"If you are going to die in battle then you should do so with the utmost respectability and dignity. It is a terrible shame to die in battle with your sword undrawn or yourself unable to use it correctly." (Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of the Five Rings)
To date I have begrudgingly paid my respects to the personnel and methods responsible for the Knicks climb towards respectability. I've pointed to the importance of the defiant leadership brought to the Garden by Amar'e Stoudemire. I've discussed the lethal dynamic of the Mike D'Antoni Pick and Roll in the context of the Seven Seconds or Less offense. I've pointed out SSOL's influence on a short list of current contending teams. I've even discussed the artful maneuverings of Donnie Walsh leading up to the summer of 2010, all the while comparing his methodology to that of an apex predator.
Prior to the precipitous decline from mid December through January, the Knicks stood seven games above .500 at 16-9. At that time they held respectable aspirations for mid tier playoff positioning. While the Carmelo Anthony "Melodrama" wrecked havoc with the cross Hudson New Jersey Nets, the Knicks played on, aloof and distant with a hand of leverage to boot. The arranged marriage of Anthony to the Nets seemed to be just more Denver bluster in the face of Anthony's apparent tunnel vision towards Manhattan. At that time Walsh was able to play off his hand of leverage as a gulf the span of the Hudson river appeared to distance the Knicks from their recently moribund past.
Despite the much deserved praise directed at them, the Knicks are now teetering on losing their forward momentum. The long string of back to back winning streaks that surged the Knicks towards relevance in mid November through December are far gone. What has replaced that forward momentum has been short and long losing streaks mixed in with some good wins followed by bad losses to teams the Knicks "should beat." While the Knicks playoff positioning has yet to change (they are currently at the 6th spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race).The Knicks now cling to a tenuous grip on an above .500 winning percentage.
Statements from from key figures in the Knicks organization have punctuated the Knicks slide in momentum. Recently there was the contented statement by D'Antoni to merely accept a slot in the playoff's . Then there were the statements by Walsh, which suggest that he may have accepted not obtaining Anthony's Star talents to pair with those of Stoudemire. In conjunction these statements suggest that the organization may be reverting towards acquiescence while the Knicks stumble towards mediocrity. All while the moribund ghost of season past lie in waiting.
Sure the Nuggets hit the bluff and Melo appears to be blinking in his stand off but the Knicks appear to have built part of a bridge to a nowhere bleaker than Gnome Alaska. Phrases like, half hearted, half stepping, half assed are appropriate to describe the organization's tepid character. Since these phrases refer to lukewarm actions when the time or situation warrants decisive actions, firm stands and conviction.
There's not doubt the Knicks are in a conundrum, as they must acknowledge Anthony's recently fickle statements about reconsidering the Nuggets extension if he is not dealt. Perhaps the Nuggets Star is weary of peering down the big bad (and perhaps overstated) abyss without the calvary of a reasonable offer from the Knicks for his services. Sure the Nuggets are going to insist on more for surrendering a Star Scoring forward. Certainly they should bluff and insist on getting more back on a player of Anthony's caliber. And that is where the Knicks must be firm but decisive in maneuvering for Anthony.
Ultimately the conundrum for the Knicks is that they must strike a balance. A critical balance between preserving a semblance of the supporting talent to make the acquisition of Anthony's services a move towards contention. Surrendering more than that critical amount of supporting talent for Anthony's services may lock them out of maneuvering for further star talent or even retaining capable role players down the line. The "Sterner" landscape of a potentially more onerous CBA makes that a consideration that must be taken into account. Yet, regardless of the rock and hard place, Anthony's statements may have raised, The Knicks need to figure out that balanced package between an upgrade and threading water in the high ocean. Missing that mark may result in the Stoudemire era being a walk down the painful memory lane of the Ewing Era Knicks teams of the 1990's
Thus on the night "The Griffin" stepped onto the Garden, the Knicks yet again backed off on the court. An unassertive trend that paralleled the luke warm statements from the organization's coaching staff and management. As a result while, Denver Bluffed and Melo blinked the Knicks have one downed them both with statements that indicate that the culture of acquiescence and losing over at 2 Penn Plaza is once again resurfacing. Perhaps not even Stoudemire's defiance, D'Antoni's recent admonishments or calls for support of the team on the court or the Glacial pace of the old shark can turn back that tide.