3:40 pm Dec. 7, 2011
After then-general manager Donnie Walsh's two years of salary-cap cleansing from 2008-2010 produced just an Amar'e Stoudemire signing (and not the coveted LeBron James), the New York Knicks began chasing another two stars to match the three in Miami: James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
Star number two should have been an easy one: Carmelo Anthony, entering the final year of his contract at the start of last season, clearly wanted to come to the Knicks.
But then he gave the Knicks a hard time, and wouldn't rule out trades to others teams as the Nuggets tried to deal him. Anthony even told Knicks owner Jim Dolan he needed to step up his bidding or he'd agree to sign an extension with the New Jersey Nets.
As a result, the Knicks had no leverage with the Nuggets, and needed to trade virtually every asset they had to get Anthony, leaving them short-handed in the playoffs last year.
Now they're theoretically in pursuit of the latest must-have N.B.A. star in the final season of his contract: New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul.
Paul would be a perfect fit in New York. He's a fantastic distributor of the ball, and an elite scorer himself. He defends his position extremely well, and would arguably give the Knicks a more talented threesome than even Miami's James-Wade-Bosh trifecta.
The problem? The Knicks gave up virtually every desirable asset to get Anthony. And it appears Chris Paul, despite a desire to go to New York, knows it's not likely, and won't expend any personal capital to make it any more so.
That means in turn that the Knicks would probably have to give up as much in assets for Paul as they did in the Anthony trade, for whom expended Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, a first round pick, two second round picks, and $3 million in cash. It's hard to imagine how they could do anything similar again.
So what can the Knicks do, with the Magic, the Clippers, the Celtics and possibly other teams all interested in Chris Paul? Well, they can't trade the assets former team president Donnie Walsh painstakingly collected—they are all gone. They have Chauncey Billups, a veteran point guard making $14.2 million, and backup center Ronny Turiaf, making $4.36 million. If another team in need of salary-cap relief wanted to trade New Orleans useful assets, the Knicks could trade those two expiring contracts to that third team, with New Orleans sending Paul to the Knicks, theoretically.
But all of this requires Paul's cooperation, since the teams mentioned above have far more to offer than the Knicks can probably coerce out of a third team without even the motivation to end up with Paul. Orlando, for instance, is ready to do whatever it takes to land Paul, in large part to entice center Dwight Howard to re-sign with the team.
If the Knicks have any shot whatsoever at making this happen, Chris Paul would need to do them the favor of emphatically declaring his desire to play in New York, which would increase their leverage to the point that they might not have to empty their stores in a trade to land him.
What are the chances that'll happen?