What does future hold for Knicks?
The news of Raymond Felton's arrest on firearms charges is one of many low points in the New York Knicks' season so far. Have the Knicks hit an all-time low? Our panel of experts break down the current and future state of New York basketball.
1. What's your reaction to Raymond Felton's arrest?
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Shocked, sad and scared. Guns are a bad mix in a stressful situation. Maybe Felton's disagreement would have occurred and escalated to a potentially criminal level even if he were having an All-Star season and the Knicks were leading their division. But you have to wonder if this incident was somewhat a byproduct of Felton and the Knicks' frustrating year.
Amin Elhassan, ESPN Insider: Sadness, for all parties involved. Regardless of innocence or guilt, this is one of those situations where no one comes out of a winner.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Can't imagine that even those who delight in the punching bag that the Knicks have become will enjoy seeing a story that strays this far off the court. It's one thing to be writing about the Knicks' mighty struggles before the trade deadline to find any team willing to take on Felton's contract or the sharp decline in his productivity. No one wants to cover sad stories like this.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: Disappointing. He's having some personal issues, and that is probably a reason why he's had a generally poor season. Before making assumptions about his future, the prudent thing is to let this play out.
Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPNNewYork.com: Stunning. We knew Felton was already having an awful season but certainly didn't see anything like this coming. He clearly was going through issues off the court and now his season, perhaps his career, could be in jeopardy.
2. Have the Knicks hit rock bottom?
Adande: Not quite yet, but they're only one stop away from it on the descending elevator. I don't even want to put into words some of the other things that could go wrong for the Knicks to make this season worse . . . because then they'd probably happen. Sometimes the only thing worse than asking "What's next?" is answering.
Elhassan: I interned for the Knicks in 2004-05, when we were 16-13 on Dec. 31 and went 17-36 the rest of the way. The following season, they ended up paying Larry Brown $19 million for a 23-win season. Did I mention there was a sexual harassment lawsuit brought up that season as well? This, friends, is not rock bottom.
Stein: I remember the wise advice I used to get from editors at The Dallas Morning News when I was covering the late '90s Mavericks before they acquired Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash on the same day and before Mark Cuban bought the team. The Mavs were universally regarded as the decade's worst franchise in North American professional sports, and I can still remember the lecture I got one day for writing that the Mavs had bottomed out. "Never underestimate the Mavs' ability to go even lower" is what they used to tell me. I'd say the same disclaimers apply to the Knicks today.
Windhorst: This season has been gone for a while. I'm an advocate of there always being time -- in a game, in a series and certainly in a season -- that it is dangerous to declare anything over. But this Knicks' season reached failure status long ago. At this point, it's about finding some momentum for next season. Use the open roster spots to find any sort of prospect -- maybe Jimmer Fredette -- and play Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jeremy Tyler a bunch.
Youngmisuk: I must have said, "This is rock bottom for the Knicks" at least four times this season already. And every time I think things can't get worse, they do. Not even 24 hours after the Knicks completed buyouts for Metta World Peace and backup point guard Beno Udrih, and not long after Dirk Nowitzki delivered the ugliest game winner ever seen at the Garden, Felton turns himself in to police?
3. What changes need to be made?
Adande: The most necessary move is the one that's least likely to happen: an ownership change. When a team has been this problematic, this disappointing and this ineffective for this long, it points to the top. The problem is that James Dolan's bumbling ways have not kept the Knicks from hitting a $1 billion franchise valuation, so there's no incentive for him to sell the team.
Elhassan: Other than hypnotizing Jim Dolan? Detonation. The whole thing needs to be stripped down and started from scratch to try to recoup value for what's left. The good news is the Knicks own their 2015 first-round pick outright, and have tremendous projected cap flexibility that summer, so 2014-15 should be a full reset year and the beginning of a new culture.
Stein: The biggest change that needs to be made isn't going to happen. Forget the nonsense about Dolan selling, because he is not divesting himself of the Knicks. But he can sure change how he runs them. Throwing some of those MSG zillions at an R.C. Buford or a Sam Presti to try to overhaul the organization and actually build something for the long term after years of "Go For It Now" strikes me as a good start. I also strongly believe that the utter paranoia that dribbles out of Dolan's office about all aspects of Knicks business and how the team is covered by the media is a source of negativity that seeps into the locker room and drags the team down further. But I don't see Dolan making those sort of tweaks to his approach. Dolan is Dolan.
