’Melo sees good, bad of Garden life
NEW YORK – Before Carmelo Anthony(notes) could come running out of that tunnel, out of the darkness into the blinking lights, the savior of these New York Knicks would witness with his own eyes the single, solitary reason for the decay and dysfunction here: James Dolan, his bumbling buffoon of a boss.
Anthony sat on a news conference stage, listening to the reclusive owner come out of hiding to discuss his favorite Knicks topic: Isiah Thomas. Dolan had to come deny something that those rooted in reality know to be a factual part of life at the Garden. Isiah pulls strings from far away, and that’s part of the Garden culture that started with Dolan and has flowed like cement over this franchise, these fans.
Anthony would see that Dolan was too obsessed with Thomas to leave him out of ’Melo’s welcome-home moment. Dolan could’ve gone to the Knicks’ practice facility on Tuesday, when Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni met with reporters to talk about the Anthony trade. He could’ve sat there, defended his basketball operations and done something he doesn’t have the guts to do: answer questions.
Yes, Anthony would witness his biggest challenge with the Knicks: The whims of a nutty owner, the chance that any minute Thomas could come marching out from behind the curtain and declare that his regime had a return engagement. For all the flaws and misdeeds of Dolan, the paralysis has lifted after most of a decade. The Garden gave ’Melo something from its lungs and heart, a rolling thunder of cheers that had been building for years and years.
The fans were standing, screaming, lavishing him with a love born out of so much longing, out of so much lost time at the Garden. They made ’Melo understand that New York’s aching for a basketball star, and one of the best finally walked into the gymnasium
“That was a hell of a moment,” Anthony would say later.
Anthony won’t be an overnight sensation with the Knicks, and learning to play with Amar’e Stoudemire(notes), to complement him, could take well beyond the games left in this season. Without a practice – without a nap – Anthony needed 25 shots to get his 27 points in the 114-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Anthony’s security blanket, Chauncey Billups(notes), comes with him, and along with Stoudemire, ‘Melo doesn’t have to be something he isn’t: a leader. He comes to score, comes to pound defenders into submission, and maybe no one outside of Kobe Bryant(notes) is so pure in that pursuit.
When they met to talk on Wednesday morning, Anthony told Stoudemire: “Let’s get it going now. We don’t have time to waste.”
They were talking about a shortened remainder of the season, but they’re right: Time’s of the essence. The Eastern Conference has shifted into a wild arms race of stars, punctuated with two of the best 10 players in the world – Anthony and Deron Williams(notes) – coming out of Denver and Salt Lake City. There was a power shift to the Eastern Conference, and you could feel the earth move under the Garden floor on Wednesday night, under the weight of nature’s changing force.
The New Jersey Nets had gone morning until night for weeks and months tying to make a deal for ’Melo. And then Tuesday afternoon, Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor and Nets GM Billy King were on the line. King hadn’t called O’Connor about Williams, but about Andrei Kirilenko(notes), the Russian forward. They talked about the possibilities of a deal for Kirilenko’s expiring contract, but there was nothing there.
Anything else, O’Connor asked?
“What about Deron Williams?” King said with a I-know-that’s-silly laugh.
O’Connor responded, well, if you’re serious about discussing him, we’re serious.
Within 24 hours, Williams was a Net, and the Knicks had two stars to start chasing the three the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have for themselves. Now, LeBron James(notes), Dwyane Wade(notes) and Chris Bosh(notes) are the model for these Knicks. Chris Paul(notes) will be a free agent in 2012, and yet it sure feels like his power play with New York ownership is just a year or so away.
All this talent in the Eastern Conference, and the drain seems to be slowly taking its toll on the West. For one night anyway, the center of everything again was New York and Madison Square Garden. Such noise for Carmelo Anthony, such a spectacular sound. He let the love tumble down upon him, and here was a night of the good and bad. Here was everything from the dunderheaded Dolan to the purity of the Knicks crowd chanting for ’Melo – the full treatment.
’Melo was a New York Knick, and so much – so much more than he ever imagined – comes with that now.