Photo: AP Images
Ever since Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov publicly withdrew his team from the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes, much has been made of the Nets’ improvement without the burden of swirling rumours. On January 19 they were 10-31. Since, they’re 6-6.Even in their losses, the Nets have mostly played better, evidenced in a one-point loss to Dallas.
The players attributed some of their previous struggles to the constant ‘Melo-to-Jersey headlines.
“Yes, it becomes a distraction at some point when it’s constantly talked about,” Devin Harris told NBA.com.
“This is a big relief because I don’t have family members and friends calling and asking me about it, and reporters asking me about it all the time,” rookie forward Derrick favours said in the same piece.
Meanwhile, Prokhorov’s declaration directly affected another team – the New York Knicks. Since the Nets and Nuggets were unable to get a deal done, the Knicks became the favourite to land Denver’s star. Before the spotlight shifted to the Knicks, they were 22-18. Since, they’re just 4-7.
Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni finally acknowledged that the rumours are affecting his team:
“It’s not good, there’s no doubt about it,” D’Antoni told Newsday. “It affects some of the players without a doubt… You hate it for the players, but at the same time, it’s part of the business.”
Of course it affects the players. Wilson Chandler figures to be the principal piece in a deal that brings Anthony to New York, and his scoring dipped from 17.6 points per game before Jan. 19, to 9.9 since (albeit, there have been injury concerns.) Meanwhile, the rest of the team is probably day-dreaming of adding the talented ‘Melo to the roster.
And rather than reveling in the Knicks’ resurgent season, the Madison Square Garden crowd begins chanting “We Want Melo” the instant things take a turn for the worse. Those chants only compound the problems.
The Knicks are slowly dipping in the standings. Earlier this year, they looked like a lock for the 6-seed at worst, and a team that could potentially compete for homecourt advantage in the first round. Now the Knicks are closer to missing the playoffs – just 4.5 games up on 9th place Charlotte – than they are to the 5-seed.
Four games separate them from the trade deadline, the day trade rumours are put to rest. Before the Knicks dip below .500, the team must decide what to do. Even from Russia, Prokhorov clearly saw that “the uncertainty… has cost us several games.” It’s time for the Knicks to end their team’s uncertainty, decide what to do with ‘Melo (who, by the way, dropped 42 points last night), and begin focusing on the stretch run.
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