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Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Power of the Big Name

A post on, of all things, pro basketball.  I had backed away from sports because of all of the nonsense going on in the country. I figured sports should be relegated to the 'nonsense' file, along with just about everything on TV, and the vast majority of the US Congress.  After reading movie and book reviews by Murray Rothbard, and seeing that many of the great minds have followed aspects of various frivolities, I figured I could go back to some of my earlier passions.  What I've found isn't pretty.  The Knicks and the Carmelo Anthony trade is exhibit A.

"February 22, 2011: As part of a 3-team trade, traded by the Denver Nuggets with Renaldo Balkman, Chauncey Billups, Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams to theNew York Knicks; the Denver Nuggets traded a 2015 2nd round draft pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves; the Minnesota Timberwolves traded Kosta Koufos to theDenver Nuggets; the Minnesota Timberwolves traded Corey Brewer to the New York Knicks; the New York Knicks traded Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, cash, a 2012 2nd round draft pick, a 2013 2nd round draft pick and a 2014 1st round draft pick to the Denver Nuggets; and the New York Knicks traded Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph and cash to the Minnesota Timberwolves."

Both Henry Hazlitt and Frederic Bastiat, when writing about economics, famously said "look for what is seen and what is not seen."  What isn't seen as part of this trade explanation is the timing.  The NBA was running up to the end of the labor contract, and there was going to be a lockout.  Carmelo Anthony wanted to sign a deal under the (at the time) current labor contract, predicting that the new deal was going to be less player / dollar friendly.  At the time Carmelo was eking out an existence with a paltry $15.7 million per year.  In looking out for his wallet, he wanted to get out from under his contract and sign a new one,  but Denver wasn't going to rewrite the deal.  Let's pause for a moment and analyze this: Carmelo and his agent have to peddle his services to teams in the NBA because he wanted 'out of Denver' and a new deal because they were afraid of the new labor agreement.  What kind of leverage is that?  One would think that every team would understand that the labor rulebook was going to be rewritten after the lockout, so let's wait before making a deal, right?  What team would feel obligated to acquiesce to those terms?  Turns out there was a team that felt it hadn't been snookered in a long time, and needed to undo its spectacular 2 years of building a team the right way - the NY Knicks.

At the time the Knick franchise had done the "thing you cannot do", which was rebuild in NY.  The shibboleth is that in NY, the fans are so demanding, that a GM cannot rebuild the team as the fans will lose patience and not show up.  There is no evidence to support this.  As a matter of fact, Isaiah Thomas had disemboweled the franchise over the previous years, and people still showed up.  Why they wanted to watch a team that played no defense, picked up such notorious ball movement stoppers as Eddy Curry, Steve Francis, Tim Thomas, Jerome James, Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson, Zach Randolph... fingers... getting... tired... remains a mystery.

Apparently, what fans did tire of was a salary cap busting roster that couldn't play, and wasn't even fun to watch.  So the Knicks began to clean house.  Donnie Walsh was brought in to right the ship, and he did.  Showing patience and planning, he hired a run and gun coach, Mike D'Antoni, and carefully assembled a roster via the draft and trades to land a young, vibrant, and fun to watch roster.  The roster and the coach fit in style and temperament.  The playoffs were finally in the picture, the young versatile small forward was in place, and the young ball distributing point guard was there.  It was working.  Then it happened.  The NY media machine, in search of news and a big name, fed the mouth breathing NY fan base the "we can get 'Melo!!" meme.  Knick fandom, somehow talked about in reverential tones as "the NBA's most knowledgeable fan base", bit on the fake, and completely removed all self-legitimacy by blabbering about the farcical "maybe this will also lure Chris Paul because he and 'Melo are friends".  Compounding this wretched narrative, Knick management somehow felt moved by this and forced a trade they did not have to make.  Young dynamic players - gone.  Big name - in.  Salary cap flexibility - gone.  Winning record - gone.  This brings to mind the Bill Parcells quote: "You are what your record says you are".  Well, as of this writing (Feb 4th, 2012), the Knicks are 8-15, and the Denver Nuggets are 15-8.  

The Sports Fates are laughing at what they have wrought.  Be careful what you wish for.

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