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Kallas Remarks: Sizing Up The Knicks

Steve Kallas
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Of course the Knicks had to pull the trigger on a Carmelo Anthony trade. But questions surrounding the trade remain; mainly, did the Knicks have to give up so much?

There certainly is a feeling that, if left to his own devices (that is, without the interference of James Dolan and (maybe?) Isiah Thomas), star general manager (see the cap the last few years) Donnie Walsh could have obtained Anthony for less than the Knicks eventually had to give up. An unanswerable question, of course, because we will never know the truth (a hard thing to find nowadays). But the biggest Knick problem falls around giving up seven-footer Timofey Mozgov.

Nobody with even half a basketball brain thinks that the Knicks should have said no to the Anthony deal because of Mozgov. If you do, you're watching the wrong sport. But that, of course, misses the point. The point is that the Knicks, to make a real run at a championship, are going to need a presence in the middle; a big man who can defend and rebound, a seven-footer who will only have to score once-in-a-while, if at all. The hardest thing to obtain to make a run at an NBA title is a superstar. Or two.

While the Knicks now have two, looking at three (Chris Paul? Deron Williams?) after 2012 (or, if all stands the same in the NBA, this time next year at the trade deadline), it says here that if they can't defend or rebound (and, right now, they can't defend or rebound), there won't be a title. Then, non-New Yorkers (and anti-New Yorkers, you know there are lots of them) will start chanting "1973" like they used to chant "1940" for the Rangers.

Would the Knicks have been better off now with a superstar point guard like Deron (pronounced Darin, by the way, according to Williams) Williams rather than a super scorer like Carmelo? Hard to answer, but the Knicks don't project as a championship team with Amare/Carmelo or Amare/Williams alone. A third guy, at a minimum, will be needed.

Back to Mozgov. Aside from the denied intrusion of Isiah Thomas and the "we're all on the same page" statement from the Knick organization, it's no secret that Donnie Walsh wanted to keep Mozgov. Why? Well, that's easy. Nobody knows what Mozgov's upside really is; will he become that defensive, rebounding, shot-blocking, seven-foot center that the Knicks really need? Well, he's got the seven-foot part down. But Walsh's point is well taken.

If Mozgov became that guy (and he would have had the rest of this season and all of next season to develop), the Knicks really would have hit the jackpot. But even if he didn't, he could have been that 15-18 minute back up that really would have helped the Knicks. Now Walsh, if he sticks around (he absolutely should be back), knows that he has to fill another hole.

Finally, all of this assumes that Mike D'Antoni's "style" of play can win an NBA championship. While it says here that it can't (see Kallas Remarks, 3/24/09), the fact is that remains to be seen. Are the Knicks now on a par (talent-wise and depth-wise) with the successful Suns teams that D'Antoni coached before he came to New York? Well, no (two-time MVP (and future Hall of Famer) Steve Nash, a young Amare, an excellent Shawn Marion, Raja Bell, Q Richardson, Leandro Barbosa, Boris Diaw, Joe Johnson for a year, etc.).

Would the Suns have won an NBA title back in 2007 if not for the fight against the eventual- champion Spurs? Of course, we will never know. So the Knicks, right now, are diving in head first to follow the "D'Antoni way" to try and win an NBA title. And the Knicks are still two seasons away (2012-2013, with the addition of a superstar point guard – Chauncey Billups, still an excellent player, will be 36 by then) from a chance to win a championship.


Well, the Knicks are very fortunate that the first game they had was against injury-riddled Milwaukee at the Garden, a 114-108 victory. Any analysis of the actual game that doesn't include this statement -- Toney Douglas was far and away the MVP of the game – shouldn't even be read. The fact that some national highlight packages didn't even include a shot of Douglas hitting a three (or getting the biggest rebound of the game) just shows how skewed the coverage can be. This was Carmelo's night (27 points, 10 rebounds, one assist, 10-25 shooting) and Toney Douglas wasn't going to change that.

Thankfully, Mike Breen and Walt Frazier (not surprisingly) saw it for what it was. Douglas was 5-6 in each half and scored 23 points in 29 minutes. Breen was on it right away and at the end, at two different times, Clyde said it was "The Toney Douglas Show." Of course, he was 100% right.

Douglas hit a huge three at the end of the third quarter to put the Knicks up seven (the Bucks never got closer than two in the fourth). He also hit a huge three with about three minutes left to put the Knicks up six. And then, with about 45 seconds left, he got the biggest rebound of the game on the offensive glass and then dropped it in to Carmelo for the game-clinching basket (up six again).

But even more important, big picture (i.e., potential championship contender down the road), was the amazing contribution of Douglas at the defensive end. Douglas probably guarded Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings for about 25 possessions and all Jennings could get was one basket. Douglas also guarded hot-shooting Keyon Dooling for a while and shut him out. This is where the Knicks are really going to need help.
The Bucks have a good team but have had a tough year. Did you know that sweet-shooting Michael Redd is still on the Bucks? He's missed the whole season. How about Drew Gooden? He's still not back and has missed 32 games. Carlos Delfino, who hurt the Knicks, has missed 31 games. Andrew Bogut, still not 100% after that terrible fall last year where he hurt his elbow and wrist and broke his (shooting) hand, has missed nine games. And Jennings just returned from missing 19 games with a foot injury.

The Bucks are the lowest (as in 30th) scoring team in the NBA, averaging 91.7 points per game. Yet they put up 108 against the Knicks and were in the game until the final minute.

That's not necessarily to criticize the Knicks. It was their first game (with no practice) with Carmelo and Billups (21 points, 8 assists, great floor leadership) and a scaled-back Amare Stoudemire (19 points, only 13 shots, fouled out). But the problems are clear from the get-go. The Knicks are under-sized. Ronny Turiaf as a starter is not the answer. Shawne Williams as the back-up center is not the answer either.

But the Knicks have to go with what they have.

And that's certainly better than what they had a few days ago.

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