On Legends Night, Carmelo Anthony Starts to Build His Knicks Legacy
NEW YORK -- With the trade becoming official Tuesday and all physicals passed in the nick of time on Wednesday, it was a complete coincidence that the New York Knicks introduced Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups on the team's third annual legends night.
But if sometime during the 15th or 20th or 32nd annual legends night they introduce Anthony and/or Billups along with Amar'e Stoudemire as the definitive players of this decade, that would be more than acceptable with the Knicks and their fans.
As a matter of fact, that's what those fans believe they deserve. This is New York City and it is not without its great -- and at times, unreasonable -- expectations. With Stoudemire, Anthony and Billups -- two All-Stars and and a Finals MVP in the fold -- the demands have grown larger. The Knicks now have what fans have wanted for a better part of a decade: a team full of stars that has at least a plausible chance of contending for a title.
In his first game as a Knick, Anthony did nothing to dampen those outsized prospects when he dropped 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in New York's 114-108 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
While energized by the rapturous reception and cheers louder than Walt "Clyde" Frazier's tiger-print velour suit coat, Anthony was one tired dude after the game.
"Hectic," Anthony said when asked to describe the last 24 hours. "Roller coaster. I'm just glad I got this game out of my system.
"The last two days have been crazy for me, working on no sleep. With the excitement of this whole thing, to come out and get this W tonight really meant a lot to me."
It was an important first step for this retooled Knicks team which basically introduced themselves to each other moments before a scheduled 5 p.m. ET press conference. Anthony and Billups, an underrated player in this deal with his veteran leadership at the point the key for the Knicks to gel down the stretch, showed up in their vintage Knicks warm-ups after running through a few plays.
"Being able to get out there on the floor is our safe haven," Billups said. "That's where we can get out there and let everything go in the world. It was good to be able to do that.
"For the fans to embrace me and embrace Melo like they did just felt good."
You couldn't blame Billups or Anthony for wanting to seek asylum in their normal 94-foot by 50-foot workspace as Wednesday was far from normal. In the midst of an $800 million renovation and crushed by the demand of more than 300 media members, the Knicks had to hold the introductory press conference in the lobby of The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
There, James Dolan, MSG's executive chairman -- and as some fans would say, executive meddler -- welcomed the new arrivals, said goodbye to his old Knicks employees (without naming them) and did everything short of pounding his fist on the podium when he denied that there was a rift between him, general manager Donnie Walsh and head coach Mike D'Antoni. He then noted that Isiah Thomas is "a good friend of mine," but denied that the Knicks' former GM and head coach had anything to do with the feel-good scene Wednesday at MSG.
Such theater at The Theater matched the novelty of this unusual day.
As for the hoops, the Knicks to a man know they have work to do. In the locker room before the game, the Knicks took the unusual step of showing their offensive sets on video instead of showing a tape of the opponents' offensive sets. And although they shot 50 percent, the Knicks' offense lacked flow. A championship-contending opponent may have been able to take advantage of New York's anxiety and unfamiliarity, but the Bucks have been dealing with issues of their own, notably injuries and lack of chemistry, and the Knicks couldn't put them away.
Still, the Knicks fans cheered the welcome home, Carmelo video. They screamed for his introduction. They gave him a standing O for his first offensive rebound and put-back. D'Antoni sees the potential of adding Anthony and Billups and can't wait for the superstar pieces to come together.
"There are a lot of good things we can do," D'Antoni said. "We can have Carmelo on the floor, and Amar'e and Chauncey orchestrating things.
"It's going to be nice."
It will be nice, but D'Antoni used the future tense as he should. The Knicks have 27 games before they likely make their first playoff appearance since 2004.
So while Knicks fans broke out the chants for their three stars -- "M-V-P!" for Amar'e; "Mel-o! Mel-o!" and the bleacher creature-type chant, "Chauncey Billups! Clap-clap-clap-clap-clap!" -- Anthony noted before the game that work was required of this edition of the Knicks before anything would be guaranteed.
"I'm ready to rock, " Anthony said.
He better be, because Knicks fans sure are. And in his case, nothing short of being legendary will be acceptable.