Commentary

Knicks face reality check, MeloDrama

As Anthony talk swirls, New York must also deal with visits from Celtics and Heat

Updated: December 14, 2010, 7:24 PM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Some folks are calling it "Dream Week" for the New York Knicks. "Reality Check Week" might be more apropos.

The NBA's No. 1 defensive team will be in town Wednesday night when the Knicks, who have the NBA's highest-scoring offense, put their eight-game winning streak on the line against the Boston Celtics, who will enter Madison Square Garden with an even loftier list of recent accomplishments.

Their winning streak is 10 games long, and they have allowed only two teams to surpass the 100-point threshold during that span (Philadelphia and Toronto each scored 101).

The Celtics have been off since Saturday, meaning they'll be even more rested than the Knicks, who haven't played since Sunday's matinee against Denver -- after which ESPN.com reported that Carmelo Anthony has made it known to the Nuggets that he will not sign a contract extension with any team, if he is traded, unless that team is the Knicks.

[+] EnlargeCarmelo Anthony
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesCarmelo Anthony scored 31 points Sunday in his only MSG appearance of the season ... or was it?

After Boston leaves town, LeBron James and the Miami Heat (currently on a nine-game winning streak) make their first appearance of the season at Madison Square Garden. Assuming they destroy Cleveland on Wednesday night when LeBron's old team visits Miami (the Cavs have lost eight in a row, seven of those losses coming by double-digit margins), the Heat could be playing Friday with a chance to become the first team in NBA history to win 11 consecutive games by double digits.

So by Saturday morning, we'll have a much clearer picture of how close the Knicks are to being an elite team, or if they're merely a work in progress.

And as we await the Knicks' first true tough test since they began their recent run of 13 victories in their past 14 games, let's revisit the matter of whether Anthony is going to end up in New York by the end of the season.

Anthony was the topic du jour in my NBA chat Monday on ESPN.com, and the story continues to have legs as different news outlets have either confirmed it or refuted it.

So let's take a look at a few of the questions surrounding the whole MeloDrama as we await its resolution, with answers based on conversations with league sources:

Q: Are the New Jersey Nets still in the Melo sweepstakes?

A: They believe they are, because that is what they are being told by the Nuggets and by Anthony's camp. But the reality is that they are out of it and have been for a long time, and it behooves Denver to create the illusion that other destinations besides New York are still in play. New Jersey still has the best offer sitting on the table that suits the Nuggets' primary need -- to make any Anthony trade a rebuilding trade. But the trade has not happened because Anthony will not sign an extension with New Jersey. He is trying to leverage his way into being dealt to New York.

Q: What kind of a timetable are the Nuggets on for resolving the MeloDrama?

A: A tighter one than most realize. A league source told ESPN.com that Denver also is in discussions with Chicago regarding a J.R. Smith trade, and the Nuggets have other long-term roster decisions to make, including whether they will seek to move Chauncey Billups in a trade. But nothing can happen until they know what the future holds in regards to Anthony, whose No. 1 desire is to be dealt to New York and to sign a three-year contract extension worth nearly $65 million that would pair him alongside Amare Stoudemire through the 2014-15 season.

The deal Denver can make with the Knicks right now might be better than the deal New York would be willing to make a month from now, or two months from now. And the Nuggets are determined to not lose Anthony with nothing in return as the Cavs did with LeBron, and the Raptors did with Chris Bosh. Anthony told FanHouse he expects a resolution by the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

Q: What pieces do the Knicks have that the Nuggets would want?

A: Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Landry Fields, along with Eddy Curry's expiring contract. Denver also wants at least one No. 1 draft pick, which the Knicks feel they can acquire from a third team in a deal for Anthony Randolph. The Knicks also would be open to trading their No. 1 pick in 2014 if a Randolph deal did not pan out. (Under NBA rules, New York cannot trade its 2011 or 2013 picks because its 2012 pick was sent to Houston in last year's Tracy McGrady trade, and teams cannot go consecutive years without having a first-round pick.)

Q: Would the Knicks give up all that?

A: Absolutely not.

They'd ship Gallo, Randolph and Curry in a heartbeat, but they are reluctant to trade Fields, who the Nuggets especially covet. One factor that both teams will have to consider: Fields, a second-round pick, is only on a two-year contract (the second year is a team option), then he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Donnie Walsh has said he will not gut the team to acquire a second max-salary player, and the Knicks are confident they can sign Anthony as an unrestricted free agent next summer if they do not acquire him in a trade. That being said, they'd prefer to trade for Anthony now and lock him up through 2014-15, which removes the uncertainty of not knowing what latitude they'll have in the free-agent market under the rules of the next collective bargaining agreement.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN.com and ESPNNewYork.com.


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