I love New York City. Really, I do. I was born on Long Island and lived there until I was two, most of my relatives still live in the NYC area, I’ve been there countless times and I’m still a devoted Giants fan. But even people who love New York City like me have to admit that the city has a tendency for hyperbole, especially in sports.
When most baseball teams have struggles with their #4 or 5 starting pitchers, fans just shrug it off because those spots aren’t supposed to be where a team puts the best pitchers in its rotation anyhow. But when AJ Burnett has a really bad 2010 season and the Yankees decide to try out Bartolo Colon to replace him, it’s apparently cause for a crisis. When an NFL coach like Mike Shanahan in Denver or Jeff Fisher in Nashville reaches the Super Bowl, it earns them enough good will to hold on to their jobs for another entire decade or close to it.
But when Tom Coughlin leads the Giants to an improbable Super Bowl win and follows it up with another playoff berth and three winning seasons, it’s somehow a shock when Giants GM Jerry Reese doesn’t fire him.
So with that in mind, it’s not really a surprise that with the New York Knicks having fallen just under .500 one month after trading for Carmelo Anthony, a lot of fans and media are panicking and worrying that the Denver Nuggets got the better end of the deal and that the Knicks are actually worse off than before.
I don’t know about getting the better end of the deal but the trade certainly hasn’t caused Denver to fall apart. As of March 25, the Nuggets are 11-4 since trading their superstar and their starting point guard, Chauncey Billups, away and the players they received from New York, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton, have played extremely well. Anthony was never exactly much of a Defensive Player of the Year candidate so that’s helped the Nuggets out and Gallinari, Felton and Chandler are all very good scorers. But with players like Nene, J.R. Smith and Ty Lawson remaining in Denver, the Nuggets were never exactly going to be as vulnerable without Anthony as the Cleveland Cavaliers are without LeBron James.
Also, the Nuggets play in the Northwest Division and while they probably won’t catch Oklahoma City for the division title, it’s not exactly impossible to beat out a Portland team that’s probably playoff bound but has had just as many injury problems as Denver, a Utah team that utterly collapsed after the departures of Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams and a Minnesota team that’s already lost 55 games and might not even have Kevin Love for the rest of the season. The Southwest Division this is not.
The Knicks, on the other hand, kind of overachieved during the first half of the season. They’re a good team, especially on offense and in large part because of the addition during the offseason of Amare Stoudemire. But, as with most of Mike D’Antoni’s teams, they were never really outstanding on defense and as lucky as they were to win so many games during the first half of the season, that was bound to catch up to them sooner or later. The Carmelo trade did leave a major hole at center that wasn’t likely to be adequately filled by Ronny Turiaf but Chandler wasn’t going to fill it for 82 games and four rounds of best-of-seven playoff series either. Maybe if this lineup had gotten more time to work on their flaws, things would be different.
At any rate despite all the panic, the Knicks are still only one game under .500 and in the Eastern Conference, that’s still more than enough to make the playoffs. Given that current No. 2 seed Miami has had its fair share of problems with its new superstars over a full season this year, the Knicks aren’t likely to win it all. But even making it back to the playoffs is pretty impressive. Besides, you never know what might happen in the postseason. And if you don’t believe me, ask the Boston Celtics if they thought it was easy knocking out sub-.500 teams Atlanta and Chicago out in the first round in 2008 and 2009.