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Stat and Melo… Finally

StatMelo

I’ve been waiting for this day for eight long years.

I can still remember Carmelo Anthony’s first game in the Garden, his debut for Syracuse as a freshman against Memphis. With the great ones you can always tell from the jump and Melo was no different, putting up 27 points and 11 rebounds in the opener of a legendary freshman campaign that would end with him (and Gerry McNamara) leading the Orangemen to their long awaited National Championship in 2003.

As an 18 year-old freshman, he dominated the college ranks with a silky smooth game reminiscent of his idol Bernard King. There is a beauty and elegance to basketball played at the highest level; it transcends sport and becomes almost operatic. Five parts running in motion feeding off of each other’s every step, each dribble giving birth to an act of creation, and the supremely talented offensive player serves as the maestro building the pace. As one of the game’s best pure scorers Carmelo is a master of the highest order, and has been since he announced himself to the grand stage.  There’s a reason I’ve been trading him to the Knicks every year since Live 2004. That my favorite non-Knick is finally back on my team is the happiest thought I’ve had as a fan in years.

Amar’e Stoudemire on the other hand should have been a Knick from the start. While Carmelo (and Lebron and Wade) were clearly going to be drafted well before the Knicks slot in the 2003 draft, a year earlier Amar’e was on the board while the Knicks made another of the franchise crippling trades that characterized the post-Ewing era. Instead of taking Stoudemire, New York traded out of the 7th spot in an ill-fated deal, incidentally with Denver again, for Antonio McDyess and the immortal Frank Williams. At the time I was so upset I yelled to the heavens on my geocities page (yes, that long ago) berating them for not taking the next Kevin Garnett. In retrospect the trade is even more indefensible. The Scott Layden, and later Isiah Thomas-eras were fraught with that kind of mismanagement and maddening decisions that  drove many a Knicks’ fan to the bottle. All it’s taken however is two-and-a-half years of Donnie Walsh, and basketball is back in the Mecca.

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Does this trade guarantee the Knicks a championship? Of course not. Already there have been opponents to the trade claiming that the Knicks gave up too much to Denver and that Melo and Stoudemire can’t co-exist within the offense. Oh you sad, doubting motherfuckers and Dallas Mavericks fans. The Knicks are better as a team and a franchise after making this trade point-blank, period. But since there are those who can’t let me have one day to enjoy trading for a 26 year-old forward who’s one of the top 5 scorers in the league let me talk some sense into you.

Myth #1: Melo and Amar’e can’t work together on the basketball court.

The theory is that two volume shooters simply won’t be able to find enough shots between each other to both be effective on the same time. It is grounded in reason, and in some cases is absolutely true. Any idiot should have been able to tell pairing Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis, for example was a terrible idea. My problem with the argument is it’s intellectually lazy. It’s the same excuse that comes up when any two perimeter players join forces. It was only last summer when sportswriters across the country were telling us that LeBron and Wade wouldn’t work together; how’s that working out for the Eastern Conference leading Heat? Remember when Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and KG couldn’t sacrifice shots to work together as a threesome?

While Amar’e and Carmelo both are high usage players, and their shooting areas are similar, their offensive games are distinctly different. Stoudemire is much more of a catch-and-shoot (or catch-and-drive) player than his physical stature would suggest. Anthony on the other hand works off of the dribble on curls and in the paint. While likely not off the bat, their games should actually compliment each other rather than subtracting. Ironically enough, adding Melo also gives New York it’s best post scorer since Patrick Ewing.

Myth #2: The Knicks gave up too much to get Carmleo.

This line of thinking is primarily underwritten by the larger myth that Denver had no leverage in the trade talks. If you believe that Melo was willing to risk waiting for the new CBA, which by all indications will likely feature a hard, or at least more restrictive salary cap, and leave a guaranteed $65 million on the table the confusion makes sense. However, if you really believe that you’re crazy. Beyond that, after the months of negotiating in the press and tantalizing their fanbase, the Knicks actually needed to get Carmelo more than Denver needed to get rid of him. With fans chanting “We Want Melo” as the team started to fade after it’s hot start, New York would have been savaged if it didn’t come away from the trade deadline with the all-star. The Nuggets also had the Nets as willing partners driving up the price of the deal.

And let’s look for a moment at what the Knicks actually gave up. Wilson Chandler was a restricted free-agent and likely wasn’t going to be back next year anyway, so I don’t really count him. Danilo Gallinari became a fan favorite and big time shooter for the Knicks. He also would have been a bench player if we could have gotten Melo without him. It was going to be either him or Fields in the trade and the Knicks kept the right guy. I would have punched someone in the face if they traded away Landry. Besides it means more PT for Andy Rautins and that’s always a win. Did you know his father Leo Rautins also played for Syracuse?

So at the end of the day it comes down to Felton and Mozgov for Carmleo Anthony, Billups and some solid bench players. Anytime you’re getting the two best players in a trade, and you get to keep your two best, I make that deal every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Myth #3: New York would have been better served getting another complimentary offensive player like Deron Williams.

This argument is just stupid. For one, no one knew Williams was available (apparently he didn’t even know), and may not have been before Denver traded away it’s two stars. To frame the question as Williams vs. Melo ignores Chauncey Billups who is almost looked at as a throw-in. Billups is by no means the player he was in Detroit and has certainly lost a step. He is still the best point guard the Knicks have had since Mark Jackson, a better defender than Felton and a career 40% three-point shooter to take the pressure off of losing Gallinari.

Myth #4: The Knicks still aren’t contenders for a title.

I’m sorry I can’t hear you…

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