New York Knicks: 10-plus years in free-fall with no signs of slowing

NBA New York Knicks James Dolan (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
NBA New York Knicks James Dolan (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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NBA New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The Carmelo Anthony Trade

Okay, now that we’ve taken a moment to acknowledge that the Knicks finally finished a season above .500 after 9 straight seasons of losing records, it’s time for the rose-colored glasses to come off. Because honestly, a 42-40 record is a pretty low bar and unsurprisingly, all was not right in Knicks land.

On February 21, 2011, James Dolan made the move that brought Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “But, wasn’t Donnie Walsh was the team President?” you ask. Yes, yes he was. Both Walsh and head coach Mike D’Antoni was against making the trade and they had very good reasons. But Dolan evidently felt the need to don his “chef’s hat” and showcase just how terrible he was at running a ball club.

Walsh and D’Antoni weren’t opposed to Anthony joining the Knicks on principle, but they didn’t want to trade for him. And why should they? Anthony was going to be a free agent at the end of the 2010-11 season and it was common knowledge that the Knicks were at the top of the list of teams he wanted to play for. In all likelihood, Anthony would have signed with the Knicks as a free agent.

Of course, there is the possibility that Melo would at least speak to other organizations but even so, it probably would have been just to leverage Dolan’s interest into the best possible deal.

Dolan, on the other hand, has no concept of leverage and what he was willing to give up to get Melo would make that fact abundantly clear. Dolan would give up Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, $3 million in cash, a 2014 first-round draft pick and two second-round picks.

As I was reading about this trade I literally bounced back and forth between complete disbelief at the utter lack of common sense and uproarious laughter at the ridiculosity at play in this decision. I bet Masai Ujiri, then President of the Denver Nuggets was just floored at his good luck. This was called a blockbuster trade but it would be a blockbuster in the tradition of Cowboys & Aliens, The Lone Ranger and Green Lantern.

It’s bad enough to be so impatient and have such a lack of business acumen that you’re willing to pay through the nose for something that someone has already all but promised to give you. But a deeper look at just how thoroughly Dolan allowed himself to be fleeced by Ujiri makes it difficult for me to find the right combination of words to properly describe just how terrible a decision this was.

Breaking down what Dolan gave away

Along with the fact that Carmelo Anthony’s free agency was only months away, Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni felt that Dolan was giving away too much in the trade. And frankly, they couldn’t have been more right. Let’s break down exactly what was lost.

  • Danilo Gallinari had averaged 13.7 points with New York and has gone on to have season averages of 19.5 in Denver and 19.8 with the Los Angeles Clippers after recovering from an ACL injury. No wonder Walsh and D’Antoni didn’t want to lose him.
  • Raymond Felton had averaged 17 points on the season for the Knicks at the time of the trade. The Knicks did bring him back in the 2012- 13 season although he has not reached his 2010- 11 scoring productivity since.
  • Wilson Chandler averaged 16.4  during the 2010- 11 season
  • Three of the draft picks would later select Jakob Poeltl, Dario Saric and Jamal Murray

By this point in writing about the Knicks, you’d think I’d be getting used to how monumentally bad the decisions made by the front office, and in this case, Dolan himself have been. Instead, I’m running out of ways to express how many times my mind has been blown in the worst possible ways.

To top it all off, the Knicks didn’t get any better after Anthony arrived. In fact, they got a little bit worse. In the 54 games before the trade, the Knicks were sitting at .518. After the trade? Their record for the rest of the games that season was .500 even.

All I can think about is what if. What if Dolan had just held his freaking horses, waited until the offseason and signed Anthony as a free agent allowing him to keep Gallinari, Felton, and Chandler alongside Stoudemire and Anthony?

And what about the draft picks!? Jakob Poeltl will probably never be a huge scorer in the NBA but is a solid back up center. Jamal Murray’s career scoring average is 14.8 after only three years. And Dario Saric is averaging 12.7 in the same period of time. All three are at least reliable options for a team with go-to stars carrying the bulk of the weight.

Next. NBA: 5 teams facing the most pressure heading into the 2019-20 season. dark

I’m starting to wonder if Dolan doesn’t understand the concept that basketball is a team sport.

Ultimately, these players and possibilities wouldn’t be the only casualty of Dolan’s recklessness. We’ll talk more about that in part four.