No matter how long the Knicks spent recharging their batteries over the All-Star break, there remains one topic that still drains all their energy.
The Knicks have until 3 p.m. Thursday to pull the trigger on a deal for Denver Nuggets scoring machine Carmelo Anthony. Until then, coach Mike D’Antoni can only control the current players on his roster. That roster, of course, could be shaken up at any moment, with as many as five players rumored to be in a package to Denver, which then might ship Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and Raymond Felton or Wilson Chandler to the Nets.
“If it does happen, it happens, but we’re preparing for [tomorrow] like a normal day,” D’Antoni said of his team’s upcoming game with the Bucks. “I think everyone is waiting to see what happens in the next few days – whether it’s cosmetic or big. We’re ready for anything but for now it’s business as usual.”
Although the Bucks come to town – a team that’s chasing the sixth-seeded Knicks in the Eastern Conference standings -- and Amar’e Stoudemire is coming off a splendid All-Star weekend, scoring 29 points, all the talk at the Knicks training facility centered on Anthony.
D’Antoni tried all he could to deflect the topic but only ended up contradicting himself.
“It’s [trade deadline] Thursday and obviously it’s pretty soon but I won’t go there because I don’t know that much. I was not in contact that much,” D’Antoni said of his supposed quiet weekend. “I was in the house, enjoying my weekend. We’ll just see what happens. I’m a spectator like everyone else.”
Moments later D’Antoni revealed that he’s been kept abreast of the Anthony trade theatrics.
“There’s always talk. It’s a fluid situation and you touch base but that’s it. I’m sure everyone will be on-board with everything we do. That’s the way it’s been done here the last few years,” he said. “Everybody is in on everything and everybody is in agreement and we’re just trying to get the best deal we can get.”
The coach then discussed the psyche of the players who have had their names bandied about as possible trade bait. He said although it’s a business and guys should be coming to work with their heads cleared of distractions, they’re still only human.
“I’m sure they’re all really on edge, no doubt about that. You have to be. I was talking to Raymond and his phone blew up all weekend,” D’Antoni said. “That’s part of the business. It’s not great but we’ll deal with it. Like everybody else we’ll see what comes down and be ready to go and be as professional as can be.”
Gallinari, who is perhaps the best Knicks asset, said no one has to worry about his mental state on the court.
“To be honest it started a month, two months ago,” Gallinari said of the rumors that started to involve his name. “All this stuff that goes on in the papers does not affect me. I don’t have the time and energy to think about that.”
Gallo added it’s just part of the business that is the NBA.
“Well it’s tough but the NBA is the NBA. It’s not the same thing as [when he played] in Europe. It’s a different thing. You can be traded,” Gallinari shrugged. “You have to work hard everyday and only think about your job and not think about the other [outside] stuff. And that’s what I’ve been doing since I got here.”
While D’Antoni claims to be kept in the loop with owner James Dolan and team president Donnie Walsh, Gallo said he does not get daily updates – nor does he care.
“We haven’t talked about it because it’s always been the same thing for a month and even longer than that,” Gallo said. “We only talk about this team and what I should do and our goals as a team. We don’t talk about the other stuff.”
About the only thing Gallinari would discuss was the prospect of him having to relocate from a city he loves and in which he is beloved.
“To be honest, it’d be tough to leave New York. It’s tough but it’s a part of the NBA life and part of how the NBA works. You have to live with that,” he said when asked if he’d be devastated if he was traded – specifically to New Jersey. “I would do the best I can. You can control what you can control. You can’t control all the other stuff. I can control that I’m in a gym everyday and trying to do my best and be better as a player.”
Gallo said he’d only guarantee one thing, that he’d be professional, play hard, and keep his mind only on the Knicks and their upcoming opponents.
“I don’t think so because the team pays me to play basketball and expects me to do my job the best way I can,” he concluded when asked if this is all a distraction. “They don’t pay me to worry about the other stuff outside of basketball.”
Mozgov, who has recently seen his name included in the Anthony trade talks, said he tries not to follow the rumors – although he admitted he sometimes reads the tabloids.
“All I know is from the newspapers,” Mozgov said with a smile, adding he’s becoming used to the business side of things. “For me, it’s a new experience. The NBA is like a business…so it’s not really a surprise because one month ago somebody told me I might be traded.”
Business aspects or not, D’Antoni was defensive of his players’ consciousness and refused to elaborate on the inner-workings of the trade talk procedures.
“I’m not going there. There’s no easy answer to stuff like that,” D’Antoni said when asked if he’d be in favor of a trade that would send away at least three starters. “You can sit here and debate all day but I’m not going to do that. It’s not even worth it.”
The veteran head coach then smiled wryly and added he’ll be “very excited” once Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline passes.
“Oh yeah, Thursday will be a good day,” he chuckled. “I like what we’re doing. We had a good game in the game we had against Atlanta [in the final contest before the all-star break] and we hope to build on that and see what we got.”