Each week, we rank the Knicks in terms of their contributions, their progress, their entertainment value, and whatever else they bring to the Madison Square Garden court. This week will be different. For one, New York has played just one game since the last rankings, winning against the Hawks before dispersing for the All-Star break. For two, the roster just got dynamited and reconstructed. Carmelo Anthony headlines a group of newcomers to be studied and ranked starting next week. For now, though, it’s time to bid farewell to the half dozen Knicks departing in this deadline deal. In keeping with the format, our six ex-companions are ranked in some sort of value order, but don’t read too much into it this time around. Without further ado …
1. Danilo Gallinari: In the 2008 NBA draft, Knick fans were given an egg. It was kind of pale, strangely oblong, and inexplicably covered in hair gel, but we were told it would hatch and grow into a proud, majestic rooster. That summer, a chick stumbled out of the egg. It took a few promising steps, only to crash headfirst into a surly hog and injure its spine. After a surgery, almost a full year’s absence, and a season and a half to develop, we were just starting to see that egg’s potential. Danilo isn’t a full-grown rooster, mind you, but a lively, feisty cockerel. He’s got the strut and even the comb but is still mustering the confidence needed to crow regularly. Alas, the cockerel has been taken from us before it realized its full gallinaceous potential. Our egg will be somebody else’s rooster.
Seriously, though, it hurts to lose Danilo at this point in his career. Since debuting as a Knick, he’s supplemented his prefabricated outside game with an ever-increasing will to attack the rim and an earnest commitment to improving as a defender. What Gallo lacks in fleetness, balance, and agility, he offsets with a fiery demeanor and a remarkable ability to draw fouls (often because of those very same deficits). Whether he’ll ever employ those skills and that attitude at an All-Star level — or even on a regular basis — remains to be seen. Unfortunately, Knick fans won’t be the ones to witness it. Farewell to a brash, charming young cockerel who was taken from us far too early.
2. Wilson Chandler: If Gallinari was the bold but not totally convincing cockerel, then Chandler was some sort of lamb or cria that can fly. He’d take to the skies for violent dunks and rejections, only to return to earth stone-faced and ruminating with nary a bleat. In many ways, Wil was Danilo’s foil. While Gallo’s vigor and bravado helped him overcome his sub-average athleticism, Chandler’s apparent indifference to his own physical skills was comical at times. Seriously, have you ever seen somebody look so completely bored after burning Kevin Garnett in front of 20,000 people?
We knew Wilson cared, though, even if he didn’t appear to. Chandler’s hard work bought him a much-improved jump shot this season, and he was humming along quite splendidly before a nagging ankle injury and equally nagging trade chatter derailed his flow. It’s unclear how long Chandler, who will become a free agent this summer, will stay in Denver, but it sort of makes sense for him to stick with a small-market team. This placid yet potent lamb might never have grown into a full-on sheep under the glaring spotlight of New York and its media. In a more tranquil atmosphere, there’s reason to believe he’ll do just that.
3. Raymond Felton: Felton, the cattle dog, wasted no time in herding his charges. He was the team’s vocal leader and table-setter from day one, and he didn’t miss a single game for an aching back, a sprained ankle, or (forgive me) a sore paw. In just 54 games, the unmistakably southern Felton handled the role of big-city point guard quite ably. Even through injuries and slumps, Raymond’s confidence was unshakable and his grit unquestionable. That indefatigable mettle just came across as incredibly New Yorker. He felt like one of us (well, one of you. I wear my seat belt in cabs). Despite injuries, slumps, and constant rumors, Felton gave us everything he had in his brief stint in orange and blue, and for that we thank him. Also: this. Chauncey Billups has big shoes to fill.
4. Timofey Mozgov: There’s probably some sort of Animal Farm reference to be made here, but I’ll ignore that and dub Mozgov the goose without consulting Orwell. He’s lanky, silly, and uh … white. In any event, Timo’s short stay in New York included hints of excellence: a brilliant ability to run the floor and finish, a gift for blocking shots, and his very own Russian blog. Mozgov has oodles of potential, and with a reinsertion into Mike D’Antoni’s starting lineup, he was working toward realizing it in New York. Hopefully, he’ll have that same opportunity in Denver or wherever else fate takes him.
5. Eddy Curry: The long-forgotten ox is but a mascot for the Isiah Thomas era at this point. With scandal, personal loss, and a faltering physique damning his last few years in New York, poor Eddy’s value has been reduced to that of his embarrassingly huge salary. Casual fans probably thought the Knicks had a guy named “Eddycurrys Expirincontrack” this whole time. However, it’s worth remembering that Curry put in a few good years as a Knick, the finest of which was a 2006–2007 season in which he played all but one game and averaged career highs of 19.5 points and 7.0 rebounds. There was even a campaign to send him to the All-Star game. Even when healthy, though, Curry rarely rebounded, defended, or exerted himself enough to be all that he could be. It’s highly unlikely that Eddy comes close to being dominant again — and the guy really was an honest-to-goodness force for a moment or two there — but maybe he can work his way back into actual basketball, be it as a Timberwolf or somewhere else. Anything to overcome what will end up being a very sour legacy here in New York.
6. Anthony Randolph: Randolph is some sort of humongous flying insect that has absolutely no business on a farm. He spun for just 127 minutes as a Knick, and at no point demonstrated that he could use his spellbinding physical gifts — endless vertical, loping gait, legs for arms — as part of a team. David Kahn’s zany horde of scoundrels might be the best possible landing spot for Anthony. There he’ll hopefully have a chance to find himself without losing his team any more games than they would have lost already. It’s a damn shame that Mike D’Antoni and Anthony Randolph didn’t cross paths in the pre-Amar’e, pre-relevance years.
Best of luck to all of the ex-Knicks, each of whom showed promise at some point in his time here. Even as Knick fans hyperventilate over our shiny new All-Star and his curious gang of minions, we’ll keep a westward eye on the futures of our surrendered projects. Goodbye, old friends.