GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) - Players like Carmelo Anthony don’t come cheap, and many times they don’t come around at all.
So even though it cost much of their core, the New York Knicks couldn’t pass up a chance to pair him with Amare Stoudemire.
“I think this puts us in a way ahead of everything, because these are the kind of guys that are really hard to get,” Knicks president Donnie Walsh said. “Whether it’s in the free agent market or whether they’re in a trade, they’re very difficult to get. And they’re guys that can go out there and get 30 to 40 points in a playoff game.”
Yes, the Knicks are talking about the playoffs.
And they think the three-team, 13-player deal they completed Tuesday with Denver and Minnesota will make them better when they get there.
“When you go out hunting, would you rather have a bigger gun or a little gun?” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We got a bigger gun.”
Anthony, who signed a three-year, $65 million extension before the deal was finalized, will join fellow All-Star Stoudemire in the frontcourt, giving the Knicks the potent duo they hoped they could assemble last summer in free agency.
“We liked the way our team played this year and I looked at it and I thought we had one piece that was at the high level of the league. We always wanted two pieces at least,” Walsh said.
Stoudemire has led the Knicks to a 28-26 record this season, but said they will be even more dangerous with Anthony bringing his 25.2 points per game to join his 26.1 average.
“Every team needs a 1, 1A punch,” Stoudemire said. “And so with the ways that we both can score …. we’re very versatile, so it’s hard to guard us.”
Stoudemire said he had “no doubt” the All-Star forwards and longtime friends could play together, and said Anthony would handle the move to New York as well as he has.
“It’s what he wants. It’s what I wanted, to come to New York and play on the big stage,” Stoudemire said. “He has the same type of swag. This is what he wants and he can handle it. We’re going to do it together.”
The Knicks also got guards Chauncey Billups and 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.
New York also shipped centers Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph to Minnesota for forward Corey Brewer. Denver acquired center Kosta Koufos from Minnesota, plus New York’s first-round draft pick in 2014, second-round picks in 2012 and 2013 and cash.
The Knicks haven’t made the playoffs since 2004, but are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference in their first season since acquiring Stoudemire from Phoenix last summer. He thinks the blockbuster deal could make them better equipped to face teams such as Boston or Miami, which already have multiple All-Stars, in the postseason.
“They’re pretty good. That’s a heck of a trade,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “Really, it’s nice to see. It’s a good trade for both teams. I thought Denver got everything it could possibly get in the deal, and I thought the Knicks did everything they could as well. They ended up with Carmelo, Corey Brewer and Chauncey Billups. They have a heck of a basketball team. It just makes the East more interesting.”
Miami’s LeBron James said he was happy his friend’s uncertainty was finally over.
“I think it’s great for the NBA,” James said. “The fact that the Knicks are back, the Celtics have been back for the last few years and all the other teams are trying to compete, I think it’s great.”
It was Anthony’s refusal to take the extension when the Nuggets offered it to him last summer that forced them to explore trading their leading scorer. The Knicks hoped they could sign him next summer in free agency, but felt they couldn’t wait because Anthony wanted the extension this season, before a new collective bargaining agreement next summer could severely restrict salaries, and that could have forced him to lock in long term with whatever team Denver traded him to.
So the Knicks agreed to trade four of their top six players, realizing there were few chances to add a player of Anthony’s caliber.
“Now we’ve got two guys in our stable,” D’Antoni said.
The Knicks hope Anthony will be able to play Wednesday when they host Milwaukee. All the players in the deal must pass physicals before any of them can play.
Nuggets president Josh Kroenke said in a statement the Nuggets enjoyed watching Anthony grow during his seven seasons with the team.
“However, Carmelo made it very clear early in the season that he wasn’t willing to recommit to the organization and wanted to pursue other opportunities in basketball and life,” Kroenke said. “At that point, we decided it was imperative that we do what was in the best interest of the Denver Nuggets and our fans. We wish Carmelo the best in his career and sincerely thank him for what he’s helped us accomplish.”
New York’s once-passionate fan base was turned off by the team’s poor play on the court and embarrassing press off it for most of the decade under Isiah Thomas’ reign as president and coach. But in the third season under Walsh and D’Antoni, the buzz has come back, and it’s only going to get louder once Anthony takes the court.
“New York City was on fire even before this trade happened with Carmelo, thanks to (the traded players) and I think with the help of Carmelo and Chauncey and the rest of the guys, we have a great shot at it,” Stoudemire said.
Though Anthony was the focus, the Knicks are excited about the acquisition of Billups, a former NBA finals MVP and five-time All-Star who remains one of the league’s top point guards and will orchestrate D’Antoni’s pick-and-roll offense.
The Anthony trade saga lasted all season and often overshadowed the Knicks’ improved play. During a chaotic final week, the Nuggets entertained offers from the Knicks and New Jersey Nets, with both owners meeting with Anthony during the All-Star weekend in Los Angeles.
Walsh repeated the Knicks’ previous denials that Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan _ with advice from Thomas _ had taken the Anthony pursuit out of his hands and paid more than Walsh would have.
“I’m the one who knows basketball, so my job is to advise him, ‘This is good for your franchise,’ and I did that,” Walsh said.
The Knicks are probably too far back to make a big move in the standings over the final portion of the regular season. But they believe they have enough time to fit in the new players and be a threat if they finally get back to the playoffs.
“It’ll be up to the players and I’m sure Carmelo wants to come in and win. He didn’t come here just to go to Broadway, he wants to win,” D’Antoni said. “Amare I know wants to win, I talked to him. I know Chauncey wants to win, so let’s sit down and figure it out. And there’s a lot of talent there to figure it out.”
AP Sports Writers Tim Reynolds in Miami and Antonio Gonzalez in Oakland, Calif. contributed to this report.
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