“All men commend patience, although few are willing to practice it” – Thomas Kempis
If the goal of front office personal is to build a strong, talented core to consistently contend with the upper echelon of one’s sport, then patience is not only a key, but is a must. You need only look at the steps taken by the Oklahoma City Thunder in recent years to see the positive effects patience can have on an organization. Unfortunately for long suffering New York Knicks fans, their team’s idea of patience is similar to Terrell Owens’ idea of child support – allegedly nonexistent.
One must only look back to February 20011 to understand how the Knicks once again find themselves wading in a pool of turmoil and mediocrity. You ask – How could this happen so quickly after years of clearing cap space to bring in alleged superstars? We’ll let me tell you…
Last season, having recently signed Amare Stoudemire and gotten off to a strong start, owner James Dolan (pictured below) had an alleged itchy trigger finger and desperately wanted to bring another ‘big name’ to basketball’s brightest stage. Reportedly ignoring the advice of one of the NBA’s most well-respected general managers, Donnie Walsh, the owner exacted his will and executed a blockbuster deal for alleged superstar Carmelo Anthony. GM Walsh felt the Knicks would be better off to show some patience and simply wait for Anthony to become a free agent at the end of the year. Dolan couldn’t wait. Walsh is no longer with the team (It always seems to work out that way).
For the extra three months of his service, and the thrill to watch Anthony’s Knicks get swept out of the 2011 Playoffs, it cost the Knicks – Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, a 2014 first round pick, two second rounders, and $3 million in cash. HOLY… SHIT. All that for three extra months of regular season basketball and a playoff ass kicking?!? I’m no expert, but that seems a tad excessive… especially when it was no secret Anthony had every intention of signing with New York in the off-season anyways. Oh well, that’s just the Knicks being the Knicks. Or Dolan being Dolan.
But the craziest part of all, despite the excessive price the Knicks paid for a couple extra months of Anthony, it was the rash moves made this off-season that could be the most crippling for the team going forward. Coming off the four-game beat down handed out by the Boston Celtics in the 2011 Playoffs, the Knicks once again looked for the quick-fix solution to a championship (Spoiler Alert: It didn’t work). Instead of being patient and waiting until the summer of 2012 when two potential superstars (Deron Williams and Dwight Howard) could both opt of their contracts and be unrestricted free-agents, the Knicks just had to make another headline.
Using their one-time only ‘get out of jail free card’, the Knicks chose to exercise their amnesty clause on veteran point guard Chauncey Billups, who had one-year, $14.2 million remaining on his contract (The amnesty clause effectively wipes the salary off the books without the team taking a salary cap hit). Just to make sure this newly found salary cap flexibility didn’t burn a hole in their deep pockets, the Knicks immediately signed a player who was fresh off a championship season and who’s value would never be higher, Tyson Chandler. He received a four-year, $58 million contract. Just for the record, now heading into the 2011-12 season, the core players on the Knicks were locked up for 4-years, $83 million (Stoudemire), 4-years, $83 million (Anthony) and 4-years, $58 million (Chandler).
While it’s great to have core stars locked up to long-term deals when a team is competing for championships, this collection of misfit talent finished just 36-30 and was recently stomped out of the first round of the 2012 Playoffs by the younger, more talented Miami Heat. Next year, the Knicks’ core is just going to be one year older and one year further from the primes of their careers (minus Anthony, who should be in the latter half of his prime). The Knicks are again handcuffed. So you ask once more – How, after years of working so hard to create salary cap space, did the Knicks get to this point? Answer: They were not patient.
For the sake of this upcoming hypothetical, let’s assume the Knicks’ owner got his way and executed the Anthony trade. Had Dolan then exercised just a year’s worth of patience, the Knicks could have been legitimate title contenders for years to come. Here’s how that may have come about:
- Instead of using the amnesty clause on Billups this past off-season, the Knicks let him play out the final season on his contract and open up $14.2 million in cap space.
- Since the Knicks are proud owners of the single most untradeable contract in the entire NBA (Stoudemire’s – because the contract was unable to get insured and his body is more fragile than Humpty Dumpty’s), the Knicks accept the amnesty clause as a ‘gift from God’ and use it on Stoudemire following the 2012 season. The 3-years, $65 million remaining on his deal would be wiped off the cap, thus creating an average of $21.67 million of cap room over the next three seasons.
- Then, knowing the Knicks were going to have a ton of cap space, Dwight Howard chooses not to pledge another season aboard the sinking Orlando Magic, and as a result creates a ridiculously strong class of free agents (headlined by himself and Deron Williams).
- With the plethora of newly created cap space, the Knicks hire Don Draper to execute one of his world-famous sales pitches and the Knicks’ patience finally pays off in the form of a trio named Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, and Deron Williams – or as you may call them, instant contenders for the next 5 seasons.
I think I know the answer to this, but I’ll ask it anyways. Who would you rather build a championship-contending team around? Anthony, Stoudemire, and Chandler, OR Anthony, Howard, and Williams? That’s what I thought…
Even if the Knicks were only able to sign one of those two stars this off-season, at least fans could continue dreaming about how the team may spend the remaining cap money to bring in a third stud in the very near future. Unfortunately for diehard Knicks’ fans, the Knicks are dream killers.
Not only did the team assemble a rash, ill-advised group of borderline superstars, but they also simultaneously crushed any hope fans may have had for a better future. Like it or not Knicks’ fans, this is your team for the next three years – a middle of the pack squad who will likely be bounced in the first round of the Playoffs season after season. This my friends, is exactly what impatience does in sports. It crushes more souls than Voldemort. That’s that.