Is it possible Phil did this out of spite? Just a cold-blooded, reptilian jealousy that saw JR Smith and Iman Shumpert parading shirtless down Euclid Avenue and thought “Fuck that!” No way these two knuckleheads are taking the spotlight away from the World’s Most Famous Arena, championship or no.
And if you’re looking for a player to snatch headlines, you’d be hard pressed to find someone more compelling than Derrick Rose. In his last podcast, Zach Lowe commented that James Jones had the league’s largest media coverage to playing time ratio; a dude who never leaves the bench and yet continues to rack up millions of dollars, championship rings, and untold clicks on silly ESPN feature stories just by virtue of being buddies with Lebron. Well, if Jones is taking the cake, then Derrick can’t be all that far behind.
Since his last All-Star selection in 2012, you would be hard pressed to say Rose has been anything much more than a league average point guard. He sat out the entire 2013 season after a brutal ACL tear in the playoffs and has embarked on a seemingly never-ending journey of subsequent injuries that have sapped the athleticism of one of the most explosive point guards of the last twenty years. (Go watch some highlights from his 2011 MVP season. Youngest in NBA history. Seriously, I’ll wait) To make matters even more depressing, Rose hasn’t really developed any kind of alternative skill set to compensate for his lack of burst; he’s shot under 30% from three for the last two seasons and somehow managed to average just barely more assists per game last year than Carmelo Anthony.
And yet? This still might just be a good move for the New York Knicks.
Maybe I’m trying to talk myself into this a little too much. If the JR Smith salary dump casualty to world champion example from the first paragraph means anything, it’s that careers blossom after the basketball hell that is New York City, and not the other way around. It’s completely unrealistic to expect that Rose comes anywhere close to regaining All-Star form or looking like some kind of Russell Westbrook/John Wall rock the rim athlete. However, for a Knicks team that hasn’t had an All-Star point guard since Mark Jackson in 1989 (!!!!!!!), Rose should be a huge upgrade on anyone on the current roster OR anyone that the Knicks could have conceivably attracted in free agency (barring a major mental collapse from Mike Conley).
Now before we get too ahead of ourselves here, let’s actually mention the trade itself. New York receives Derrick Rose, journeyman shooting guard Justin Holliday, and a 2017 2nd round pick for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon, and last year’s first round draft pick Jerian Grant. Of these the only one that actually stings is Grant. While the rookie had an underwhelming season due to his inability to shoot or gain consistent minutes from Rambis, it’s upsetting to give up on him after just one year, as he has the kind of speed and ability to run the pick and roll that might have worked better under new coach Jeff Hornacek (more on him in the weeks to come). In that vein, critics may pan the move as the kind of short-sighted, win-now gamble that has mired the Knicks in mediocrity for the entire 21st century and left us totally bereft of draft capital or home grown young talent.
I disagree. Jerian may have shown flashes, but he was hardly the kind of building block that our other first round pick promises to be and including him in this deal allows us to get off of another year of Calderon’s horrible contract and three more years of Lopez. RoLo actually had a decent year for New York and might end up being a good value contract in the rising salary cap era, but again his departure gives the Knicks even greater financial flexibility down the line and (hopefully) more minutes for Porzingis to spend at center. Most importantly, with these two gone and 2016 being the only year left on Rose’s contract, the Knicks will have a mountain of cap space in 2o17 when the free agent class is decidedly more stacked.
In that way, this move can really be seen as a one year rental. Kick the tires on Derrick and see what he has left in the tank in a contract year. If he flames out (or gets in a Linsanity style diva slap fest with Melo), the Knicks have their first round pick and can move on from him next summer. If he plays well, and really even average play will be far superior to the Knicks’ backcourt last year, Porzingis should benefit from having someone to run pick-and-roll with and collapse the defense. Jerian Grant aside, this is a low-risk move that has the upside of making the Knicks better in the short term, and therefore more desirable to all of the free agent players they’ll have the cash to wine and dine next year. And, at the very least, it means the Knicks will stay THE HELL away from Rajon Rondo this summer lololoz.
My one concern is the kind of trickle-down effect that this move could have. It’s wonderful to think that the Knicks will continue to make the kind of prudent, teambuilding decisions that have characterized the Jackson era; maybe lock down Lance Thomas on a team friendly deal, or poke around the restricted market for guys like Allen Crabbe or Tarik Black. Keep the powder dry until 2017 while adding a couple of low-cost rotation players with upside. However, the Rose move could also be seen as the first in a series of big swings for the playoffs that might include throwing money at Demar DeRozan (NOOOOO!!!) to fill out a massively overpaid backcourt or even bringing in Dwight Howard (NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!) as a substitute for Robin Lopez as the team’s starting center.
It looks good to me in a vacuum. And I can’t say I’ve hated a single one of Phil’s moves so far or really felt worse about the future of the franchise. But the true Knicks fan in all of us knows that ultimately we all need to reserve judgment in case that other shoe decides to drop.