Commentary

Another Groundhog Day for Knicks

Trade deadline changes nothing, and they are still stuck selling 'Someday'

Updated: February 20, 2014, 6:35 PM ET
By Johnette Howard | ESPNNewYork.com

Carmelo AnthonyAP Photo/Jonathan BachmanThe Knicks didn't make a move at the trade deadline.
So after a week of rumors that the New York Knicks were chasing mid-level guards who aren't as bad as Raymond Felton, and less than a year removed from having a 54-win team that inspired hope, the Knicks watched the NBA trade deadline pass them by Thursday afternoon while sitting in the same dreary place they usually sit.

The Knicks are back to selling some puffed-up vision of Someday.

The team's latest company line is that it tried and tried but didn't want to do anything that would impair its ability to make a really big move in summer 2015.

Too bad the truth is the Knicks' latest invisible front office, as presently deconstructed by owner Jim Dolan, inspires little faith that it has a clue how to make anything happen in the here and now -- or a year from now, for that matter.

There's no one here with the guts of Boston's Danny Ainge to blow up the roster. No one with the vision of Houston's Daryl Morey to get things done. No one to convince Dolan that if oft-lampooned Clippers owner Donald Sterling could end decades of ineptitude by simply getting the hell out of the way, maybe Dolan could, too?

No. Instead, what all this tedious talk about the Knicks aiming for summer 2015 ignores is it's summer 2014 -- this year -- that brings LeBron James and Chris Bosh's opt-out years, and a time when a notable list of one-and-done college freshmen could come out. It also ignores this: If the Knicks really wanted to cement their ability to re-sign Carmelo Anthony by getting him more help, last summer was the time to do it. Not 2015, the year after he can opt out.

But what was the Knicks' response instead? They re-signed J.R. Smith and traded for Andrea Bargnani, a space eater whose expiring contract in 2015 is now being described by the Knicks' brain trust as part of the team's future silver lining, along with finally getting to Amar'e Stoudemire's walk year.

Dolan also ran off general manager Glen Grunwald last summer, same as he ran off team president Donnie Walsh before that.

All Walsh is doing now with the Pacers is presiding over the best team in the East, along with Larry Bird.

And Grunwald's replacement, Steve Mills? He's supposedly in place to leverage his contacts with the agents who represent so many top NBA players -- same as we were told way back when that Mike D'Antoni was going to use his sparkling personality and Olympic teamwork with LeBron to woo him to the Knicks.

How'd that go?

Dolan has one set point: Incorrigibly clueless.

Taken all together, it's enough to make you sigh and ask why Anthony would want to stay in New York if (as he's said) he's willing to forgo the max contract he could command only by re-signing here?

It also makes you wonder when fans in New York might wake up and decide that maybe it's time to be more interested in the Nets, even if Brooklyn isn't the more fabled franchise, same as Los Angeles drifted from the Lakers and warmed up to the Clippers.

When you add up what this trade deadline has reminded us about the Knicks, it's sobering. They didn't have enough assets to trade for a player of significance even before Iman Shumpert -- their trade bait version of Pau Gasol, a player often dangled but never shipped out -- got hurt Wednesday night. They don't have the draft picks to land a franchise player. They don't have the salary-cap room to sign a big free agent right now. And there are no guarantees -- just hope -- Anthony will stay.

But hey, there's always Summer 2015.

And the hubristic notion that everyone is dying to play in New York.

This sales job isn't just a familiar storyline for the Knicks.

It's gotten beyond old.

A couple of years ago, when David Stern was still NBA commissioner, I had a dream that Stern decided to seize the Knicks from Dolan by arguing eminent domain. The city rejoiced. Clyde Frazier danced in the streets.

But Stern, who once publicly spanked the Knicks for not being models of enlightened management, just retired.

The Knicks aren't going to make the playoffs, even though it's a down year in the East. They have a coach who looks like a dead man walking. Anthony is staying/going/staying, depending on what day you check with him or his wife, La La. J.R. Smith has rediscovered his Inner Knucklehead since he got a pay raise. And that part of the NBA that the real contenders inhabit is on another plane, beyond the Knicks' reach.

The Knicks are back to selling Someday.

Which is why this trade deadline feels like Groundhog Day instead.

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