
Carmelo wanted a contract extension this season, but it's not like that was his birthright or something. He had a million different opportunities to sign with Denver, and he didn't. He wanted to leave. If that wound up costing him $10 million, then that's what it costs. Besides, he wasn't going to lose nearly as much money as he thought. It shouldn't have been New York's job to make his life easier, stripping their team of valuable trade assets, and leaving themselves with a roster that's as incomplete with 'Melo as it was without him.
So I guess that's what I don't understand in all this. It's an okay trade if you ignore the six months that preceded it, but when you consider the context, it's pretty inexplicable that the Knicks would give up just about every attractive player on the roster to make this happen now. New York had all the leverage here, and then, overnight, they ceded control to Carmelo and the Denver front office.
So, when is a "fair trade" a totally insane trade? When you could have gotten it for free, instead. And make no mistake: The Knicks could have offered Denver nothing, and still gotten exactly what they wanted.
Carmelo Anthony wanted to be on the Knicks. Not the Nuggets, not the Nets, and not anyone else. Rather than capitalize on that leverage, the Knicks capitulated. To Denver's stubborn demands, to Carmelo's impatience, and to pressure from their fans. Rather than act like the team that Carmelo Anthony that desperately wanted to join, they acted like the team that desperately wanted Carmelo Anthony.
It may have been an okay trade at face value, but in the end, it's just bad business. They could have added a blue chip asset for nothing or forced Denver to sell extremely low, and instead, the Knicks gave up valuable assets of their own and paid a fair price for Carmelo, sacrificing the opportunity to flip all those other assets for more talent. People call this a bold move, but look at the bigger picture. The bold move would have been calling everyone else's bluff.
Instead, the Knicks got suckered by a shiny object again. Just like always.
And while we're looking at the broader context with all this... The NBA franchise that's spent the past 10 years overpaying for fool's gold is now left with Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Chauncey Billups, and Landry Fields. Which... Well, it's the Knicks! Could this have ended any other way?