Keep that Fire Burnin’

Lost in last night’s tremendous NBA slate, featuring a Clash of the Titans matchup between Conference-Leading (and Coach of the Year frontrunners) Atlanta and Golden State, and Anthony Davis stealing Kevin Durant’s soul at the buzzer (and Andre Roberson’s too I guess), was a burning rivalry whose fiery passions and competitive intensity eclipses even the league’s premier teams meeting for the first time all season. So let’s ignore all that other stuff, hop on the 2 train to cross the East River, and fire up Knicks-Nets Pt. 3!!!

Hmmm, on the other hand we could just go back to that Davis shot. Whoops, wrong clip.

Look, the Knicks played a pretty competitive game against a Nets team that has been surprisingly frisky over their past few contests. Brooklyn had gone 2-0 for the month before last night’s tilt, toppling the Clippers with a Jarret Jack gamewinner and avenging a recent home loss by blowing out the Raptors in the T. Dot. A large part of that can be credited with the return of Deron Williams from whatever injury he had this time. Williams had a pretty poor shooting night against Toronto, but he’s a capable passer and allows the Nets to use a two-guard look that gives Jack some off-ball playing time and diversifies a screeching-stop offense. (It should also be noted that Jack’s 3 pointer with 15 seconds left amounted to another game winner for the “National Honor Society member”. Look out Unibrow!)

However while the three in a row is nice, and the fact that the Nets now hold the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture nicer still, its hard to believe they will abandon what has been perhaps one of the saddest attempts at a fire sale ever. The Thunder want (but don’t really want) Brook Lopez. The Kings wanted (but didn’t really want) Deron Williams. The Hornets want Joe Johnson? Naahhh, not really. And through it all, GM Billy “Pick Swap” King is not making any calls? What? You mean you haven’t heard any offers you like yet? Could that have anything to do with teams just looking at your trade history with Boston and Atlanta (and oh yeah, Portland) and thinking “Let’s lowball the shit out of this guy!”? If you don’t like the offers you’re getting, WHY AREN’T YOU TRYING TO MAKE ANY??

And Nets fans tease me for liking the Knicks. Whatever.

We’re at an interesting part of the season here people. The All-Star weekend has always come with a fair amount of intrigue. And not over who’s going to actually win the All-Star game of course, lordy no! Also, not even really over who will win the other events. Sure, it would be cool to see the 3 point contest drive an enormous wedge between Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, harpooning the team’s title chances as one Splash Brother is unable to forgive the other for prying away the World’s Deadliest sharpshooter title. Could be even cooler still to see the perpetually-snubbed Damian Lillard take KD’s word literally, setting up the coolest NBA 2K Blacktop scenario ever. (By the way, I love Dame’s game, but I ride with Adam Silver picking Demarcus Cousins. Dude is doing so much with so, so little around him.)

Nope. That stuff’s not what people care about. People care about all the league executives getting together in one place, mere days before the NBA trade deadline and making those panicked last-minute trade to solidify playoff lineups. True, most of the big shoes have already dropped. The Mavericks upgraded at guard, the Rockets gladly took on the Josh Smith problem, the Thunder acted aggressively, going out and acquiring… Dion Waiters. But, for those teams looking for the last bit of help to push them over the hump into title contention, this is the last opportunity to make those moves and prepare for April and May. Shout out Wilson Chandler!

I’m not here to talk about those guys. Not here to talk about whether the Pacers deal David West or hold on to him, banking on a Paul George return and a low playoff seed. Not here to talk about the mountainous pile of assets Denver is sitting on and what the hell GM Tim Connelly wants this team to look like next here. I’m here to talk about what everyone is REALLY interested in.

HOW DO THE KNICKS DUMP MORE SALARY??

Exhibit A: Amare Stoudemire/Andrea Bargnani

Ahh yes, the buyout. There’s been a little in the news recently that Amare Stoudemire would consider the possibility of a buyout over All-Star weekend, meaning he and the Knicks would negotiate and agree on an amount of money less than his current salary, which would allow him to become a free agent and join a playoff team, likely under the minimum salary.

For those less immersed in the nuances of the NBA’s salary rules (I also had to look this one up), this doesn’t really help the Knicks out all that much. Stoudemire’s contract was set to expire this summer anyway, and the Knicks are absolutely not going to be looking for any long-term money to replace him. Really all this will do is reduce the amount of luxury tax we pay in the offseason, open up another roster spot (THANASIS PLEEEEASE), and guarantee a little more playing time for household names like Travis Wear and Quincy Acy.

If anything, this is just a courtesy to Stoudemire, who has been an exceptional Knick these past five years. Yes, his salary and injuries absolutely torpedoed our future, and any hopes of building a playoff team to challenge Lebron James, but the dude has a ton of heart and competes every night he’s out there. Whether or not the buyout happens really depends on how little Amare is willing to take (which is why it is more likely Bargnani’s smaller contract will be the one bought out), but I hope it works out for him. Dallas has already expressed some interest in shoring up their frontcourt with him and Jermaine O’Neal, and I would love to see him back with the also-great-guy-not-mad-at-him-at-all Tyson Chandler playing for a ring.

