Keeping Score

Did New York Pay Too Much for ‘Melo?

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Carmelo Anthony arrives on the Magenta Carpet at the NBA All-Star Game

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It’s over, thank heavens. Carmelo Anthony is finally a New York Knick.

After months of tiresome rumors, the Denver Nuggets traded their disgruntled star to his desired destination on Monday night. In a blockbuster deal, which the NBA should officially approve shortly, the Nuggets shipped Anthony, point guard Chauncey Billups, and three role players — Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter, and Renaldo Balkman — to the Knicks in exchange for Knicks forward Danilo Gallinari, point guard Raymond Felton, forward Wilson Chandler, center Timofey Mozgov, a 2014 first round draft pick, and two second round picks. Denver asked for the Empire State Building and Carnegie Deli, but New York wouldn’t go that far.

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Still, the Knicks paid a dear price for ‘Melo. They traded four of their top players — all young guys with tons of potential, especially Gallinari — for the four-time All-Star. (As part of the deal, the Knicks also sent Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph, and $3 million to Minnesota for Corey Brewer). They have economic uncertainty to thank for that. The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement expires this summer, and Anthony wanted to be able to sign a fat three-year, $65 million contract extension with New York before a new labor deal lowers salaries. NBA teams have lost millions in the recession, and the owners are clearly looking to cut costs. In fact, labor strife could cause an NBA work stoppage this summer, and into next season.

During any other year, the Knicks could have let Anthony play out the final year of his contract in Denver, and signed him as a free agent this summer — just like Miami did with LeBron James last off-season. They would have given Denver squat in return. But since there may be no next season, and a new agreement could include clauses allowing Denver to keep a star like Anthony, at least temporarily, the Knicks felt compelled to act now.

Of course, a championship would make the Knicks net winners. But don’t count on that. Even with Anthony and fellow All-Star Amaré Stoudemire, New York’s depleted starting lineup shouldn’t scare the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat, the two top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Plus, for admirers of great defense, Anthony and Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni are a hellacious match. New York’s offensive-minded coach produces entertaining basketball, but his teams have never stopped anyone from scoring. That’s why his talented Phoenix Suns squads of the mid-2000s, which featured Steve Nash and Stoudemire, never advanced to the NBA Finals, and why his Knicks are only 28-26. And Anthony has always been a defensive liability. According to, a statistics site, while Anthony has produced 107 points per 100 possessions this season, he has given up 109 points per 100 possessions. A guy like Boston’s Kevin Garnett, on the other hand, produces 110 points per 100 possessions, while only giving up only 94 points. It’s no coincidence that Garnett owns a championship ring, while Anthony has advanced past the first round of the playoffs only once in his eight-year career.

Supporters of the trade point out that the contract of new point guard Chauncey Billups, who is currently 34, expires after the 2012 season. So that summer, Knicks will be able sign a premier point guard, like Chris Paul or Deron Williams, who will both be free agents. Both stars are reportedly itching to move to Manhattan. But remember all that labor uncertainty that forced the Knicks to trade for Anthony in the first place? Come 2012, will New York be able to afford another All-Star under a lower salary cap?

Knicks fans better hope so. If not, the fact that New York kept at least a few assets – the theater district, Statue of Liberty, Abe Vigoda – in the Carmelo trade may wind up being the highlight of the deal.

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