The Knicks are betting on it, trading away four of their top players as part of a three-team, 13-player blockbuster that was completed Tuesday. All the players completed their physicals Wednesday, making Anthony eligible to make his Knicks debut against the Milwaukee Bucks.
“I feel like I’m still dreaming right now,” said Anthony, now wearing No. 7 and armed with a three-year, $65-million extension as he joined fellow All-Star Stoudemire in the frontcourt, giving the Knicks the potent duo they hoped they could assemble last summer in free agency.
With the building appearing completely full before tipoff, fans roared as quotes from Anthony appeared on the overhead videoboard before introductions, noting he was born in Brooklyn and wanted to be former Knicks star Bernard King.
Anthony was then introduced first to a raucous ovation, and quickly earned his first points as a Knick on an offensive rebound with 9:37 left in the first quarter.
Referring to the high price the Knicks paid, Anthony said, “I’m pretty sure if any of you guys were GMs or owners, you would want me and Amare on the same team as well. I don’t know who would turn that down.”
Anthony decided last summer he wanted out of Denver, the team that drafted him third overall in 2003. The Brooklyn native wanted the deal to New York, in part for the opportunities it will present he and his actress wife, La La Vazquez, who was among the crowd that filled the lobby of the Theater at Madison Square Garden and was interviewed by the MSG Network at halftime.
But Anthony made it clear his focus is on Madison Square Garden’s basketball court, where he averaged 30.4 points in his visits with Denver, just behind Kobe Bryant’s 30.5 for best among active players.
Wearing a Knicks warmup suit and orange headband, Anthony beamed as he posed for photos holding his new jersey.
“Will we win a championship this year? Who knows?” said Anthony, who spoke for about 10 minutes. “That takes time. But at the end of the day, we’re moving into the right direction. I felt like I wanted to be part of an organization, part of a team who had some upside and knew what the future was holding.”
Not everything was cleared up even after the deal was done. MSG chairman James Dolan felt the need at the start of Wednesday’s news conference to again deny reports he had removed team president Donnie Walsh from negotiations while being advised by Isiah Thomas.
“While Isiah Thomas is a friend of mine, a very good friend of mine, he was not at all involved in this process,” Dolan said. “He wasn’t advising me or telling me what to do in any way, and any reports that implied he was doing that are simply untrue and a fiction in somebody’s mind.”
The Knicks also got guard Anthony Carter and forwards Renaldo Balkman and Shelden Williams from Denver. New York dealt forwards Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, guard Raymond Felton and center Timofey Mozgov to the Nuggets.
The Nuggets didn’t want to include Billups, a Denver native who is so beloved there that Nuggets president Josh Kroenke and general manager Masai Ujiri apologized to his family and the team’s fans during their press conference Tuesday.
“It was time to go obviously and I’m excited about this challenge,” Billups said.
Anthony, Stoudemire and Billups _ all teammates in 2007 on the U.S. basketball team that won the Olympic qualifier while running Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense _ posed for photos together during the press conference. The Knicks have stressed the importance of also acquiring Billups, a five-time All-Star and former NBA finals MVP, as did Anthony.