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The New York Knicks are up to their old shenanigans. Hours after announcing the signing of Metta World Peace, they reported that J.R. Smith had gone under the knife. He had patellar tendon surgery and an arthroscopy for a tear in the lateral meniscus of his left knee, according to ESPN. com. Smith is expected to miss the next 3 – 4 months, which makes his availability for the start of the season unlikely. If you’re wondering if the Knicks and Smith discovered the injury post his re-signing, the answer is no. All parties were aware that Smith’s surgery was necessary, and the Knicks offered him a four-year deal anyway. Smith’s pain began during the playoffs and gradually worsened. His injury is chronic. Man, if that ain’t the good ol’ gotcha, gotcha, I don’t know what is.
Did the Knicks organization actually believe that rushing the Artest announcement would soften the blow of the Smith news? One of the main reasons I accepted the re-signing of Smith and more specifically, his four-year contract, was because it seemed tradeable. However, now that I’m aware Smith has chronic knee issues that required two procedures, a four-year contract seems idiotic. Sure, Smith could’ve suffered a career-altering injury tomorrow, and we would’ve still been screwed, but why didn’t the Knicks leverage this information to gain an advantage during negotiations? We’ve no idea how Smith is going to fare post surgery, or hold up from year to year. As such, his trade value has already taken a plunge and we haven’t even put him into gear yet. Buyer’s remorse, much? Yep.
I’m annoyed by this news so I can’t even imagine how Knicks fans who were lukewarm about signing Artest feel today. Surprisingly to me, not every Knicks fan was thrilled about Artest returning to New York and playing for the Knicks. Maybe they’re cautious because we’re all still emotionally hungover from the failed Stephon Marbury experiment. And quite frankly, if that’s partially the reason why, I get it. Despite Artest’s new name, Metta World Peace, he’s no saint. It was only one season ago that he was punished for elbowing James Harden so viciously that Harden suffered a concussion. It’s public knowledge that Artest is a headcase from time to time. There’s no telling how placing him back in his old environment with every distraction available to him will impact him during the season. Will he and J.R. Smith be a good influence on each other, or the opposite? This could definitely be a recipe for disaster, but I’m optimistic. Although Coach Woodson is no Zen Master ala Phil Jackson, he still has a knack for connecting with his players in a way that other coaches are unable to. I think he’ll successfully manage the multiple personalities in the locker room. I ain’t worried.
Yesterday, I was asked on many occasions, how does the Artest move help the Knicks? Here’s how.
Intangibly, Artest makes the Knicks tougher. Since we lost Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace; and Kenyon Martin seems to have fallen off the Knicks’ radar, we needed to add some muscle. Artest brings that. He’s 6’7, 260 lbs., but he plays bigger because he’s a fearless kind of guy. I can already see him and Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett getting physical and banging around. And the smack talk between he and KG is going to be epic. Trust me. Defensively, Artest can guard any position, which will take some of the pressure off of Carmelo Anthony. That’s also a plus. So, whereas Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert were the only true defensive minded players last year, we’re now adding Artest to the mix. That can’t be overlooked.
As for Artest’s offensive game, he’s no slouch there either. Last season with the Lakers, he averaged 12.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and shot 34% from beyond the arc. That’s not great, but to put things in perspective, J.R. Smith only knocked down 35.6% of his three-pointers. We lost two team favorites in Steve Novak and Chris Copeland, but both of them had severe weaknesses to their game. Novak was a one trick pony who was a liability on the floor if he wasn’t knocking down the three. And despite Copeland’s efficiency on the offensive end, he played absolutely NO defense. Artest is versatile enough to replace what we lost with those guys, by himself. Oh, and lastly, Artest is a Phil Jackson disciple. Having played under Jackson for two seasons, and winning a ring, he has a winner’s mentality. He and Tyson Chandler can connect on keeping the team focused on playing team ball and winning. As a native New Yorker, Artest grew up a Knicks fan. Having the opportunity to bring a championship back to his hometown is all the motivation he needs to make this a success.
Does signing Artest suddenly catapult the Knicks back to the No. 2 seed? No. But it also prevents us from slipping further in the ranks. Last year, a main problem for us was defense and not being able to keep up with the some of the big bodied players in the East, especially during the playoffs. Provided Artest is healthy down the stretch, that’s one less thing we need to worry about.
As soon as I heard the Lakers were amnestying Artest, I thought about how it would be great if we landed him. As I wrote here, I didn’t think he’d pass waivers, which might be a red flag that he did, but if injuries aren’t an issue for him and he’s able to keep his head in the game, I don’t see this as a bad move at all. He makes us better. Period. Also, keeping in mind that the Knicks have no money to spend, this is like a gift from the basketball gods. But the way the Knicks tried to hit us with the one-two and sneak the J.R. Smith news by us? That was a sucka move all the way.
Am I being too Pollyanna about this whole thing? Let me know.
P.S. I will rarely ever, ever, ever refer to Artest as Metta World Peace. I was never fully on board with that name to begin with. Now that he’s returned home, I’m taking it back to his roots and referring to him by the name his mama gave him, Ron Artest.