When the Knicks pulled the trigger on that Melo trade, the inclusion of Felton for Chauncey really spun me out. I love Chauncey, but I have this thing about acquring point guards on the downside of their career to be the starter. I just don't think it works.
Now, Jason Kidd proved me wrong last year by winning with Dallas. But it took him several years, the unlikely ability to still play at 38, and JJ Barea and Jason Terry having his back. I wasn't sure if Chauncey could do that.
Plus, I felt that with Melo arriving along with his point guard, there was a strange split in the team and an ambiguous power structure. The point guard, a veteran with a ring, has the ball in his hands and familiarity with only one player - Carmelo. I felt very good about Amar'e's leadership up to the trade, and I felt that the inclusion of Chauncey undermined that a bit. I just felt bad about it, and the Knicks 12 losses to the Cavaliers last year just reinforced it. I suggested at the time that they cut Chauncey and just go with TD, but when Chauncey got hurt, TD didn't seem to step up and shine enough. By the end of the season my dreams of TD being the starting point guard for us had faded.
Felton wasn't perfect by any means. But he was the right age and had a good attitude and leadership and I thought he and the team would continue to grow together and get better. I felt he was the most unambiguously good point guard we had around here since we traded Mark Jackson. Seriously.
But he was gone, and I've felt out of balance ever since. The team seems to be a hodgepodge of Amar'e and the trade leftovers on one side, and Billups and Melo and She-Will on the other side. It just felt like a chemistry fail to me, despite the fact that I like both those guys a lot.
Add in the exit of Donnie Walsh, and the uneasiness was mega'd.
Rumors of Paul coming here didn't make me feel good. More of our young favorites in exchange for Melo's good buddy, the wedding toaster? I just didn't like it - despite the hard-to-dispute fact that Paul is a beast of a player.
But now, with the Knicks sudden and shocking change in direction - amnesting Billups and signing Tyson Chandler, my basketball world has been suddenly shifted into balance. Amar'e is a wonderful player, but defense and especially rebounding are weaknesses for him. Pairing him with a non-rebounding center or playing him as an undersized center was problematic. And there didn't seem to be any way the Knicks could add a seven foot rebounding defender at the pivot. I was reduced to dreaming of Jerome Jordan actually being good - but it's plain to see that Jordan is not a big defender / rebounder either. Jorts gives me hope with the right kind of attitude, but I feel he is undersized for the 5. Despair filled my heart.
Then, the Knicks went and shocked me with an incredibly saavy move. I feel right, right now, which is awesome. Let me break down the awesome here:
1. They needed rebounding really badly. They got it.
2. By ditching Chauncey, forgetting about Paul and addressing Amar'e's concern about not wanting to play the 5 on a regular basis, they've squarely helped to establish a pecking order on this squad that starts with Amar'e. I think that works better than one that starts with Carmelo or Chauncey. Amar'e grew an inch just thinking about it. And so did I.
3. The Knicks' biggest and strongest (and one of the most veterany) players is a defense guy. I think this tips the balance of the team's culture from offense to defense by clearly establishing a Tyson / Toney / Shump defensive core to balance out Amar'e and Melo.
4. The point guard situation is spare, but also full of promise and hope. Whoever ends up playing there is going to have a chance to grow with the team and really be 100 percent Knick. I don't know if anyone on our roster or anyone we can get can be as good as Felton, but I do know that there's a chance that someone, whether it's Shump, Andy, Baron Davis, Julyan Stone or someone else, will be able to focus on running the team, playing D, providing leadership, and getting the ball to our guys that can score.
5. Carmelo fits now. He's a loose, explosively offensive player. I think he's a little happy go lucky and I think that's fine. It helps his clutchiness. Now, with Chandler on the court, and Amar'e back as the alpha dog, Carmelo can be Carmelo instead of being the defense-hawking serious leader type. Leave that to the other guys, Melo, and just be you.
6. Whoever the point guard is won't be locked into the patterns of Melo in Denver. It's a new day.
When Amar'e and Felton signed, it felt like the Knicks were back. When the trade happened, they seemed lost again. And now, it seems like, once again, they're back. What a feeling!
Now, Chauncey may end up going to the Heat and killing us next year, and our lack of an established point guard may hurt us. But I'm OK with all that. I feel like we've got some badass swagger in the front court and we're ready to go to war for the next bunch of years against whoever stands in our way.