Wizards Insider: Carmelo Anthony traded to New York Knicks, finally
The East is a beast, and will be for a while, now that Carmelo Anthony finally got his wish to join the New York Knicks. After months of mind-numbing speculation, rumors of imminent deals with the New Jersey Nets, back-room meetings with big money owners, and a silly tip of his hat to himself, Anthony will return to the place where he was born and be close -- but not too close -- to where he grew up in Baltimore.
Anthony's arrival in New York, and union with all-star forward Amar'e Stoudemire, doesn't make the Knicks a threat to compete with Boston, Miami or even Chicago, but it has made them decidedly better -- at least at the box office. With Anthony switching conferences to form another potential power team in the conference, the rebuilding process for the Wizards gets more challenging. They could keep taking lumps for a few years.
The core talents with the Heat, Bulls and Knicks are still relatively young and getting better. And that doesn't include Orlando's Dwight Howard, who is 25. The Wizards will really have to get it right in upcoming NBA drafts, because if John Wall showed anything during the Rookie Challenge, it's that he can be that much better surrounded by equally great talent.
As for the Knicks, their fans have reason to be excited, especially after whiffing on LeBron James last summer. While the Knicks had to sacrifice four-fifths of their starting lineup -- Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Timofey Mozgov -- to get Anthony, stars don't come cheap.
And, none of the players shipped to Denver has the potential to influence a game or command attention the way Anthony does.
Anthony is arguably the most versatile scorer in the game, since he has already mastered the mid-range game, is extremely effective in the low post and can occasionally step back and hit three-pointers. In his time with Team USA, Anthony has consistently shown that even when he shares the floor with Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade or James, no one can put the ball in the basket better.
But he has limitations, since he's never been interested in playing defense and Denver didn't become serious threat in the Western Conference until it acquired Chauncey Billups -- and the leadership he provides -- three years ago.
I've always been leery of how Anthony and Stoudemire would work, since both are high volume shooters who need a lot of touches to score. In many ways, this pairing could wind up being similar to the Anthony-Allen Iverson duo in Denver a few seasons ago.
The Nuggets had two outstanding scorers, capable of taking over games at any moment, sharing the load and collecting stats. While Iverson and Anthony had a mutual respect for each other -- much like Anthony and Stoudemire -- the experiment failed because both players got theirs while teammates served as spectators.
The difference in this situation is that Stoudemire is a big man, still in his prime and the Knicks had no choice but to make this deal. Even if it doesn't work, it is well worth the risk to see if Stoudemire and Anthony can bring back the energy -- that comes from actually playoff series wins, and not just hype -- to the Garden that's been missing largely since Patrick Ewing was traded.
The challenge for Coach Mike D'Antoni will be tempering expectations because the Knicks still have the potential to be a horrific defensive team and will undergo an adjustment period. D'Antoni has an offense that thrives on ball-movement and team play; Anthony is used to having his number called over and over again.
Getting Billups is an underrated part of the deal, since he is the only player on the roster with championship experience. But the Knicks will also have to determine the pecking order, since Stoudemire was first to choose the Knicks last summer, with the purpose of having a team to call his own and worry about being dismissed as a Steve Nash creation. Anthony had grown accustomed to being the man in Denver, but what role will he assume now that he has followed Stoudermire to New York?
Those concerns will be worked out, or not, in time. Anthony just has to be thrilled that he flexed his power -- with some help from his agent, Leon Rose, and behind-the-scenes power player William Wesley -- to not only get the team he wanted, but also the $65 million extension that he wanted as well. It was a win-win. Actually, it was a win-win-win, since his wife, LaLa Vasquez, also gets to move to a city where she can jump start the entertainment career that she put on the side while in Denver. Anthony can really tip his hat to himself now.
Anthony forced his way out, but made sure that he didn't leave the franchise he represented for more than seven years high and dry. Still, Anthony left a playoff team and now Denver is a rebuilding team, only because he didn't want to be there.
This will surely be a point of contention in the next collective bargaining agreement, with owners likely to push hard for a franchise tag to avoid the stress and strain that has come the past eight months with James, Bosh and Anthony now leaving irrelevant their respective teams in Cleveland, Toronto and Denver.
With New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul, Utah's Deron Williams and Howard all eligible for free agency in the summer of 2012 and rumors already circulating that they have started to get wandering eyes, the league and its owners are definitely taking notes. After all, this whole Anthony situation allegedly got started when Paul jokingly made a toast about the formation of a new big three in New York featuring him, Anthony and Stoudemire. Eight months later, the Knicks are two-thirds of the way there.