Another round of Carmelo Anthony speculation began in New York this week and, as always, it came with a certain segment of the Knicks fan base pushing the idea that trading for Anthony now is foolish for the Knicks because they will simply be able to sign him as a free agent later. Why pay in players and money now, the theory goes, when you can simply pay cash to get Anthony a few months down the line?
This notion, on its face, makes sense. Of course no one wants to pay for something twice when the option of paying once is available. To do otherwise would be insane. But here is the problem with that concept, the problem with making the Anthony trade -- or any player transaction, really -- that simple:
Those Knicks fans who are leery of trading Landry Fields or Wilson Chandler or Anthony Randolph or Danilo Gallinari right now should remember what happened with the Yankees and Cliff Lee. Or, you know, with the Knicks and LeBron James. Those situations where someone is absolutely certain to be heading to a particular city or team can -- and often do -- change. Nothing is for sure.
So yes, Donnie Walsh, go on and make your deal to get Anthony in New York. Make your trades to get a draft pick or two, then make the call to the Nuggets and get Anthony here as soon as possible. Might he sign a free agent deal with the Knicks this summer anyway? He might. But he also might take his talents to Chicago or New Jersey or -- and don't think I'm crazy -- the Lakers, for all we know. He might stay in Denver. He might be inspired by Allen Iverson and go to Greece.
No one knows. And that's the problem.
The Yankees had an opportunity to trade for Lee, one of the best pitchers in baseball, back in July. They talked, negotiated, went back and forth with the Mariners on a trade, nearly had one in place then ultimately pulled out when Seattle upped its demands at the last minute. The package was too much, Yankees executives said. We didn't want to give up all the Mariners wanted.
It's fine, everyone said. The Yankees didn't need Lee at the time, didn't absolutely require another ace in their rotation. And besides, they were the prohibitive favorites to sign him as a free agent this winter because they would assuredly be his highest-bidding suitor.
Six months later, we all know how that turned out: Lee is looking for houses in Philadelphia and the Yankees are looking for pitchers in ... well, wherever it is that you find Bartolo Colon these days.
Maybe the Yankees couldn't have made the deal with Seattle in the end because the Mariners wanted to trade with the Rangers more anyway. Maybe it never would have happened even if the Yankees opened up the coffers and told Seattle to take what it wanted. We'll certainly never know.
What we do know is that Lee obviously wasn't as locked into going to New York as everyone seemed to think, the same way James wasn't particularly interested in "increasing his brand" or "saving basketball in the Mecca" or whatever other contrived explanation we all came up with to convince ourselves he was definitely coming to the Knicks last summer.
Now there's Anthony, another superstar that everyone seems to believe will definitely come to New York -- this time it's because his wife loves it here so much, right? -- and thus isn't worthy of a two-tiered payment.
You'd think that by now we'd all have learned. The Knicks need Anthony, need him to help put them over the top in this rebuilding. Need him to help A'mare Stoudemire bring basketball back at the Garden. So they should go get him right now, not later, and not take a chance on another situation where things happen.
Sure, paying twice isn't ideal. Of course it isn't. It still beats the alternative. Still beats having to watch another superstar walk away.