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As of this week, the New York Knicks feature Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, late of the Denver Nuggets. Over a score of other NBA players changed teams as Thursday's trade deadline approached, but the Knicks led the league in acquiring stars, so I thought we'd see how one Knicks fan feels about those acquisitions.
Jeremy Flynn grew up on Long Island and is currently a student at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.
“Oh, I’ve been a Knicks fan my whole life," Jeremy told me when we spoke this week. "Probably the best memories I have come from when I was younger, and I was pretending to be Patrick Ewing. A nice, white Long Island Jew pretending to be Patrick Ewing.”
Jeremy's delighted at his team's new acquisitions, but despite that fact that the Knicks already have yet another star in Amare Stoudemire, this Knicks fan is still hungry.
“I’m kind of excited about how they'll work to bring in a third player to kind of really give us a dynasty to compete with the likes of the Celtics, or even the Lakers," he said.
When I accused him of having a New York attitude, because he seemed to always be looking for more, Jeremy laughed.
"Well," he said, "we gotta want the best. We play on the best stage in the world, so we gotta put the best show up there.”
In at least one opposing camp, the inclination of the wealthiest teams to stockpile standout talent is not playing well. In a press conference Wednesday, Greg Miller, the owner of the Utah Jazz organization that traded all-star point guard Deron Williams to New Jersey this week, sounded a warning of sorts:
"I'm not interested in seeing congregations of star players on a handful of teams throughout the league," Miller said. "I don't think it does the teams any good. It doesn't do the fans any good. It doesn't do the sponsors any good. And I would like to see as much parity as there can be in the league."
Yeah, yeah, parity, whatever. What most fans wanted to know in the wake of the trades was if any team had gotten a lot better overnight. I asked Chris Tomasson, a senior NBA writer for AOL Fanhouse, to weigh in on that.
“The Knicks got Carmelo Anthony, but they kind of stripped their depth," he said. "I think the Knicks will be better for the long term with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire teaming together, but for the short term I think they’re about the same. It's kind of the same with the New Jersey Nets, who acquired Deron Williams from Utah. Of course, they're not really a playoff team this season. They’re thinking for the future. But I can't say that any of these trades instantly made a team better."
Tomasson was being cautious in part because several trades included future draft picks. Nobody knows who those picks will be. With regard to college players, the risk has increased in recent years, because, as Tomasson pointed out, those drafting players don't get much of a look at the prospects.
“Way back when, it was it was college seniors and juniors in the draft, and you had a better idea of how a draft pick might turn out," he said. "Now it’s often a crap shoot, because you’re drafting these guys after one year in college, and sometimes they didn’t even play all that much in college, because they were so raw.”
Of course, even proven players can surprise their new employers… sometimes by scoring twice as many points as they've ever scored, sometimes by threatening to retire. Oklahoma Thunder fans are hoping that center Kendrick Perkins and guard Nate Robinson will relish larger roles with their team than they had with the Boston Celtics, who traded them for center Nenad Krstic and swingman Jeff Green.
Tomasson is not sure that trade will work out the way the Celtics hope it will.
“Jeff Green is a guy who came close to making the World Championship Team for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Kendrick Perkins kind of gave the Celtics that intangible. And many people think if he hadn't gone down with that knee injury in Game 6 of the NBA Finals last year, the Celtics would have ended up beating the Lakers for the title.”
In one of the other notable NBA address changes, Baron Davis, late of the Los Angeles Clippers, was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Whatever dismay this may have caused among scattered Clippers fans is nothing compared to what some passionate fans of the Denver Nuggets are experiencing in the wake of the loss of both Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.
According to Irv Moss, a sports columnist with the Denver Post, even though they were tired of half a season's worth of trade talk centered on Carmelo Anthony, they still don't relish losing him. Moss says that's why Nuggets team president, 30-year-old Josh Kroneke, felt compelled to take the unusual step of apologizing for trading away both Anthony and Billups.
According to Moss, Nuggets fans will miss Billups more than they'll miss Anthony. Billups went to George Washington High School in Denver and played for the University of Colorado, and the point guard’s second stint with the Nuggets made him even more popular.
"He's always been a great crowd favorite," Moss told me. "He's been a great player, and he's been active in the community, so he's really raised his image."
The popularity of Billups notwithstanding, when the Nuggets drafted Carmelo Anthony in 2003, they’d gone nine straight seasons without a winning record. With Anthony they went to the playoffs seven consecutive times. Nuggets management has tried to reassure fans that these trades don't represent the start of a rebuilding period, but according to Moss, the reassurance may not be necessary. He says most Mile High sports fans, like fans of pro teams elsewhere, are used to change.
"Players come and go," he told me. "Fans have learned to ride with it."
"Riding with it" was not the tactic five members of the Detroit Pistons employed on Friday. Apparently dismayed that they were NOT traded to some more promising aggregation, Tracy McGrady, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Chris Wilcox, and Ben Wallace staged what has been termed "a player protest" and failed to show up for practice.
This segment aired on February 26, 2011.
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