New York's own Jay-Z said it best: "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man."
Nobody has adhered to that statement over the past few years more than the NBA.
Think about it: a man (LeBron James) decided to humiliate his own fans of the last seven years on national TV only to fulfill a sick, twisted self-serving prophecy known as "The Decision." Another guy (Carmelo Anthony) decided that if he couldn't do the same, then he would hold his entire franchise hostage until they traded him to the team of his choice and on his terms.
As Donald Trump would say, it's not personal. It's just business. And jersey/sneaker sales for both James and Anthony show that business is doing just fine for both (on the court, as the previous NBA Finals showed, is another story).
So if players can make such difficult, sentimental decisions and come out better for it, why can't teams do the same?
Reports of New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul having his agent tell Hornets brass that he wanted to be dealt specifically to the Knicks dominated NBA news all week, even more than the lockout finally coming to an end. You would think that Paul, not Chicago's Derrick Rose, was the league's reigning MVP with the way he has absolutely dominated headlines right out of the gates following the league's labor agreement.
It is his time in the sun. But unlike LeBron and Melo, that time is going to be very short-lived, because he is far from being the best player in the 2012 free-agency class.
Why Dwight Howard has not been linked to the Knicks more often is beyond me. Sure, he was not the one who made a toast at Melo's wedding in the summer of 2010 to foreshadow a Big Apple version of the Big 3, but a man like D12 does not have to utter a single word, let alone propose a toast, to be noticed.
If Orlando allows Howard to reach free agency, it is arguable that he, not LeBron or even Shaquille O'Neal back in 1996, could be the best player in league history to ever hit the open market at age 26.
There are no injury concerns with Howard. With CP3, there are serious concerns about his knee. He suffered a torn meniscus injury in January of 2010, one that led to a surgery and ended up with the torn meniscus being removed altogether.
If you are familiar with recent NBA injuries, you know that three-time All-Star Brandon Roy of the Portland Trail Blazers has had his career almost completely disheveled by a very similar injury.
To think that it could be Paul in three years—even before he reaches the age of 30—is not so far-fetched, though unfortunate.
If Paul was to complete the Knicks' dream Big 3, two of those three (Paul and Stoudemire) are looking at serious knee issues that may truncate their career. In the meantime, the entire roster had been stripped down for their acquisitions.
In five years, Melo may be suffering from LeBron James/Cleveland syndrome of trying to be a one-man show while being surrounded by a bunch of role players, something I am sure he did not think he was signing up for when he torpedoed his relationship with fans in Colorado.
Yet, for all their obsession with chasing other teams' players (starting with a five-year love-fest with LeBron when he was still with the Cavaliers), Knicks fans seem more content with Paul than Howard.
Paul is definitely a transcendent star. But Howard is once-in-a-generation. And he can be had.
All the talk surrounding CP3's proposed move to Manhattan has been about the Knicks' lack of assets to acquire him. That is under the assumption that they will not move Melo or Amar'e Stoudemire, which is a very safe assumption to make (if not a foregone conclusion).
But when it comes to Howard, it has to be time to open up the playbook a little bit more.
New York's brass has to make Stoudemire available. Some may argue that they should even make Anthony available, but that is just absurd. Melo is healthy, in his prime at age 27, and has wanted to be a Knickerbocker all along.
But what about Stoudemire?
Didn't he also want to be a Knick? He is the one who got the ball rolling on this New York basketball renaissance by signing as an unrestricted free agent in the first place. Before Melo's arrival, that Garden serenaded him with thunderous chants of "M-V-P," deserving chants that spoke to how much Amar'e had done to (at the time) single-handedly turn the Knicks around.
That effort may have been what made New York an attractive destination for Melo in the first place. But remember, with Amar'e, it was all about money and his relationship with his previous employer, the Phoenix Suns.
Suns owner Robert Sarver was hesitant to match New York's maximum five-year, $100 million deal not because he did not think Stoudemire was worth it initially, but that he may not be worth all that money once the fourth and fifth years of that deal come around the corner. Given that uncertainty surrounding Stoudemire's knee issues, he may be right.
Had Phoenix given him an extra sixth year and higher escalators—which they were permitted to do as his original team—then we'd still be seeing Amar'e on the receiving end of alley-oops from Steve Nash, not trying to execute high pick-and-rolls with Melo at the Garden.
That underlines the fact that this is a business. A game, almost—a game that the Knicks have to be in to win.
Reports circulated along with the CP3 rumors that the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets were making a play for Howard by dangling Brook Lopez and some first-round draft picks in return. At the same time, Nets point guard Deron Williams was making it public that he will not sign an extension with the team at this time.
The Nets? Brook Lopez? Draft picks? A franchise-on-wheels that has been in transit from East Rutherford to Newark to eventually Brooklyn over the last few years? Are you kidding me?
The Knicks can end all of that by putting Stoudemire—and perhaps Landry Fields, rookie Iman Shumpert, or both—on the table for Orlando. Unless the Lakers cough up a combination of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, no one will come close to matching that offer.
Howard gets his wish of playing in the biggest market there is. The Knicks pair arguably the league's most gifted offensive player (Anthony) with its most dominant defensive player (Howard). Chauncey Billups is still holding the seat warm at point guard for as long as he can.
It does not matter if the Ronny Turiafs and Bill Walkers of the world are used to round out the roster. Anthony and Howard immediately become the best players either one of them have played with in their careers.
And the Knicks get a Big Two that dwarfs a Big Three of Anthony, Stoudemire and Paul that would have two-thirds (Stoudemire and Paul) riddled with injury concerns and speculation.
It is New York. Big dreams, big goals.
And nobody is bigger than Howard.
Which makes New York's apathy towards him in favor of CP3 all the more appalling.
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