Part 2. The Old Shark's Row of Teeth
This past summer serendipity (Fields and Williams) met a sure thing (Stoudemire), solid investments (Felton and Turiaf) and steady progress (Chandler, Douglas and Gallianri). Over the course of the regular season that group blended via leadership, hard work and perseverance. The result produced the 2010-11 New York Knicks. That result salvaged the Knicks ernest blueprint to rebuild the franchise via cap space to obtain proven star players.
With the Knicks ascending as a middle of the pack playoff team more will be required to take the organization to the next level. Will the same mixture that brought the Knicks to the current point be available next time out? It may just be if the Knicks manage their affairs shrewdly and avoid the weak in the knees, knee jerk or genuflecting steps of the past. Moves undertaken by the organization during a time of desperation no longer fit on an ascending team with long term winning aspirations.
The reserve of cap space available to the Knicks at the end of this season places the organization in position to pursue another pool of free agents. The next pool includes a gem or two but will be smaller in top tiered talent. That pool may be more treacherous as the rules pertaining to 2011 free agency onward will be those of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Then again if the rules are owner/management friendly with some exceptions it may play into the Hands of an adept General Manager (GM). One with: a reserve of cap space; the abilities to creatively navigate the lines between the current and potential next set of rules; and work the palette of successful management models of current elite teams.
An old shark with a deep row of teeth anyone? Figuratively speaking of course.
What's a shark have to do with this? Well if you must know a shark is a great analogy for an efficient GM (other professions of course get tabbed with the term shark). A literal shark is the most efficient marine predator. A seasoned (actually anctient) apex predator armed with rows of teeth that tear through it's prey. One that is highly adaptive and able to adjust it's diet depending on what's available in its immediate feeding range. Most importantly, sharks never bite off more than they can chew, only eating between 2% to 3% of their own body weight. Many sharks survive on large feeds that go a long way until predation is triggered anew.
In the person of Knicks President of Basketball Operation, Donnie Walsh, the organization may have one of the savviest sharks on board.
The Old Shark, Donnie Walsh, is one of the most seasoned NBA GM's. The Knicks de facto GM has a long and resiliently successful history in league management that dates back to the early 80's. A resume that included the construction of the contending Pacers of the 90's and the transition to the Formidable Pacers of the mid 21st century. A resume certainly buttressed by the mixture of daring (STAT), sound (Felton) and speculative (Fields and Williams) moves undertaken this past offseason. Moves which point towards Walsh's adaptability in the midst of near failure. A failure many (including I) believed to be certain when the organization was spurned by the biggest prizes of last years free agent pool.
Walsh has proven to be the anthisesis of former Knicks GMs. Since joining the Knicks he has avoided taking on more salary responsibility than is practical. A forwarding think Walsh has kept his eyes on the various free agency streams. By waiting out and expediting impractical/unwieldy contracts and managing smaller scale contracts, Walsh has placed the organization in position to open up pools of cap space. Pools of cap space for streams of free agents where one set or another of an old shark's row of teeth await.
What exactly does this have to do with the the Carmelo anthony drama or 2011 free agency? Plenty! As stated above Walsh has been shrewd to date in not overcommitting the organization's salary cap space for the upcoming free agency market at the end of the 2010-11 season. With the mix of expiring contracts and flexibility from promising young players on movable rookie scale contracts, the Knicks may yet be in position to make a bid for the services of Carmelo Anthony, should the star forward enter free agency.
It is no secret that the upcoming trade deadline and free agent period presents a fork in the road for the Knicks as it will for many franchises.For the Knicks, the pending restricted free agency of Wilson Chandler makes it that much more so. It is also no secret that Carmelo Anthony and the various teams interested or currently seeking his services are involved in an ultimate game of chicken. A race lost somewhere in the smoke cloud of "sources with knowledge of the situation," rumored Nets and Nuggets deals, posturing and grandstanding. But does the apparent uncertainty and chaos of the upcoming months and offseason preclude the Knicks from realizing a union of Anthony (or another free agent gem) with the greater core of the current Knicks?
Fellow indyblogger Dan L from The Knicks Fan Blog points out that under the rules of the current CBA obtaining Anthony and retaining the current Knicks team intact not possible. But 2011 free agency will take place under the rules of the next CBA, as the end of the NBA regular season signals the end of the current CBA. Nonetheless, moves will be required to obtain Carmelo Anthony, retain Wilson Chandler in order to pair them with Stoudemire and Felton. But what degree of sacrifices will be required may be the difference between the current and next CBA. Therefore it may prove to be a wise choice by Walsh to wait out the details of the next CBA before committing to sign Chandler or going shopping too soon before the dust settles on the next labor/management agreement.
The Knicks have an old shark patiently waiting out the dust cloud of rumors and speculation to clear. One who has carved out a pool of cap space. One with the ability to expand that pool by following the Miami Heat model. A model that would involve trading promising players on flexible contracts in exchange for inexpensive late 1st rounders or less expensive early 2nd rounders. A shark who has drafted well in the later rounds of the draft paralleling the Spurs model. An adaptable shark who has not bitten off more than he can currently digest by signing a player before the landscape of the new CBA is resolved.
The Knicks old shark may have had a bum hip but all knicks fandom should hope that he avoids the chronic plight of the organizations Achilles Knee. For if he does the organization may engage a knee jerk of going shopping to early before the rules of the new game are decided. They may genuflect and pay a Melo sized ransom for an aging (yet brilliant) Steve Nash whose window would likely be Narrower than what some believe Stoudemire's to be. They may get weak in the knees and let sentimentality impede the movement of promising players like Gallinari, Mozgov and Randolph to clear cap space. Space that could be cleared, should Melo enter free agency and desire to pair up with Chandler, STAT, Felton and Fields.