Exhibit B: Jose Calderon

This is the BIG one. Calderon is under contract for two more seasons after this one (!!!), making around $7.5 mill/year. This season, Calderon is averaging under 10 points and 5 assists in 30 minutes per game. This guy cannot play defense, lacks the speed to operate as a drive and kick facilitator, and just completely fails the eye-test of “Is this guy impacting the game?” when he’s out there on the court. There was some fun conspiracy speculation that Calderon’s Spanish roots would be helpful in recruiting Marc Gasol to New York over the summer but in hindsight this guy for Tyson Chandler looks like one of the worst moves of the offseason. Time to redeem yourself Phil!

Because, all that aside, Calderon is a smart player and a more-than-capable 3 point shooter. Calderon is averaging under 2 TOs per game in 30 minutes and is a legendary threat from beyond the arc with a 44% career mark. There are places for a guy who can take care of the rock and knock down open shots for 20 minutes on a night for a playoff team. Let’s find them!

Houston:

It’s almost perfect. Daryl Morey is out there looking for backcourt help on a team that has been frightfully dependent on James Harden’s ability to get to the line. I know a lot of that is because Dwight Howard has been hurt for big swaths of the season, but Morey has been burning up the phones, already targeting Phoenix’s Goran Dragic. Somehow, amazingly, Calderon and Dragic make the same amount of money, but Dragic has a player option for next year and is going to be coming into a huge payday from someone. From those same rumors we glean that Phoenix hasn’t been crazy about any of Houston’s offers, or those coming from the sadsack Lakers. If they do strike out on the Dragon, is there a chance they’d go for Calderon?

Jose certainly fits the system as someone who can make Morey’s favorite shots. He can play off-ball with Harden and he’s an interesting compliment to the Rockets’ Pat Beverly, as coach Kevin McHale will be able to alternate Beverly’s ferocious defense with Calderon’s lack of interest depending on the situation.

Now Calderon doesn’t really have much create-his-own shot capability, or again, the speed to distort defenses and create truly open looks for his teammates, but he is smart enough to run Houston’s read and react offense. He should be at least interesting to a team that wants to optimize their one year of cheap Josh Smith title window. Interesting enough to warrant, say, Jason Terry’s $5.5 million expiring contract and a 2nd round pick?? Maybe that’s a little too much as Terry already does a lot of the things that Calderon can bring, but it might not be too much to ask for that same pick and some of their cheaper expirings and/or rookie contracts like Isiah Canaan, Clint Capela, or big-time dunker Nick Johnson. Let’s get some young blood in New York!

Detroit:

While Detroit looked like a surefire lock to make the East playoffs with Brandon Jennings going supernova on everyone, now they’re in a race with the Brooklyn-Miami-Indiana for that last seed. And, while they certainly got enough of a good look over the season to see that Jennings can be their answer at PG, its not too hard to imagine them making a panic trade to send Detroit back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Again, Calderon offers the 3 point shooting that Stan Van Gundy is so fond of, and has actually played with Detroit before for a few games in 2012-2013, which means he may remember playing off of Greg Monroe in the pick and roll a little. He would be playing a much larger role in Detroit than in Houston, perhaps even starting, as the Pistons PG rotation has become brutally thin after the Jennings injury. But Calderon is more than capable of keeping up his 30 minutes a night, running the offense and getting his bigs the ball down low, which would free up Augustin to play his more natural role of sparkplug off the bench.

Detroit, on the other hand, is loaded with expiring contracts, which could definitely help facilitate this trade. Jonas Jerebko $4.5 mill coming off the books, Joel Anthony $3.8 mill, Italian sharpshooter Gigi Datome with $1.75 million, they have a lot of pieces here (the last two guys don’t even crack the rotation). And yes, Detroit needs to keep some of that flexibility for the offseason, when it will almost certainly try to resign Greg Monroe, but its not a given that Monroe stays after they dicked him around over the summer. You know what would help keep him? Making the playoffs!!

Cleveland:

Ahhh yess, take more off our plates you jerks! While Cleveland has probably made the extent of their moves, a report did come out recently that they may be searching for PG help behind Kyrie Irving. The Cavs are probably a little too strapped out to consider taking on another $7.5 million/year but they still have Brendan Haywood’s trade exception as well as the expiring contract of James Jone, who rarely ever sees the court. I’m not exactly sure how much Calderon helps this team, as they are already pretty stacked with 3 point shooters and, if anything, should be trying to upgrade defensively a little (Norris Cole was mentioned in that article) but its not too wild to see GM David Griffin trying to make one more crazy move to hold on to Kevin Love before the offseason.

Exhibit C: Pablo Prigioni

Noooo, not Pablo. Anyone but Pablo!!!

Pretty much everything I just wrote about Calderon applies to Prigioni, except for their differences in salary. Prigioni is on the books for one more year after this year for a very manageable $1.75 million salary, but I’m sure Jackson is doing everything he can to obliterate all the remnants of past Knicks teams (as well as every little bit of money out there.)

Prigioni, again is a great 3 point shooter who takes care of the ball and will make the smart extra pass. Not only that, but Prigioni actually plays some defense! He is a pesky guy who will hound the ball for twenty minutes a night and come up with a steal here or there. And all of that for the mere price of a 2nd round pick!  Personally, I’d say that was a steal for any of the teams mentioned here and wouldn’t be too surprised if this is the guy that ends up getting shipped out before the trade deadline instead of the higher paid Calderon. And, while 2nd rounders aren’t really much to write home about, bundling up little assets can go a long way towards that big trade down the road.

Move em both? And we love you Phil!

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