Can the Bulls beat the Knicks with Carmelo?


Feb 22

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Here comes Joakim back to play Wednesday, and here comes the Miami Heat Thursday to the United Center, as the unofficial post All-Star break stretch drive begins Tuesday in the NBA. If the playoffs started today, it would be Bulls and–uh oh–Carmelo Anthony’s Knicks?

Yes, the much anticipated and too much discussed trade finally is expected to be finalized Tuesday with Anthony and Chauncey Billups the key pieces going to New York for a package of Knicks starters, including Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Ray Felton and Timofey Mozgov.

Anthony Randolph and Eddy Curry go to Minnesota as the Knicks also surrender their 2014 first-round pick and $3 million. The Knicks also get Renaldo Balkman, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Corey Brewer. Denver also gets two second round picks from Minnesota.

So let’s take a look at that first round matchup:

Point guard: Derrick Rose vs Billups.
Edge Bulls

Shooting guard: Keith Bogans vs Landry Fields.
Edge Knicks

Small forward: Luol Deng vs Anthony.
Edge Knicks

Power forward: Carlos Boozer vs Amar’e Stoudemire.
Edge Knicks

Center: Joakim Noah vs Ronny Turiaf.
Edge Bulls

Uh oh?

It’s, of course, a long way to go with playoff positioning as the Bulls could move up or down and the Knicks perhaps down given the adjustment period with a half dozen new players being added to the roster in the middle of the season.

So the big questions become: How good are the Knicks? Are they better? Are they a threat to win a first round series with a second starting All-Star? And former All-Star Billups.

With Billups having one year left after this season at $14.2 million, assuming the Knicks don’t exercise a buyout after this season which now seems unlikely, the Knicks will be in position for the much discussed threesome by adding either Chris Paul or Deron Williams, both free agents after next season.

Both, of course, denied any such intention this past weekend, which, of course, means nothing.

It would be the culmination of the plan breezily put in motion at Anthony’s wedding last summer when Paul made a wedding toast about he, Anthony and Stoudemire teaming up in New York to match LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami.

Even Anthony got a laugh out of it All-Star weekend telling Paul about the media hysteria, “This is your fault. You started all this.”

Hey, how about us, the Bulls might be screaming.

Actually, no one is dismissing the Bulls as they have their own triple threat in Rose, Noah and Boozer, with Luol Deng for good measure.

But this pairing in New York will be a good test of the theory of modern day basketball, started with the Celtics a few years ago, that you need three All-Stars to win.

It’s not that the Bulls are chopped liver with three All-Star level talents in Rose, Boozer and Noah.

By the way, though comparing something to chopped liver is an ill thought out cliché, I will say from personal experience there is no worse tasting dish than liver and a spread of it made with goose fat would be insulting even to this season’s Cavs. But I digress. Again.

The point is whether the East again got that much better with still another former Western Conference All-Star relocating in New York. And then when Paul or Williams come as well…

Though, again, we get a chance to see if team can transcend star.

It’s obviously on display with the Heat, who are tied with Boston for No. 1 in the Eastern Conference, though the Heat has James, likely the league’s best player. Neither Anthony or Stoudemire is at that level, and neither, really, is generally regarded as superior to Wade.

There’s considerable joy in New York in the form of the Knicks being back with most media members demanding the trade. There were some who decided it was too much and many others who bemoaned the fate of general manager Donnie Walsh, who was pretty much left out of the final discussions and left home when the New York contingent went to Los Angeles to meet with Anthony last weekend. Owner James Dolan was said to be the driving force with advice from former GM Isiah Thomas, with whom Dolan has remained close.

And it is a Thomas type deal as he believed in combining as many stars as possible, though he combined the wrong ones, many washed up, in the likes Stephen Marbury, Steve Francis, Jalen Rose, Eddy Curry, Jamal Crawford and Anfernee Hardaway.

It is tantalizing that this is occurring in New York because they went through something like this that didn’t work 45 years ago. I’d say that was a feeling of deja vu, though that always is used incorrectly as it means a feeling of something that didn’t happen. Not something that did happen.

Tomorrow class, it’s Ibsen and Hedda Gabler.

Anyway, a long time ago in a galaxy far away known as Manhattan in 1965, the New York Knicks were perennial last place finishers and hadn’t made the playoffs since the previous decade. The local urchins demanded they were the mecca and that could not be.

The Knicks had this bright young forward named Willis Reed who could make jump shots. So they decided they needed a star and found one in future Hall of Fame center Walt Bellamy. The season before Bellamy came to the Knicks, he averaged 24.8 points and 14.6 rebounds. The season before that he averaged 27 and 17. Heck, as a rookie the IU star averaged 31.6 and 19 for the Chicago Packers (Baltimore Bullets).

What a potential pairing: A power forward to stretch the floor with one of the game’s great centers. And the Knicks had some pretty good shooters to complement them in Dick Barnett and Howard Komives. And then they added Dick Van Ardsdale. Later Cazzie Russell from Chicago’s Carver High School

The Knicks did break their playoff drought their first full season with Bellamy, though they lost in the first round of the playoffs. The next season, they had a winning record for the first time in nine years. But they again lost in the first round of the playoffs.

It wasn’t working. The two stars clashed and couldn’t figure out how to distribute the ball. There wasn’t enough movement. The ball stopped too much.

So the Knicks traded Bellamy to the Detroit Pistons for a smallish, modest scoring power forward, Dave DeBusschere.

And the Knicks went on to win their only two NBA championships with the team New Yorkers to this day rhapsodize about as what basketball is about because of team play and the lack of big stars.

The 1970 Knicks remain in the heart of New Yorkers probably the second most revered team after the 1927 New York Yankees. Willis Reed led that team at 21.7 points per game with six players averaging in double figures, defenders at every position and players adept at moving the ball and all able to shoot.

It was the classic greater than the sum of its parts team that was ninth in scoring among 24 teams but first in defense. It’s perhaps most ironic that in New York it was the most iconic team, and now the Knicks with the apparent support of their community and most of the media pursue a scheme wholly unlike the one that produced the most successful New York team in NBA history.

Is this like when Allen Iverson came to the Nuggets to join Anthony? Though that was flawed as much because Iverson was toward the end of his career.

Or is this the new way to build a team and play the game? Accumulate as many star talents as you can, thus winning the matchups at most positions, one major factor in playoff basketball: When the game slows in the playoffs you have the talent edge.

Rose talked about this in a story I wrote from All-Star weekend and he welcomed Anthony going to the Knicks, if that were to occur. His point was he liked the challenge of playing the best more often and believed several strong teams in the conference would produce better competition, better rivalries and better games for the fans. Bring ’em on, as it were.

Of course, before the trade the Knicks with their wide open shooting game were 2-0 over the Bulls. But .500 against the rest of the league. Sometimes it’s all about matchups.

Is talent enough? Or can you succeed with the right pieces that fit together even if they aren’t viewed with the same level of talent?

Perhaps the Knicks and Bulls provide that most stark comparison. It’s far too soon to say who’ll be meeting in the playoffs. But with the apparent contrast with the Bulls and Knicks it certainly would be a compelling series.

Are the Knicks back? Should they be feared? You know this is just the beginning.

What do you think? Leave a comment below: