Thursday, February 10, 2011
Updated: February 11, 12:25 PM ET
Knicks can't live on Amare alone
By Stephen A. Smith
Just a few minutes before the New York Knicks decided to officially inform everyone they were going to stink up Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, Amare Stoudemire scared the life out of a packed house. Facedown, devoid of a step -- let alone a spring in it -- he stayed on the floor for a minute more than anyone would've preferred, courtesy of a twisted ankle. It was a scene that made everyone in the Garden gasp and nearly stopped the hearts of New York fans everywhere.
In one twisted, contorted moment, rife with the kind of drama that this town has no interest in whatsoever, the Knicks' resident $100 million franchise player cemented the harsh reality that for now, one man -- Amare -- is responsible for this franchise's future.
Which is why the Knicks must go get Carmelo Anthony as soon as possible.
As in ... today!
Listen to what coach Mike D'Antoni had to say after the Knicks' 116-108 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers: "I don't think we had the energy out there to be a playoff team. For whatever reason, in the first half we just didn't come out and play. You could see it on our face. The energy level, mostly on the defensive end, but it transferred to the offensive end."
Uh, ya think?
Aren't these the same Knicks who've now lost 10 of their past 14 games? Who kept surrendering dunks to the Clips as if the game was taking place on All-Star Weekend instead of on a night that actually counts? Who yield nearly 47 percent shooting to the opposition nightly? Who get outrebounded by nearly five per game and actually consider Timofey Mozgov a legitimate big man at this juncture?
It's time to stop playing games. It's time to stop acting as though the Knicks are a solid team just a star away from championship credibility. They are 26-25. A loss removed from .500 status. The epitome of mediocrity, playing little to no defense. Flip the proverbial coin around, omit Stoudemire from the equation, and what you have is a duplicate version of this season's Cleveland Cavaliers trouncing up and down the hardwood off 33rd Street and 8th Avenue.
The maddening rhetoric must come to an end, right now.
Danilo Gallinari is good, with promise, but hardly worth holding on to if it means not getting Anthony's services. The same should be said about Wilson Chandler, or the likable, impressive Landry Fields, for that matter. And if two of those three is not enough to woo the Nuggets into making a deal, there are other options to consider -- as I've now learned.
According to league sources, the Nuggets have inquired about the Knicks' willingness to let go of Raymond Felton in a potential deal that would allow Denver to unload Chauncey Billups' contract. The Knicks, obviously, have balked on numerous occasions, no doubt thinking their patience will pay off come summertime, since everyone knows New York is where Melo wants to be. This is what prevented Anthony from arriving in the mecca months ago.
No matter which way you slice it, moments of arrogance, ineptitude and, dare I say, stupidity have infected this entire process. The thing is, it is the Knicks who will suffer the most in the end if they don't get Anthony. As if they haven't suffered enough already.
To put it bluntly: LeBron James knew he wanted to go to Miami, but that doesn't mean the Knicks didn't blow an opportunity. Donnie Walsh wasn't in the greatest of health at the time. According to sources, he also didn't schmooze as much as he needed to with LeBron's camp in the months leading up to The Decision.
The problem with that little tidbit of information is that some of those folks are hanging around. They are influencing/counseling/advising Anthony -- and Chris Paul, who ultimately wants to land in New York and, like Melo, is represented by Creative Artists Agency. Both Melo and Paul are friends with LeBron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
So if Walsh, along with the unprecedented three former GMs/executives on his payroll -- Glen Grunwald (ex-Toronto), John Gabriel (Orlando) and newly hired player personnel director Mark Warkentien (Denver) -- can't manage to put their heads together and get Anthony to New York, that may mean they won't get Paul, either.
And all of it begs the question: How good will you feel about the Knicks then? In the years to come? Especially with Stoudemire averaging 37 minutes per night right now, always trying to do too much simply because he has no choice? No doubt wearing himself down in the process.
"We're not playing hard," Stoudemire deadpanned after the loss to the Clippers. "We're not getting loose balls. Seems like we're afraid out there. I said before the game, we've got to have supreme focus. I guess they figured I was talking to the wall because we didn't come out with any focus."
Actually, Stoudemire's wrong. At least in part.
The Knicks came out with limited game because that's all they have. That's who they are. And that is who they'll remain until they get another star in the Garden.