By Moke Hamilton
NEW YORK — Why judge a trade before it’s even officially announced?
Oh, that’s right. Silly me. The mandate of the “New York minute” requires that your mind be made up and declarations of “win” or “lose” be made almost instantaneously.
Ahem. Pardon my refusal.
Tyson Chandler is expected to be announced as the newest member of the New York Knicks, perhaps as early as today. Late Friday night, Marc Berman of the New York Post reported that the Knicks agreed to send Ronny Turiaf to the Washington Wizards in what essentially amounts to a salary dump of the final year and $4.36 million left on his contract. This move comes a day after Chauncey Billups was notified by the Knicks that he — and his $14.2 million salary — would be amnestied.
As a result, the Knicks have seven players under contract and about $13.5 million in cap space. That cap space has been earmarked for Chandler, who is expected to be delivered to New York via a sign-and-trade that will see the Knicks send Andy Rautins to the Dallas Mavericks. Since the Knicks are under the salary cap, the Mavericks will receive a traded player exception of about $12.5 million.
So the Knicks are essentially trading Chauncey Billups, Ronny Turiaf, Andy Rautins, and their ability to use the midlevel exception of $5 million for Tyson Chandler and the new room exception of $2.5 million. (The Knicks lost their midlevel since they became a team with salary cap room.)
There are pros and cons to the acquisition of Chandler, but whether it was a good move or not can’t be determined yet.
Proponents of the acquisition will correctly point out that Amar’e Stoudemire is not a center, and that having him play power forward, full time, is the best thing the Knicks could have done to protect their $80 million investment. They’ll also tell you that Chandler is a tireless worker on the defensive end and on the glass, and that big men with his agility and mobility are hard to find.
And you know what? They’re right. All of that is true.
However, what the proponents probably won’t point out is that Chandler’s career averages of 8.3 ppg and 8.8 rpg hardly justify an average annual salary of $15 million. They’ll conveniently omit that he’s only played 70 percent of his teams’ games over the past three seasons, or that before his most recent playoff run with the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, the Charlotte Bobcats traded him in a salary dump.
Again. All true.
So what does that mean?
It means you should chill. Relax.
You never judge a book by its cover; so don’t judge this trade until we see what the New York Knicks look like on Christmas Day.
The biggest concern that every Knicks fan should have about this deal is that the Knicks used their right to amnesty a contract on Chauncey Billups — a player in the final year of his deal who could have been bought out for $4 million back in May. The right to amnesty a contract is a one-time right under the life of the current CBA, and was insurance. It was important to preserve it in the event that Amar’e or Carmelo — and their $20 million salaries — needed to be jettisoned in the event either failed to live up to their salaries in subsequent years. The blind proponents of the Chandler deal seem to have simply forgotten that it took Donnie Walsh years to clean up the mess created by Isiah Thomas’ imprudent spending and immobile contracts.
For goodness sake, the Knicks had to give the Houston Rockets two first round draft picks just to take Jared Jeffries’ bad contract off their hands. That’s what happens when you need to undo mistakes. Unless, of course, you’re given a one time amnesty.
I’m sorry, but using the amnesty provision on Chauncey, all things considered, is somewhat asinine. Chandler or no Chandler.
Proponents: Fear not, though. I’ll admit that it would have been equally asinine for the Knicks to sit on their hands for another year and allow Stoudemire’s knees and Carmelo’s surgically repaired elbow to accrue more mileage over the course of a 66-game regular season sprint to the playoffs. If they stayed on the CP3 plan, they would have given out one- year contracts, continued to hold up the rebuilding process, and at the end of the day, simply kept their fingers crossed that Chris Paul would have been willing to do exactly what Carmelo Anthony wasn’t — take less money.
And you know what? Even if Paul did, the Knicks would have begun the 2012-2013 season with a 30-year old Stoudemire, 28-year old Carmelo, 27-year old Chris Paul, Iman Shumpert, one room exception player, and a roster full of minimum salaried guys. They would have been starting from ground zero in 2012.
So, you see, there are arguments both for and against the Chandler move.
As tough as it might be for you, Mr. and Mrs. Knick fan, try to keep a level head. Yes, Chandler provides the Knicks with a much needed presence in the paint, but his acquisition could be a short term gain that results in a long term loss.
So, before I make up my mind, I want to see how the dominoes fall.
What the Knicks have done with their acquisition of Chandler is turned the page. Everyone knew that Billups was a stopgap just like everyone knew Raymond Felton was a stopgap. By swapping Billups and Turiaf for Chandler, the Knicks have — if nothing else –traded an uncertain ending into solid beginning. Moreover, they’ve sent a message, loud and clear, to their fan base: Waiting time is over.
That’s admirable and exciting. Yet, it’s still too early to know whether or not the move was the right one. As it stands, Billups reportedly wants to join the Miami Heat.
To the blind supporters of the Chandler acquisition: How would you feel about the prospect of meeting Mr. Big Shot and the three amigos in the playoffs, or watching him help LeBron James win his first championship?
To those that oppose the acquisition: Would you feel better about it if Richard Hamilton — convinced that the Knicks were now a contender — agreed to sign with the team for their $2.5 million room exception? How about if Baron Davis found his way onto the Knicks after being amnestied by the Cavaliers? With Chandler, the Knicks have just become one of the teams guys like Rip and Baron would take less to play for. Prior to Chandler, they had to put the full-court press on Jeffries after the Rocket bought him out last year. Night and day.
Time will tell whether or not this was a good move. And we’ll know whether or not it was a good move not by Step 1 (amnestying Chauncey) or Step 2 (dumping Turiaf’s salary), but by whatever the hell Steps 3 and 4 are.
In the interim, applaud the Knicks for having the guts to go all in on a bold move. They’re going for it. They’re trying to build a team. They’re trying to win a championship and they’re trying to do it with a dynamic front line.
Whether or not it works remains to be seen. And yes, the development of Toney Douglas, Landry Fields, and Iman Shumpert will go a long way in making the determination.
But whether you love the Chandler move or hate it, be excited. The Knicks have filled a need and they’ve filled it adequately.
Just don’t make the mistake. Don’t judge the book by its cover.
This season, we’re going to get the answers to some very important questions.
And that’s great news to me, cuz one damn thing’s for sure: Chris Paul or no Chris Paul, I sure was getting tired of waiting.