The culmination of the most exciting first round in NBA playoff history is on the horizon with three Game 7s on Saturday and a pair of Game 7s on Sunday. In New York City, Barclays Center was raucous on Friday evening, as the only echoes emerging from Madison Square Garden this postseason have been from the strings of James Dolan's guitar solos.
The New York Knicks’ most pressing concerns involve hiring Steve Kerr as their new head coach and keeping Carmelo Anthony under contract for at least another season. If Melo were to be honest with himself, New York isn’t in position to take advantage of his preternatural scoring instincts to advance deep into the playoffs in the next few years.
If Melo espouses Drake’s YOLO system, he’ll realize the allure of Chicago is too perfect to pass up. If there’s one thing we know about Melo it’s that he rarely passes…up an opportunity. The Bulls offense is constantly in the midst of famine mode—even when Derrick Rose is farming for buckets. Melo could be the rain man in Bulls red and black elevating the offense to loftier heights.
If for some reason, Melo is on the fence about a redux of the past four years of ineptitude, these playoffs are a reminder that the grass is greener on the other side, even if the greenbacks and dead presidents aren’t as prodigious.
(ahem!, breaks fourth wall) Melo, I’m here to serve as your out of date pop culture ambassador to “the other side” similar to the Haley Joel Osment and Bruce Willis alliance. If you’re paying attention here are my credentials. I see people, ex-Knicks to be specific. All the time. They’re everywhere. You only see what you wanna see. You’re a dead man walking if you re-sign with the Knicks. You just don’t seem to know it. Walk away from the city’s bright lights and choose the order of the United Center over Madison Square Garden’s chaos wheel.
Our first sighting of the Basketball Mecca’s ghosts begin with the 2008-09 Knicks. It’s been a decade since Jamal Crawford plopped smack dab in the center of Manhattan and drove coaches mad with his quirky shot-selection and “thin ice here” crossover.
Paired with (Stephon Marbury), Zach Randolph and David Lee, Jamal Crawford’s star shined its brightest as the Knicks leading scorer during his final full season in New York.
Off the Clippers bench, Crawford was recently awarded his second Sixth Man of the Year after finishing second to JR Smith last season. Smith’s shot vomiting has a tendency to projectile backwards in his franchise’s face, but Crawford is an all-time great “grenade launcher” because of his ugly shot making.
Oracle Arena in
Golden State Oakland is a familiar stomping ground for Crawford who was traded from New York to Golden State three weeks into a 6-3 start to the 2008-09 season as Donnie Walsh began furiously unloading long-term contracts in preparation for the blockbuster summer of 2010. Needless to say, their strategy air balled horribly, mushroomed and is still spewing toxic vibes throughout 3 ½ boroughs.
As a pure scorer, few could match Crawford’s crafty, improvisation ability or match the shot clock-beating ice cold blood that runs through his veins. He may be the best non-superstar shot creator in the league. The zenith of his Knicks career was his detonation of a 52-point salvo all over the Miami Heat’s flaccid defense in late January 2007.
Crawford’s distribution ability evolved to a point that before his shocking trade to Golden State Isiah Thomas began pondering aloud about Crawford as the Knicks point guard of the future during a 23-win debacle of a season. It was a ridiculous notion if only because Crawford doesn’t fit the psychological skillset of a natural point guard with his propensity for pounding the air out the rock and pedestrian team management skills.
Meanwhile, juxtaposed opposite Crawford in the fluorescent Warriors yellow is David Lee who remains one of the league’s most reliable rebounders despite a decline in minutes and a diminishing vertical leap. Lee was the final member of the Isiah Thomas troika to get traded during the summer of 2010.
The same day Crawford was unloaded, the Knicks dispatched second-leading scorer Zach Randolph to the Clippers for Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas. The tandem of Eddy Curry and Randolph were supposed to eat up opposing frontcourts with their size advantage, scoring ability and rebounding prowess. Instead they became a portly duo that ate every meal in sight while their bloated contracts became more of an albatross on the Knicks organization than for any opponent.
