After last week’s historic battle with the New York Knicks that saw countless Nuggets and Knicks players face their former team for the first time since what we’re now referring to as “the Danillo Gallinari trade,” we caught up with John Kenney to answer some questions. Kenney is a contributor for the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate blog of the New York Knicks, KnickerBlogger.net and has a Twitter handle for you to follow @JohnbKenney.
1. What’s your overall assessment of Carmelo Anthony as a player? Is he better, the same or worse than you had originally thought prior to the trade?
The same/worse. To answer this question properly requires spending some more time watching him on a team with a true point guard, but early results have been disappointing. The flashes of brilliance and incredible plays are certainly there, but the poor efficiency and shot selection are present as well. The way in which his arrival seems to have negatively impacted the performance of other players, however, was unexpected. Although Landry Fields and Amar’e Stoudemire have both played relatively better recently, neither have reached the height of their play before the trade.
2. In hindsight, did the Knicks give up too much in the Anthony trade and which player hurt the most to lose for the Knicks?
A majority of the community at Knickerblogger.net thought the Knicks were giving up too many pieces before the trade, so the poor results since the trade are merely a confirmation of pre-existing doubts. Giving up Gallinari didn’t make much sense at the time, and makes less sense in hindsight. Even if you believed Carmelo was an “A” quality small forward, Gallinari was going to give you a “B+” and he appeared to be improving, a trend which has continued in Denver. That small upgrade could not justify giving up three additional starters (Chandler, Felton, and of course mocked-by-national-pundits-while-on-the-Knicks-but-now-starting-for-the-Nuggets, Mozgov) for an over-the-hill Chauncey Billups. And quite frankly, a number of Knicks followers believe the team would be better off with Gallo’s superior efficiency.
3. In your opinion, what’s the primary reason the Knicks have struggled so much since acquiring Anthony last February?
While there is blame to be placed on Melo for shooting inefficiently, the reality is that the Knicks have not had a competent point guard and a good center at the same time since the trade. Now that Tyson Chandler (very much living up to the value of his contract) is in the fold, the Knicks still need to find a quality point guard or the struggles will continue.
4. How will Anthony’s contract affect the Knicks’ ability to make roster moves and how do you see the team faring moving forward?
At this point, Anthony’s contract is what it is; it puts the Knicks over the cap for the foreseeable future. The damage has already been done — his contract precluded the Knicks from having enough room to sign a max deal in 2012, so Chandler was signed instead. The team will have the annual Mid-Level Exception as a result of being over the cap, which is beneficial. (Steve Nash is the favored target for next year.) However, with both Chicago and Miami so far ahead in the race for Eastern Conference supremacy, one has to wonder if this iteration of the Knicks will ever reach the Conference Finals.
5. Finally, what was your reaction to the loss against Denver on Saturday, specifically in regards to Gallinari’s career high 37 points coming against his old team?
The fact that the loss was a vast improvement over the Knicks’ performance in their previous two games seems like a cruel joke, but it was true. The team played hard, which was nice to see. While “Andre Miller sinking a deep three at the shot-clock buzzer” and “Al Harrington posting good numbers in clutch situations” were quite surprising, Gallo’s production was not. Knicks fans had complaints about Gallinari while he was on the team, but mostly those complaints were that he should be shooting more. It is utter revisionist history to attribute Gallo’s driving ability and scoring efficiency to Denver alone, although multiple national prognosticators have seen fit to do so. Danilo was an incredibly effective slasher and driver while a member of the Knicks, and I remain baffled why it took so long for the “basketball community” to realize this. In hindsight, the greatest move the Nuggets brass may have made was leaking to so many journalists that they didn’t think the Knicks had any assets for a deal. This was utterly ridiculous at the time, but the press repeated it as fact so often that it contributed to public pressure on the Knicks to offer up more in the trade than was necessary. Had Gallinari been properly valued by the national basketball media, I wonder if the Knicks would have had to give up so much. I am, however, glad to see him succeeding, and wish him, and by extension the Nuggets, all the best.