NEW YORK—It was almost like Game Seven of the NBA Finals with all of the pageantry. The lobby area of The Theater at Madison Square Garden was all ablaze and packed with media, both print and camera, as the hometown boy comes home. But, this hometown boy wasn’t just any ole person. This was Carmelo Anthony, the same Carmelo that is affectionately known as “Melo”. It’s the same Melo that is married to hometown girl, one La La Vasquez. It’s the same, the very same Melo that can drop 25 plus points and nearly 8 rebounds a game in the regular season and the same Melo that can win you an important game in the Playoffs on the road no less to win a series or to keep your team alive.
Now that Melo found his way home by virtually orchestrating a trade out of Denver where he spent the first eight years of his professional basketball life, the real work and pressure begins. Sacrifices for both he and MVP candidate Amare Stoudemire have to be made, not so much in points as both are legit 20 point scorers in their sleep. But it will be the intangibles that will have to play a major part, particularly on the defensive end and adjusting when the other scorer has it going on a particular night and needs the ball in his hands to feel fulfilled. Then there’s the matter of who will get the ball when the score is tied and there’s 10 seconds left in the game, who takes the shot.
By all accounts the two friends are saying all the right things and it appears genuine as both pushed for the trade. Carmelo’s first game as a New York Knick at Madison Square Garden was successful as the Knicks won 114-108 before a raucous crowd of 20,000 as he finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds albeit shooting 10 for 25 from the field. “He played great,” Stoudemire said. “He played Carmelo basketball. That’s the one thing that I wanted him to do…be himself out there and we are going to get better.”
Their first game together was a sign of good things to come for the Knicks and their fans. It should all work out in the end but both better thank their Maker for point guard Chauncey Billups for his steady hand, know- how and winning ways as far as running a team.
But now that Billups has been hobbled with a deep thigh bruise suffered by the knee of Orlando’s Dwight Howard the needs are in need of a floor general. The early return on the Melo-to-Knicks union has been 50-50 in the way of wins and losses. The newness still hasn’t worn off.
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