To begin, here's something Marc Stein published late Thursday night. The headline is "Why Mike Woodson is still NY's coach" and the thesis is this:
The latest rumble in coaching circles holds that Madison Square Garden chairman Jim Dolan is keeping Woodson around purely because he knows that making major changes to the roster before next season -- given New York's lack of draft picks and cap space and limited trade assets -- will be extremely difficult.
Which leaves Dolan, in terms of pitching Carmelo Anthony to stay this summer, with little else to say besides: Woody was the problem!
In other words: Keep the alleged problem around to the very last drop of this nightmare season -- and then hustle him out the door, painting a coaching change as a cure-all.
Take "rumble in coaching circles" for what it's worth, legitimate-source-wise. Whether or not this report is accurate, it brings to mind a question that's already been bugging me: Do the Knicks think Carmelo Anthony is a dumb baby? Do the Knicks think all NBA stars are dumb babies?
Let's say you're trying to get a baby to eat his vegetables. You could: 1. Do your best to explain what nutrients are and how the human body develops, appealing with logic to the baby's desire to become big and strong while building in the more general life lesson that unpleasant endeavors are necessary for long-term rewards. 2. Convince the baby to eat vegetables once, then swap out his shoes for smaller shoes while he's sleeping to dazzle him into thinking a plate of broccoli made him sprout overnight, appealing to the assumption that he is dumb and easily deceived.
Which is to say, it sure sounds like the Knicks would choose the second thing. If the Knicks want to keep Melo around, which I hope they do up to a certain sub-maximum price point, there is a logical, hard pitch to be made: We fucked this up and we need to rebuild. If you come back and take a carefully calculated cut below the max, we could piece together a very promising team around you-- a roster that fits you with a coach who makes sense, too. And you'd look REALLY good to Knicks fans for making that commitment. We might have to spend a year treading water and trying to turn expiring contracts into assets, and there might even be some tanking, but we'd end up with a good draft pick and a lot of room in 2015.
It's honest. It's uncomplicated. It's pretty ordinary. It demands that Melo be patient and forgiving. Of course it does! The Knicks are in bad shape, and they can't just recover with a snap of the fingers. There is a good chance, because Melo is a human adult who's been around the league a while and has already seen this same organization clean out so they could acquire him, he fully understands all this without anyone telling him.
And yet the Knicks, from what we hear, behave as if they're trying to trick Melo, which fits right into the way they've done business for a while. Their pitches to 2010 free agents were reportedly rife with flattery and celebrity cameos and allusions to the Garden renovation. Remember this humiliating bullshit? Steve Mills replaced Glen Grunwald because of his supposed connections to the forthcoming free agent classes and their representation. The Knicks signed a bad player to help keep his older brother around. It's a culture of gestures. Why not just have a smart plan and trust that people will recognize that? It works for everyone else, and they don't have the advantage of playing in New York!
So again, do the Knicks think Melo is a dumb baby? Because if he's not a dumb baby, he sees that the Knicks' roster this season has major flaws. And he sees that Mike Woodson has been playing to those flaws since the beginning. And he understands that the Knicks should be months past the point of valuing the present season over the long term. And he isn't fooled by some harebrained plot to scapegoat the coach that's both self-destructive and a tacit admission that the roster sucks. And he recognizes that it would take sacrifice to repair all of the above.
I bet Melo gets all that. If he gets it and it offends him, he'll leave, and there should be layers of contingencies in place when he does. If he gets it and it doesn't offend him, he'll make some helpful sacrifices and stay. (There is a third option wherein he gets it and it offends him, but he doesn't care because $$$$$$$). And if he doesn't get all that-- if he really is a dumb baby-- then why would the Knicks want a guy like that for a centerpiece? If the Knicks' approach to team-building truly is this oily, what does that say about the people it attracts?