Commentary

Knicks need to make deal for Melo now

With N.Y. reeling, the front office needs to do whatever it takes to make it happen

Updated: February 18, 2011, 8:50 AM ET
By Stephen A. Smith | ESPNNewYork.com

Now that the 2010-11 NBA season has moved beyond its midway point and we've been inundated with everything the New York Knicks aspire to be in the months and years to follow, it's time to accurately surmise who they are right now.

Which is to say ... not much!

There's no doubt the Knicks have inched toward the realm of respectability and, as a result, are no longer the moribund franchise that spent years staining our psyche. But maybe that's part of the problem. Maybe, just maybe, if the Knicks recognized who they truly are at this moment in time -- mediocre, and just an injury to Amare Stoudemire away from being the Cleveland Cavaliers -- they'd shed their posturing and unfounded comfort and finally address the Carmelo Anthony dilemma with the urgency it deserves.

Clearly they haven't done so yet, and the reasons are nothing short of nauseating.

When you have a chance to get one of the top five players in the game, you do it. Period.

Considering the team you have and the fact that no other potential stars will be available before the 2012 season, to stand pat and do nothing qualifies as an exercise in stupidity. Or something worse. And when the specifics for hesitating to bring Anthony to New York revolve around holding on to names like Danilo Gallinari, Landry Fields, Wilson Chandler or any combination of the three, insanity is one word that comes to mind.

Dismissal is another.

Since New York has long demonstrated it's tired of the Knicks' incompetence, what's stopping people from speaking up now? Especially with four former executives on James Dolan's payroll?

If no one knows what's going on with the Knicks these days, don't consider yourself ignorant. The Knicks want it this way.

They want to hunker down and act like all of us are fools. As if they're the only ones who really know what the Denver Nuggets are asking for: Gallinari, Fields, Chandler, Eddy Curry's expiring contract and now Raymond Felton for the services of Anthony and Chauncey Billups.

Supposedly, they're not just basketball players, potentially to be traded within the next nine days. They're pawns, as well! Doled out for the media to absorb, shun, embrace, vilify, stigmatize, salivate or dote on.

During this time of year, when every executive lies and the most coveted asset is a sucker to buy a bevy of deceptions, nothing is handier to have around than a scapegoat. Make no mistake: If the Knicks don't get their hands on Anthony, and they elect to leave the fate of this season -- and beyond -- on the rapidly shrinking shoulders of a star who's already hurt before the All-Star break, there'll be plenty of blame to go around.

There's Dolan, the billionaire owner who's seen enough basketball inside Madison Square Garden to know what the people want and how desperately this city needs some credible stability in the basketball universe.

There's coach Mike D'Antoni, who I like and respect very much, by the way, but who can't possibly escape the reality that he'll have his fingerprints all over Anthony's absence from this franchise because of his well-known affection for Gallinari.

Then, of course, there is Knicks president Donnie Walsh. Despite his years of solid stewardship, a résumé spanning three-plus decades in professional basketball, that same résumé is devoid of an NBA championship. He's approaching 70 years of age. There's been rampant speculation about his health and there's no evidence emanating from what we've seen with the Knicks that speaks of postseason participation beyond the last week of April.

One team executive, very familiar with New York and how it works, told me: "It used to be about the here and now with New Yorkers when they were getting to the Eastern Conference semifinals each year. Why the hell wouldn't it be about that now that they've been losing all of these years? Especially when someone like Melo is literally within their grasp?

"It's not mine or anyone's place to tell Donnie whether he should pull the trigger or not. He's been around the game long enough. He knows what he's doing and, more importantly, deserves the opportunity to sink or swim on his own terms. But New York is New York. If they don't get what or who they want and they start struggling again, forget about sinking. They'll ..."

We all know the rest.

It's bad enough the Knicks have stunk for years. It's even worse that this city and the tri-state area were hoodwinked into focusing all of their energy on the summer of 2010, when "The Decision" was supposed to be in New York's favor and LeBron James was supposed to arrive in town.

Do we really want to imagine what the spring of 2011 will be like if the Knicks don't get Anthony, continue to tinker at the .500 mark, resemble a team only as good as its jump shot every night, with no improvements available before 2012?

Don't bother answering that question.

This is the future of New York we're talking about here.

We've suffered enough.

It needs to stop by Feb. 24. Or someone else needs to suffer for a change.

Stephen A. Smith | email

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Stephen A. Smith is a featured columnist for ESPNNewYork.com, host of a weekday show for ESPN New York 98.7 and a regular on "SportsCenter" and "First Take."

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