By Dan Bernstein–
The ongoing saga of Carmelo Anthony has been mere background noise for the Bulls fan.
Not compelling so much as just constant, the steady, droning flow of news, rumors and commentary has existed all year. There has not been good reason to devote too much basketball brain-space to any of it, seeing as it’s far more worthwhile to watch Derrick Rose and friends evolve into a conference contender under Tom Thibodeau.
Now it’s time to pay attention.
If the playoffs started today, the Bulls’ first-round matchup would be against Anthony and the newly-remodeled NY Knicks.
It was a nine-player deal. New York gets Anthony (averaging an NBA-6th-best 25.2 PPG and 7.6 RPG), guards Chauncey Billups and Anthony Carter, center Shelden Williams and forward Renaldo Balkman. Denver receives guard Raymond Felton, forwards Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, center Timofey Mozgov, a first-round pick, two seconds and $3 million in cash. In another deal, New York unloaded the expiring contract of Eddy Curry, forward Anthony Randolph and another $3 million to Minnesota for forward Corey Brewer.
Got it? Ok.
Knicks owner James Dolan reportedly stomped all over team president Donnie Walsh to get this done, amid talk that the invisible hand of Isiah Thomas is back pulling the strings.
The abrasive, brash Dolan didn’t push all-in for one of the league’s top scorers with the intention of losing in the first round. We could have some serious, big-city ball if the standings stay slotted as they are today.
Whether it improved the Knicks markedly remains to be seen. It will take time to incorporate new players into Mike D’Antoni’s frenetic, seven-seconds-or-less offense, which looks for the first open shot and tries to maximize the total number of possessions. Billups is a better, smarter point guard than Felton, but he’s 34 years old, past the 30,000 minute threshold, and prefers a more methodical, half-court game. Anthony has always been less than a committed defensive player (either when guarding his own man or helping/recovering), but that trait is mitigated by a system that essentially ignores defense.
Amare Stoudemire has flourished to this point, so it’s possible D’Antoni will be fixing something that isn’t broken. Once the ball gets to Anthony’s hands, it rarely leaves for anything but a field-goal attempt. There will be egos to massage as shot-distribution patterns emerge.
There is one clear upgrade, however, that should concern the Bulls. Free throws often decide playoff games, and the Knicks new big three are absolute killers from the line. Anthony shoots 82%, Stoudemire 79% and Billups an NBA-2nd-best 92%. One of them will always have the ball.
The west-to-east NBA power-shift that accelerated in the offseason continues with this deal. A star scorer in the prime of his prime moves to the league’s largest market, and a heritage franchise slaps a big name on a hallowed building.
Many of us have casually assumed that this fast-rising Bulls team was entitled to a spot beyond the first playoff round, at the very least.
Now it seems another big, proud NBA town may have something to say about that.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here.
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