Lockout Lifted, Knicks Under Pressure

After months of deliberation between NBA players and owners, the two sides were able to come to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, thus bringing the 149-day lockout to an end.

The deal was reached after a 15-hour bargaining session that concluded at 3:40 a.m. on Nov. 26, and still needs to be officially ratified by all players, but indications show a majority of players will sign.

The season is slated to tip-off on Christmas Day, leaving only a few weeks for training camps and free agency. Normally teams use the summer to sign and bring back free-agents, but the owners and players spent those months this summer arguing with one another.

Either way, a deal has been reached and there will be NBA basketball this year—something that did not look so promising a few weeks ago.

A new NBA season comes with new expectations for the New York Knicks, who made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2003-04. It will be the first full season together for their two superstars Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, and they have their sights set on Chris Paul.

The Knicks want to add superstar Paul to create their own Big 3 to match the one established in Miami last summer. But despite reports that Paul wants to be a Knick, getting him to New York won’t be as easy as most Knick fans think.

Paul is in the last year of his contract with the New Orleans Hornets and will become a free-agent at the end of this season. The Hornets will be in the position the Denver Nuggets were in last year with Anthony. The Nuggets were forced to deal him in fear of losing him for nothing in free-agency. However, unlike last year when Anthony was dealt to the Knicks, the Knicks more than likely do not have the assets to trade for Paul.

There are numerous other teams in the mix including the Lakers, Celtics, Warriors and Clippers.

Unless the Knicks package together a bulk of their roster, leaving them with essentially a three-man team, they are preparing for a season without Chris Paul.

Don’t count them out for next summer, though. There is no guarantee Paul will sign an extension with a team he is traded to and therefore the Knicks would be able to sign him when Chauncey Billups’ contract comes off the books.

For now the Knicks have other needs to address: The two major ones being a center and a backup point guard to run the offense when 35-year old Billups is on the bench.

The problem is the Knicks can only afford to offer veteran minimum and mid-level exception contracts because of Stoudemire, Anthony and Billups’ contracts. Some names that have been thrown around include Kwame Brown, Jeff Foster, and former Knick Kurt Thomas. The Knicks also have the rights to 7’0’’ center Jerome Jordan, who is playing overseas.

If the season were to start today the Knicks’ starting center would be Ronny Turiaf. Turiaf is a high-energy guy who is effective off the bench, but the Knicks could use an upgrade at the center position.

The Knicks hope to improve their perimeter defense byadding rookie Iman Shumpert III through the draft, and with Toney Douglas and Landry Fields returning. Shumpert, who was taken with the 17 overall pick back in June, impressed the Knicks with his play in the Las Vegas Summer League, and has the potential to replace Fields as the starting shooting guard.

Despite the amount of guards, they still do not have a natural point-guard to back up Billups. Douglas is more of a scoring guard, as is Fields, and neither is capable of running half-court sets and controlling an offense. Carlos Arroyo, J.J. Barea, Sebastian Telfair and Earl Watson are all possibilities who wouldn’t break the Knicks’ bank.

It will be interesting to see what comes in the next couple of weeks before the season starts, as teams scramble to finalize their rosters and get ready to compete. Christmas is still two weeks away, but I already received my first present. Basketball.