Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Farewell to a likeable Knicks team

In a trade at the 2010-11 NBA trade deadline, SF Carmelo Anthony is a Knick along with PG Chauncey Billups and a few spare parts. In return, the Knicks gave Denver F Danilo Gallinari, G/F Wilson Chandler, C Timofey Mozgov, and PG Raymond Felton, plus draft picks.

It's sad. True, the Knicks were barely above .500 at 28-26 and were losing to too many bad teams, but this year's Knicks were a likeable team with solid team chemistry. They were cohesive and had D'Antoni's offensive system figured out. When the system was working, the Knicks kept the ball and bodies moving with quick-hitting triple-threat players sharing the floor. It was fun to watch the improving Knicks. I would have liked to follow the team as it was into the play-offs where they had a decent chance of pulling an upset. Now they're a new team.

Gallinari and Chandler were having their best seasons and fit the system. They were triple threats who moved the ball. They will be missed, but they also played the same position as Anthony. Mozgov had intriguing potential as an improving, fluidly athletic 7-footer with some skills, albeit with poor hands.
The toughest loss is Raymond Felton. The most important cog in Mike D'Antoni's system is a skilled floor general and orchestrator, which has been missing from the team since D'Antoni came to New York. Felton filled the role admirably and endeared himself to New York as a tough, professional leader with unexpected athleticism and advanced point guard skills. Felton was as responsible for the Knicks' improvement as Amare Stoudemire. His steady personality had a lot to do with the solid character of the team. Most importantly, he proved he had the point guard chops to run D'Antoni's system. It remains to be seen whether Billups will be able to pick it up.

The season is essentially starting over with two stars rather than one star and complementary players who fit the coach's system. The Knicks traded three solid team players in Felton, Gallinari, and Chandler for a prima donna in Anthony. If the team hadn't lost too many games against losing teams, maybe the Knicks would have kept the team together for the rest of the season. The Knicks have more star power with the Stoudemire-Anthony pairing but seem like a less likeable team now. D'Antoni's quick-hitting flowing offensive system takes time to pick up so it'll be uneven going for a while. Hopefully, Chauncey Billups is up to making the system work from the PG position.



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