National / Sports / February 23, 2011

On ‘Melo to New York

After months of rumors, Carmelo Anthony finally got traded to the New York Knicks. And he didn’t come cheap.

As many outlets have reported, the Knicks gave up a haul: Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, $3 million in cash, a 2014 first round draft pick and second round picks in 2012 and 2013.

But the Knicks received some parts—namely Chauncey Billups who, in his old age, is still an effective NBA point guard. No one knows how he’ll fit into head coach Mike D’Antoni’s system, and it’s quite apparent he isn’t the fit Felton was.

While Knicks fans are elated, critics and rival fans in the East are laughing, pointing at the heavy price the Knicks paid for Anthony, a player who a) needs the ball in his hands a lot and b) does not guard anyone. As many have noted, the move probably takes the Knicks from being the eighth best team in the East to the sixth best team. Is that worth crowing about? Is that a big step for a franchise that has long been irrelevant?

Perhaps. Knicks owner James Dolan is probably unconcerned about his team’s performance in the 2010-2011 season. No one expects the Knicks to reach the NBA Finals. And no one should.

It’s been an exciting season in the NBA, and this trade only adds to the drama. There has been a drastic shift in power, and the East is now stacked with superstars. As Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan continue to age, the West may look like as weak as the East in the pre-LeBron days.

From a different perspective, this trade has re-affirmed some things I’ve long known: I love the NBA, but I’m not a fan of any single team—and I’m definitely not a fan of the Bulls.

Bulls fans, in particular, seem disturbed by this trade. Though the majority I’ve heard still insist that Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer forms a better core than the Knicks’ Anthony, Billups and Amare Stoudemire, they claim this with an ever-present quiver in their voices. In other words, they’re scared. They don’t want to be unseated by the Knicks, given the rivalry, and given that the Bulls had the chance to acquire Anthony—hell, numerous chances to acquire Anthony—since last summer.

They passed. Perhaps this was for the better. Anthony, like Rose needs the ball in his hands. But Anthony, unlike Rose, is the best in the game when it counts. (Emphasis mine: I hate this phrase in almost any instance; but, bear with me, Anthony has been proven—statistically speaking—to be the best “clutch” shooter in the game. Why? Well, he’s 6’8”, which allows him to get better looks when shots are better contested late in games.)

But back to the issue of my NBA allegiance.

Being a fan of one Chicago team (White Sox) hasn’t transferred to the other major sports franchises in Chicago. But the Bulls in particular arouse nothing inside me: neither the love I have for the Sox nor the hatred I have for the Bears. I’m just ambivalent.

I’ve reflected on this often. My formative years included both Michael Jordan three-peats, and some of my earliest memories involve watching Steve Kerr covered in confetti, celebrating at halfcourt at the United Center.

So what gives? Well, I cared more about Illinois basketball back then. The NBA product—immediately after Jordan left—was less than compelling. The yawn-inducing Spurs won two NBA titles between 1999 and 2003. Sandwiched between those titles was another three-peat, this time by the LA Lakers, who dominated without ever seeming, well, dominant. They were bad enough to look susceptible against the dysfunctional 2000 Trail Blazers but dominant enough to go 67-15 in a full season.

And these days, the NBA is just more compelling to follow without any allegiance. There are great players everywhere—due in large part to the talent influx and in some part to salary cap rules.

As for the Bulls in particular—and the 2010-2011 Bulls especially—I don’t really like their players. I’ve hated Rose since he spurned Illinois twice in his protracted high school recruitment. (And I will never forgive him for delivering a title to professional skunk Bill Self.) Likewise, I’ve hated Noah since I first saw a photo spread of him in SLAM! Magazine when he was some dopey high school kid from Brooklyn.

I’m hoping that some day I’ll find a team worth rooting for. Perhaps when the NBA inevitably re-colonize some northwestern cities like Seattle and Vancouver.

Kevin Morris

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