James Dolan, President and CEO of Cablevision Systems Corporation and Executive Chairman of Madison Square Garden, Inc., welcomed new New York Knicks players Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups yesterday at a 5pm press conference, and then Anthony and Billups combined for 48 points as the New York Knicks defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, 114-108.
Dolan spoke first, and, after welcoming the players, responded to rumors of Isiah Thomas’s involvement in the trade. “Not true. He was not at all involved in the process. He wasn’t advising me or telling me what to do in any way. And any reports that implied that he was doing that are simply untrue, and a fiction in some body’s mind.” When responding to rumors of the lack of involvement of Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni in the trade, Dolan said “The idea that we were not in agreement is simply not true. We had multiple meetings and discussions, some good debating. But in the end, we were all in complete agreement” and that they “were completely coordinated throughout this process, from start to finish.” When speaking specifically about Walsh, Dolan said “Donnie has done a great job on this trade. He has done a great job since he’s been here, especially putting us in a position to even think about having players of this caliber. Donnie is as respected inside our organization as he is throughout the NBA. He and I have agreed to get through the trade deadline, then we will sit down and discuss his contract, which expires in June. We will comment on that at the appropriate time.”
Prior to the game, Anthony said “I feel like I’m still dreaming right now” and said coming to the Knicks was “a dream come true for myself.” When specifically asked if the Knicks had given up too much for him, Anthony responded “I’m pretty sure if any of you guys were GMs or owners, you would want me and Amar’e on the same team. I really don’t know who would turn that down.” Speaking more about teaming with Amar’e Stoudemire, who signed with the Knicks in July 2010, “I think we all know that this is a high-powered offense. We know that we can score 120 points a game if we really wanted to. But that’s not going to win too many games, especially coming down to the end of the season.” Anthony was realistic, saying there are “going to be a lot of expectations. We know we have to come together quick.”
The sellout crowd of 19,763 was excited and stood for the players coming out of the tunnel, and deafening cheers and standing ovations were given to Anthony, Billups, and Stoudemire, “The Big Three on Broadway” as my colleague Aaron “The Inkwell” Smith has coined them. Anthony scored his first basket as a member of the New York Knicks on an offensive rebound and put back with 9:36 left in the first quarter after missing his first shot. Billups hit his first shot, his classic pull-up three from the right side of the arc with 9:14 left in the first quarter.
The Knicks would go up by as much as 11, 37-26, on a dunk by Anthony with 11:11 left in the second quarter, but the Milwaukee Bucks would slowly creep back into the game, even taking a three-point lead with 11:04 left in the third quarter on a hook from Bucks center Andrew Bogut, but the Knicks would recover in the third quarter to take a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter, 86-79, and 11 big fourth-quarter points from Anthony has many Knicks fans salivating on what the Knicks now have, an addition closer to Stoudemire, the league’s leading fourth-quarter scorer, when he is unable to, in this case, because of foul trouble, with Stoudemire fouling out with 1:01 left in the game.
Anthony led the Knicks with 27 points, the third most by a Knick in a debut since 1964-65, and also grabbed 10 rebounds, and Toney Douglas came off the bench to score 23 points on a career-high tying 10 fields goals, with 2 steals. Billups scored 21 with 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals, and Stoudemire scored 19 points with 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
The Bucks were led by John Salmons, who scored 27 points and handed out 7 assists. Carlos Delfino and Bogut both scored 14 points, and combined for 19 rebounds. Keyon Dooling and Corey Maggette both scored 13 points off the bench, and Brandon Jennings added 12 points.
“We did a respectable job on Carmelo, he shot 10 for 25 from the field. We did s decent job on Amar’e, he got into foul trouble, and we did OK with Chauncey. Toney Douglas killed us with his defensive pressure. Toney had a big impact on the game, he took our point guards out of anything they could run offensively, he came in, got hot, made shots and we had trouble controlling him” Bucks head coach Scott Skiles said after the game.
Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni was pleased with the victory, and also looks forward to having the team practice together. “We’re going to be pretty potent offensively. We have a lot of solutions to be a lot smoother and a lot better. If we can continue to guard as a team and double rebound in these next 27 games, if we continue to improve defensively we can be good.” He continued “we’ll have some weaknesses out there that we’ll have to cover off but try and get experience as we go on in ho to finish games. I thought Toney was absolutely great tonight. He had a couple of mistakes on because he’s a second-year guy, but he played great.” When speaking of Anthony, D’Antoni said “When you have Carmelo and Amar’e on the floor during crunch times, hard times, and Chauncey orchestrating everything, it’s going to be nice.”
After the game, joined by his wife La La Vazquez, Anthony spoke to the media about the crowd, who chanted “Melo”, “Chauncey Billlups” and “MVP” for their new big three. “The reaction was great. I never experienced anything like that before. Running out, the fans were going crazy!” When asked about playing with Stoudemire, Anthony said “I think he and I are going to have a great time together. It’s going to be exciting.” When asked why he selected his number seven, he mentioned that his old numbers, 22 and 15 were not available, and if the two are subtracted, you get seven, and that is the day of birth for his son. Anthony talked about the team’s defense. “For us to be a good defensive team it has to start with one of the leaders of the team.”
Billups talked defense as well. “You can’t be an NBA champion without being a solid defensive team. You need some principles and concepts that you can go to and be able to get stops. I think with the athletes we have, we can probably do that but it’s not easy to just say it, it takes work. It’s not easy, but when you have players that are willing to do it you can make that change fast.” Billups also discussed the crowd. “For the fans to embrace me and Carmelo the way they did, it just felt good.” On being a Knick, Billups said “I’m not disappointed at all about being a Knick. I’m excited and I respect this franchise. It was always exciting to come here and play. I’m definitely excited about being a Knick.
Douglas discussed the crowd as well. “It was a big difference even when we went out there for the warm-ups. It was a great thing for me to see.” On backing up Billups, Douglas said “I’m looking forward to learning a lot from him. He actually helped out a lot during my rookie year. When we were playing against each other he was telling me what I was doing good and what I could do better, stuff like that. Towards the end of the game, I actually took his advice. I’m looking forward to playing with him and learning a lot from him. He’s a great guy, a great person and great basketball player.”
Stoudemire was thrilled to play with his new teammates. “He played great. He played Carmelo basketball. That is one thing that I wanted him to do, to be himself out there. We needed that offensive threat out there when I am not on the court and he is definitely that. He demands the double team and scores well.” Stoudemire talked about the team defensively as well, and he said “I think mainly we have to get better defensively. That is the first priority.”
The Knicks play the Cavaliers in Cleveland Friday night at 7:30pm.