Windhorst: The roster has an alarming absence of talent when looking at their payroll, which has been said before about the Knicks. It's a multilayered problem. Two decisions hurt: the assets given up in the Carmelo Anthony trade, and the choice to amnesty Chauncey Billups instead of Amar'e Stoudemire. Then the new CBA has restricted their options. There's only three ways to get players -- sign them, trade for them or draft them. The Knicks have no draft picks this year, no cap space and very limited trade assets. Sorry, Knicks fans. This roster must be redone, and that is going to take at least a year.
Youngmisuk: What can they do? They couldn't strike a deal before the trade deadline, something certainly complicated by Iman Shumpert's knee injury right before the deadline. They just bought out World Peace and Udrih, two Knicks who didn't want to be there anymore. They now clearly need another point guard to fill one of the open roster spots. But at this point, it's hard seeing any free agent coming in and having a major impact.
4. Will the Knicks make the playoffs this season?
Adande: No. Let's say it will take 38 wins to get into the Eastern Conference playoffs. That means the Knicks need to win 17 of their remaining 25 games. Does anything you've seen from this team indicate it's ready to win at a .700 clip?
Elhassan: Anything can happen in an Eastern Conference where the Knicks are equidistant from the eight seed (six games back) and the second-worst record in the league (six games ahead). But if I were a betting man, I'd bet against them making it. There's only so much turmoil and adversity any team can take, let alone one as flawed as the Knicks.
Stein: Nope. Too big a hole. Too many injuries. Too many distractions. Too much negativity that has beaten everyone down. Everyone knows that Mike Woodson will be gone at season's end -- they've known it for months -- and that has led to players tuning out, on top of all the other issues. Finally letting Toure' Murry play -- and then Murry uncorking this season's answer to Linsanity -- is the sort of fairy tale required at this point.
Windhorst: No, but this is hardly new information.
Youngmisuk: I still have a really hard time believing that Anthony will be unable to get the Knicks into the eighth seed in the sorry Eastern Conference. But the Knicks keep finding new ways to lose and are now six games out of eighth with 25 games remaining. I guess the Knicks can still get hot, but with 15 of their remaining 25 games on the road, making the playoffs might be harder than clearing cap space and luring another star to play for them this summer.
5. Should Carmelo Anthony leave the Knicks?
Adande: If he wants to win a championship, he should. The desire to win a championship in New York is a siren song to some players, but has yet to prove enough of a lure to bring in the caliber of players who could actually make it happen. LeBron James didn't just flee to warmer weather when he went to Miami, he went to a stable and successful front office. Carmelo should make organization, not location, a priority in his upcoming free agency.
Elhassan: Yes, and this is not just for his own self-interest -- both parties would benefit. Melo would (hopefully) get a chance to hook onto a contender, and the Knicks would be able to pursue a franchise reset and try to do things the right way for once: cap management, valuing draft picks and placing the "culture of we" above all the whims of individuals.
Stein: If his priority is winning a championship or changing the narrative about his career, yes. He obviously needs a lot more help to make a real run at the ring his résumé lacks. And I don't see the Knicks getting him a top-shelf sidekick until summer 2015 at the earliest. It's rather easy for know-it-all outsiders like me to propose Melo leaving a deal worth $130 million on the table, but maybe Melo sees it, too, given what he said earlier this season about LeBron being smart for hooking up with players on Dwyane Wade's and Chris Bosh's level in Miami.
Windhorst: Not yet. He should opt into his contract and put them on the clock and demand roster upgrades and improvements during the next year before making a long-term decision. That's mostly because his other obvious options aren't great at this point and the 2015 free-agency options promise to be excellent.
Youngmisuk: The Knicks' calamities are not helping their cause. How can Carmelo possibly like what he is seeing? He's scored 44 in two of the past three games and the Knicks lost all three. If he's all about winning, then how can he remain a Knick with this roster and cap situation around him? Considering New York can still pay him more than anybody else -- barring a sign-and-trade -- the odds would seem to still favor that he stays. I do still think Melo loves playing in New York and being the franchise centerpiece. But there are still 25 games and about two months left for the Knicks, and that bad taste in Melo's mouth right now could only get worse.