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At 9-19 and currently out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, ESPN is reporting that the New York Knicks are looking to boost their postseason prospects by landing rehabbing Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo.
It’s hard to take such rumors seriously coming out of New York because the Knicks labeled this year’s team championship or bust and are desperate to do anything to make themselves relevant. Also, this isn’t the first time a rumor of the Knicks making a play for Rondo has circulated, so what could possibly have changed in the past month?
Even if Rondo is still a month or more away from returning to actual game play, with no real sense of whether he’ll return to All-Star form not having played in an NBA game for almost a year, the Knicks clearly don’t have suitable trade assets to bring the 27-year-old point guard to the Big Apple. The initially rumored package of Iman Shumpert, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Big Fat Raymond Felton might as well be a pupu platter from a “Grade Pending” Chinese restaurant on some sketchy New York side street. Add in their utter lack of coveted first round draft picks to speak of (they unloaded three in the trade for Andrea Bargnani, for some inexplicable reason), and it seems the Knicks would need their own Miracle on 34th Street.
The key to that miracle is Carmelo Anthony. Not due to his Oak Hill connection to Rondo, or because he’s ignoring all the rules of the collective bargaining agreement by recruiting his fellow high school alum, but because the trade that brought Anthony to the Knicks would appear to be the template that Rondo could follow all the way from Boston to New York. Anthony, then with the Denver Nuggets, essentially forced his way into a trade to New York by refusing to sign an extension with any team but the Knicks.
The Knicks’ only hope would be to replicate the precedent Anthony set, in which Rondo refuses to sign an extension with the Celtics (his current contract runs through 2015) or any other team except for the Knicks. In this scenario, the Celtics would be too terrified of losing Rondo for nothing to play that game of chicken, accepting said pupu platter instead of potentially watching Rondo walk away in free agency.
Of course, when Carmelo bullied his way to New York in the same way he bullies his way to the rim, the Knicks actually had a handful of appealing assets that made Denver want to do the deal. Felton wasn’t so fat back then, nearly averaging a double-double (17 points and 9 assists); Wilson Chandler was a dynamic forward capable of playing multiple positions and averaging over 16 points per game); and Danilo Gallinari was a sweet-shooting Italian big man who could knock down 3s at 6’10″ and just 23 years old. The Nuggets will also have the Knicks’ first round pick in the upcoming 2014 draft courtesy of that trade.
With no such cards up their sleeve, the Knicks will be hard-pressed to force the Celtics into such a trade, unless a third team gets involved with more useful trade pieces for the rebuilding Boston roster. I would imagine the Celtics would rather take a chance of re-signing their franchise point guard, dangling the extra money thanks to his Bird rights, then have the added cap space if Rondo ends up leaving town.
In the meantime, though, until Rondo ends up buddy-buddy with Spike Lee, I’m going to enjoy watching the Knicks do their best re-enactment of Titanic. Surefire, unsinkable championship contenders coming into the season, now they’re desperately sending out SOS signals to simply return to the playoffs by leaking far-fetched trade rumors to the press, all the while hoping to avoid the very real possibility that Anthony could jump ship at season’s end for warmer waters in Laker Land. After all, how could LaLa resist a city after her own name?