In Memphis, Randolph has become more beloved than arteries clogged with barbecue sauce and his double-double production has been integral to Memphis thwarting Kevin Durant’s ascension to the Western Conference throne.
Had the Lee, Randolph, Crawford Knicks been allowed to coagulate and jell together, they may have been the foundation for a formidable trio. The pre-Melo Knicks D'Antoni trio posted a combined Player Efficiency Rating of 55. Likewise, the PER of Miami's Big 3 was 58.1 and the league average individual PER is only 13.5.
The Randolph, Lee and Crawford swaps weren't the only occcasions Knicks management was routed in a trade.
On Draft Night 2002, Scott Layden dealt burly Brazilian forward Nenê Hilario to Denver for Antonio McDyess and the 25th pick Frank Williams.
McDyess was a 20/10 machine during a slew of sub-.500 seasons in Denver, but hadn’t played in nearly two years after blowing his knee to shreds and never averaged double figures again. It was only fitting that the Knicks drafted Nenê and went for the cannonball splash move in a drained pool over the prudent one by trading him for a 6-9 forward with bad knees, two picks before the Phoenix Suns drafted an explosive young Amar’e Stoudemire. It’s a Knickerbeggar tradition!
Nenê became a playoff stalwart alongside Anthony in Denver and absolutely obliterated Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah during the Wizards first round series against Chicago.
A slot down from Nenê in the small forward slot is lanky, undervalued Trevor Ariza. When the Wizards were forced to go on a Nenê diet with their power forward suspended for Game 4, Ariza drained a franchise record six three-pointers. It was par for the course for Ariza who’s been Talladega wreckin’ defenses at a career-high clip.
His 14.4 points per game this season is a modest career-high, but it’s how he gets his points that make him so invaluable.
Lighting quick point guard John Wall made a drastic leap forward in his evolution this season because he and Ariza developed into a special penetrate and kick duo this season. The corner three is the most efficient shot beyond four feet on the court and although Bradley Beal is touted as Washington’s top young three-point marksman, Ariza took advantage of that shot better than any player in the league.
MOST CORNER 3s THIS SEASON
1. Trevor Ariza — 78 (77 assisted)
2. Joe Johnson — 74 (72 assisted)
3. Klay Thompson — 72 (70 assisted)
4. Wesley Matthews — 72 (71 assisted)
5. P.J. Tucker — 66 (65 assisted)
As infatuated with the three-point arc that the Knicks offense has been since the Mike D’Antoni era, Ariza would have been a more impeccable fit for the contemporary Knicks than Lindsay Lohan's court-issued ankle monitor.
Ariza is a markedly improved shooter since his Knicks career nosedived and somehow he's only 28 years old, 10 seasons into his NBA life. Presumably, his prime is only just beginning. When Ariza was shipped out of New York he was a 23 percent shooter from deep who only lined up for perimeter treys once every blue moon. These days his catch and shoot ability has made him half of the best battery duo in sports since Rivera to Posada.
Clippers forward Matt Barnes and Memphis Grizzlies reserve point guard Beno Udrich aren’t as renowned as the aforementioned ex-Knicks, but Udrih is worth a mention because he was waived days before Raymond Felton’s illegal firearms arrest. In the wake of Nick Calathes’ violation of the NBA's Anti-Drug Policy, Udrih has been thrust into a prominent role.
As Mike Conley’s hamstring strain is evaluated before Game 7 against Oklahoma City, Udrih could take center stage once again after scoring 26 points in 28 minutes of action in Games 2 and 3 of this series.
Conversely, the Knicks often wind up getting swindled. Take for instance, their pricy acquisition of Andre Bargnani. Sans Bargnani (and Rudy Gay) DeMar DeRozan's production spike has been congruent to the Raptors rising win-loss record and the Knicks relocation to Rocky Bottom Avenue.
Melo came home to New York and had a good run, but nobody should blame Melo for taking the first jet out of JFK and moving on to another chapter in his life. You only live once. He shouldn't waste another second of it in New York.