Friends, family, colleagues and those who generally care about my well-being have been asking about the Knicks recently. I get the sense that casual New York fans saw Stephen Curry and LeBron James in the NBA Finals and thought, "It would be super cool if the Knicks were good, and New York went crazy."
-- "You think the Knicks can be good again?"
-- "Can the Knicks do anything in the offseason?"
-- "Is Carmelo Anthony done?"
-- "Will Kristaps Porzingis be a superstar?"
I am admittedly a homer. I think the Yankees can make the playoffs this year. I think Henrik Lundqvist can still win a Vezina Trophy next season. I think the Giants can go 9-7 this fall and string together four straight postseason wins for a Super Bowl -- wait, that's actually believable.
But the Knicks are a different breed. It's been all downhill since Larry Johnson's four-point play in the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals. From Stephon Marbury to Steve Francis to Eddy Curry to Amar'e Stoudemire, my heart is stone.
I have never entered an NBA offseason as pessimistic as this summer. "They have no draft picks, no cap space and no trade pieces," I told a friend this week. I guess I was exaggerating. The Knicks did something right that creates future cap space, brings in a draft pick and milks the value out of the pieces the team had. And it brings in talent. Here's the deal in case you missed it:
-- Knicks get Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday, 2017 second-round pick.
-- Bulls get Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant.
Derrick Rose is a gamble, but it is a one-year gamble. The Knicks will pay Rose $21.3 million in 2016-17, about $400,000 more than they would have paid Lopez and Calderon. The Knicks actually save about $600,000 when matching up Holiday and Grant, and New York opens up $200,000 in cap space for the 2016-17 season.
More importantly, Rose and Holiday are both under expiring contracts. Calderon has an expiring contract too, and Grant has a team option after 2016-17. But Lopez' contract continues for $13.8 million in 2017-18 and $14.4 million in 2018-19.
If Rose rediscovers his game, the Knicks can chat with him about a future contract after the season (giving Rose any contract extension during the season based on his injury history is crazy). No matter what happens, the Knicks will open up roughly $14 million in cap space for the 2017 offseason. Somehow, Knicks president Phil Jackson and general manager Steve Mills just dumped salary while improving skill.
Economics is cool, but talent is the important part of this trade. The New York Knicks are not going to win the 2016-17 NBA title. But at least the Knicks just created potential for a talent upgrade. Calderon is slow and past his prime in a league where strong, speedy point guards rule (see: Westbrook, Russell). Lopez is a classic bruising center, who can be a defensive energizer off the bench, but in New York, he constantly found himself sitting during fourth-quarter comeback efforts, a common fate for old school big men (see: Duncan, Tim).
Rose, if he can play to two-thirds of his former MVP potential, gives Carmelo Anthony the point guard he has desperately needed since arriving in Manhattan. Anthony's two best PER (player efficiency rating) seasons came in 2012-13 (24.8) and 2013-14 (24.4) when the Knicks had Raymond Felton running point. Anthony also thrived with Chauncey Billups in Denver and New York. With Calderon, Anthony was forced to go into even greater isolation mode than he is accustomed to. Rose, a drive-first point guard, should open the floor for Anthony and Porzingis.
Of course, Rose's driving means an end, or at least a loosening, to Jackson's triangle offense in New York. We can get into that argument another day, but the Knicks have a new coach in Jeff Hornacek and one of the most athletic point guards NBA history. Let the offense fly.
If I am raving about the trade so much, why did the Bulls do it? Chicago is in transition like New York. Unlike the Knicks, the Bulls have cap space and depth. Joakim Noah ($13.4 million) and Pau Gasol's ($7.5 million) contracts are off the books from last season (either could end up joining the Knicks front court as a free agent). Meanwhile, they have young talent with Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis. With Lopez settling the center position for the next few seasons, the Bulls can make a soft run at free agents this offseason and a harder run in 2017 when Calderon's contract expires.
Still not convinced? Derrick Rose may never be the same player he once was. As dark as it sounds, he could re-injure his knee this season and play limited minutes for the Knicks. His trade value is more likely to decline than increase. The Bulls' front office decided to get value for Rose while it still could. For Chicago, Lopez and raw point guard Jerian Grant represent more upside than the prospect of eating Rose's final season and risking another injury. That is the brutal truth.
But I feel for the people of Chicago. Like, more than I've ever felt for a group of people in sports. In September 2011, I arrived for my freshman year at Northwestern. Derrick Rose was the most beloved man in the city, and this was only three years after Barack Obama was elected president. Rose, then the reigning MVP, was a Chicago-born-and-bred son, who lifted the Bulls out of post-Michael Jordan purgatory. It was a fairy tale. LeBron James and the Heat were the Big Bad Wolf and Rose was Little Red Riding Hood. I saw Derek Jeter at his prime in New York, and this felt bigger. He understood the city, and the city understood him. For a time.
One day, there will be great documentaries about Derrick Rose and his fall in his hometown. For four years, I watched the media chop Rose apart, as he sat out the playoffs in 2013, despite getting cleared by a doctor. Injury memes piled up, and Tom Thibodeau essentially lost his job because the team spent $20 million every season on a crumbling superstar.
Rose was supposed to roll down Michigan Avenue on parade floats with rings on his fingers. He was supposed to be the second coming of Jordan. He was supposed to be the city's king forever.
Instead, he crippled the franchise for a half decade, and his career has officially moved on. Rose can now play second fiddle to Anthony (and maybe even third to Porzingis), without hometown expectations weighing on him, and perhaps that's what he needs at this point.
Whatever the case, this is a darn smart deal by the New York Knicks. And in 2016, that is the most surprising part.
Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.