Oh, baby, the honeymoon's over in New York
At the inception of the New York Knicks blockbuster trade, Dujuan Mosley, a 33-year-old fan from Harlem exclaimed: “We're back, baby!” Last night, a fan in Detroit shouted: “Carmelo, you're a baby!”
The competing sentiments outline the teeter-totter play of the Knicks since Carmelo Anthony's arrival.
New York is 35-33 on the season but just 7-7 since the franchise jettisoned several of its talented, young starters to Denver so that it could pair Anthony with its other all-star Amar’e Stoudemire.
The acquisition of Anthony provided a major step forward in fulfilling Chris Paul's prophesy at Melo's wedding in New York last summer that the trio of all-stars would form their own Big Three in the Big Apple.
But last night the league's next dream team looked more like a nightmare.
Anthony netted just six points, made two out of 12 shots and was held scoreless in the final quarter. While he exchanged unpleasantries with a Detroit fan, his opponent drained a 3-pointer to tie the game. The same star who has made many game-winning baskets in his career — and who taunted the Memphis Grizzlies on March 9, declaring “I do this!” the last time he sunk one — didn't do it against the mostly second-string squad of the lowly Detroit Pistons.
Anthony went 0-5 in the fourth quarter, missing two key attempts in the waning seconds. It was his worst performance as a Knick. Afterward, he ducked the waiting press corps and hid in the team bus.
It didn't go unnoticed.
Even the team captain took a swipe at Anthony.
"We have to subscribe to the Mike D'Antoni system, it works," Stoudemire told the New York Post. "I've been part of it for a long time now. It's been very successful. We have to buy into it and get it done. That's the way we're going to win. We've proven it works with the team we had before the trade, and it could work with the guys we have now. It's a matter of us buying into it. It's new for most of the guys, so it takes time to understand how it works. Over time it will grow on them."
At least that sure sounded like Stoudemire's public retort to Anthony, who earlier this week loudly questioned D'Antoni's schemes after the Knicks suffered embarrassing back-to-back losses to the Indiana Pacers.
Chauncey Billups, who came over to New York in the Anthony trade, defended his teammate.
"He just really didn't get a lot of opportunities at the basket," Billups told reporters after last night's 99-95 loss in which the Knicks blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead. "They denied him, they fronted him when he tried to take them down to his sweet spot, they were bringing a guy over playing behind him, and he was just getting a lot of attention and never really got a chance to play with just one person on him and get to a spot where he could get comfortable."
It remains to be seen whether Anthony's union with the Knicks reaches a more comfortable place. A faction of the fan base in New York believes it will take the signing of Paul (at the expense of Billups) before they can talk titles.
Putting together that team may indeed be a dream. Given the league's salary cap, which could tighten up after the season, it will be difficult for New York to afford Paul after blowing its wad on Anthony and Stoudemire.
But one thing is clear now that the Knicks are sinking and the new-look Nuggets are soaring: The honeymoon is over.
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