First: Carmelo Anthony will remain a New York Knick.
Second: What does that mean for the Toronto Raptors, Andrea Bargnani and Steve Nash?
We’ll get to that, but first things first.
If the New York Knicks were a normal franchise the NBA trade deadline would have been blown wide open with the revelation that Carmelo Anthony wants out of Gotham barely a year after his much-heralded arrival.
But the Knicks aren’t normal. They’re run by James Dolan, the guitar-playing, impulse-driven, billionaire son of the founder of the communications giant that owns MSG. This might explain why the Denver Nuggets were able to fleece the Knicks when they traded Mee-lo a year ago (then Knicks president Donnie Walsh didn’t want to do the deal) and why, the disgruntled small forward “Isn’t going anywhere,” according to NBA sources.
Dolan wants him to stay.
But it shouldn’t stop teams from asking as Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline approaches.
One of those teams asking should be the Toronto Raptors. Who knows? Given the swing-for-the-fences nature of president Bryan Colangelo, they may have called already.
What if the Knicks listened?
Colangelo and the Raptors have done a good job losing with dignity this season and the club is well-positioned for a top-five pick in the deep June draft, which — if all goes well — will leave them well-stocked with gifted young players, but short of veterans to leverage them.
Making a move for Anthony would be a major detour from that path, but there’s not many executives in the game who, if given the chance to acquire a talent like Anthony — a lethal scoring machine at small forward who is still just 27-years-old — wouldn’t give it long and serious thought.
“If you have a chance to get an all-star, you go get him,” one league insider said to me.
For the Raptors it would almost surely mean parting with Andrea Bargnani, the kind of versatile big man that Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni likely believes would fit with his Jeremy Lin-driven, up-tempo, attack much better than the ball-stopping, isolation-craving, easily-winded Anthony.
The Raptors are early enough in their rebuild that shipping out Bargnani and building around Anthony — the only way to get the most of his considerable talents — is workable, and would offer the prospect of short-and-medium term improvement.
Presuming Jonas Valencuinas emerges quickly as a rebound-chasing, shot-blocking, hustling big in his rookie season, it’s not hard to imagine the Raptors adding some depth in free agency and being a playoff team built around Anthony as soon as next season.
It’s all moot however, as indications are that the Knicks will hang onto Anthony and hope a new coach can fix the problems presented by their over-stuffed roster.
But that — and this is the second thing we were referencing — could have implications for the Raptors as well, and in particular their interest in repatriating a certain hall-of-fame bound point guard playing out the last year of his contract in Phoenix.
According to the report in the New York Post and another on ESPN, the fall-guy for the Knicks’ struggles (they are 2-8 since Anthony returned to the lineup from a groin injury) will be coach Mike D’Antoni. The Knicks bench boss is reportedly barely on speaking terms with his franchise player and has otherwise lost the respect of his roster for not effectively integrating Anthony (read: making him run and pass) into the offence that was so effective when he was injured and the Lin-led Knicks went 7-1.
Should D’Antoni be dismissed, the most obvious magnet to pull free-agent-to-be Steve Nash from Phoenix to New York would be gone.
It’s not to say Nash-to-the-Knicks couldn’t happen if, say, Phil Jackson surfaced in New York. The Knicks are a win-now roster and Nash’s veteran leadership might be perceived as the right agent to bring out the best in them; a challenge for the inexperienced Lin.
But with D’Antoni out and the Knicks’ dysfunctional ownership issues frothing to the surface again, perhaps leaving Phoenix to help the Raptors return to competitive relevance might be the right carrot to attract Nash.
It’s not something the Raptors could ever talk about, but those that know Colangelo suggest it’s just the kind of move he’d push hard for if he had the chance.
The Raptors will have enough cap room in the summer to pay Nash more on a short-term (two or three years) than any contender would be able spend and more than the Suns would likely be willing to pay as they stare hard at rebuilding.
It can’t happen until July 1st, which is a long way from Thursday’s trade deadline, but perhaps Anthony’s pouting and James Dolan’s determination to support his star over his coach puts one more brick in the bridge that could bring Nash to Toronto.