Billups Is Finally Getting Some Credit, But Don't Overlook Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony LeBron James Knicks Heat

Photo: NBA.com30 Screenshot

Billups heroics in the clutch will get all the headlines, but the Knicks 91-86 win over the Heat should be filed as conclusive evidence that the Carmelo Anthony trade was outstanding for the Knicks.He scored 29 points, grabbed nine boards, played dogged defence, and began to look comfortable setting up his new teammates.

There were naysayers, those who thought New York gave up too much to get a Superstar whose reputation allegedly exceeded his production. There were questions as to whether the Knicks would regret relinquishing cap flexibility considering their incomplete roster. And then there were nostalgic rants that doubted New York could compete with the very same Heat they beat tonight.

We were all proved wrong tonight. Carmelo Anthony on the court is better than the Carmelo Anthony you read about on the internet. Knicks fans cherished Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler like parents do their children, but even the proud father would have to admit the new kid in town has superior talent. Anthony has his ups and downs, as all players do, but his highs are awe-inspiring. Times like Sunday, it feels like he can do anything he wants on the offensive end – like a video game athlete who possesses too many moves to be limited to the buttons of a PlayStation controller.

And the same size and athleticism that power his offensive game are useful ingredients for a successful defender. Anthony made a decision to add effort to that mix in his three games in New York, and that new element makes all the difference in the world. Maybe the trade energized him; maybe his effort grew along with the stage he plays on, or perhaps the Stoudemire, Anthony, and Billups aren’t afraid to hold one another accountable. But whatever it is, it’s paying dividends.

Frankly, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. From the moment he arrived in New York, Anthony correctly answered every question about how great this team can be by citing defence. His remarks on the Miami’s homecourt immediately following the victory were an assessment of his team’s effort. Anthony matched his comments with a renewed commitment at the defensive end, assigned himself to guard LeBron James, and erased the biggest question mark. He doesn’t need to be a stopper, he just needs to be solid – or about three times as good as advertised – for this team to have a chance. And effort is half the battle.

It’s too early to tell what’s in the team’s future, but anyone who valued flexibility or former Knicks over the player New York traded for were served a correction on Sunday.

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