(Long Island, N.Y.) It may have been just a win against a sub-.500 opponent the first game following the All-Star break, but the New York Knicks’ 114-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks was obviously much more than that. It was a party for the entire city held at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
Carmelo Anthony was the star of the show and led the way in his inaugural game in blue and orange with a double-double (27 points and 10 rebounds). The former Denver Nugget was only 10-for-25 from the field, but found his touch when it was needed most with 11 fourth quarter points.
It has been some time since Madison Square Garden has felt that kind of energy, but it came as no surprise once Donnie Walsh officially gutted the roster and obtained the scoring star. “At 26 years old, Carmelo is in the prime of his NBA career having already established himself as one of the game’s elite players and the opportunity to add him to our roster was one we could not pass up,” the team president said. “I feel we now have a great frontcourt tandem in Amar’e (Stoudemire) and Carmelo and this is an exciting day for the New York Knicks and all our fans.”
“It is extremely difficult to trade away players, but we feel like the team is in better position to win and we have excellent players to build around for years to come.”
Walsh was obviously not referring to Eddy Curry, the last piece of the Isiah Thomas regime. He was part of the three-team, 13-player deal that was pulled off after months of speculation. (The Minnesota Timberwolves were the other team involved.)
A nice collection of role players needed to be moved to get this trade done, but the Knicks were able to hang onto Landry Fields, the rookie guard who is having a very impressive season. Saying goodbye to Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Tomifey Mosgov and Anthony Randolph may not be easy, but they will never be confused as superstars.
NBA trades are very complicated for teams to fit the incoming contracts under the salary cap, so multiple players find themselves on the move at one time. The Knicks also acquired Chauncey Billups, Anthony Carter, Renaldo Balkman, Corey Brewer and Shelden Williams and will still have some wiggle room come the summer to add another player of merit.
But the man of the hour is Anthony, and his new head coach understands right off the bat how much of an impact an addition like that can mean down the road. “Carmelo is one of the top pure scorers in the league and like Amar’e, I believe he will really embrace the opportunity to play back home in New York and help us continue our goal of building towards a championship,” Mike D’Antoni said of the Brooklyn native. “Chauncey is a winner and having a veteran point guard of his caliber will be extremely valuable in helping us win games, especially in the playoffs.”
Currently the sixth seed in the weak Eastern Conference, the Knicks appear headed to the postseason after a long drought. Although they may have still qualified without making this trade, any talk of a championship would be a ways away. But now this is a team that must be taken seriously.
And it all began with a close win versus a lesser opponent in a mid-season game.