Amar’e Stoudemire said he’s expecting an “electric” atmosphere at Madison Square Garden when he plays alongside new teammate Carmelo Anthony, perhaps as soon as tonight.
The All-Star forward has averaged almost 25 points a game for his career and gives the Knicks two of the top six scorers this season in the National Basketball Association. Stoudemire is tied for second in the NBA at 26.1 points a game in his first season with the Knicks.
“Our goal when I signed with New York was to build a championship team and that’s where we’re headed,” Stoudemire told reporters after practice yesterday.
The Knicks are sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 28-26 record and are pursuing their first winning season since 2000- 01. Even with their on-court struggles, the team is worth $655 million, the most in the NBA, according to Forbes magazine. It’s $64 million in operating profit also leads the league. The Knicks are owned by Madison Square Garden Inc., which was spun off from New York-area cable-television provider Cablevision Systems Corp., last year.
Anthony, 26, could be in a Knicks uniform -- No. 7 instead of his usual No. 15 -- for tonight’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks if he passes medical exams required as part of the trade. Ticket prices on the secondary market tripled in anticipation of Anthony’s possible debut.
“It’s going to be electric,” said a smiling Stoudemire, adding that Madison Square Garden will draw comparisons to the home of the Los Angeles Lakers. “It’s the new Staples Center because L.A. is known for having all the stars there. I think New York is now going to take over the stardom stage.”
To get Anthony, New York traded Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov to land Anthony. They also add a veteran point guard in 34-year-old Chauncey Billups, along with Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman from the Nuggets and Corey Brewer from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Balkman started his NBA career with the Knicks, playing two seasons in New York before being traded to Denver in July 2008.
“There’s not many times in this league you can get a 26- year-old superstar in his prime,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said at a news conference. “You have to give up something to do that, and we did, but we’re real excited about what we have and where we can go.”
After the trade, Las Vegas Sports Consultants lowered the Knicks’ odds of winning the NBA championship to 15-1 from 20-1, eighth best among the league’s 30 teams. New York has compiled a 173-319 record over the past six complete seasons, including a 29-53 mark last year before signing Stoudemire.
“On the surface, from the bettors’ viewpoint, it looks like they’re better,” Las Vegas Sports Consultants senior oddsmaker Mike Seba said in a telephone interview. “But from a pure handicapping standpoint, they’re probably a little bit better, but not very much better.”
Stoudemire, cautioning that it takes time to build chemistry with new teammates, said Anthony and Billups are veteran players who should quickly adjust to the up-tempo offense run by D’Antoni.
“It’s a matter of being able to play within the flow of the offense and you want to get the other guys involved as well,” Stoudemire said. “Offensively we’re very talented, but the challenge is for us to get better defensively, too.”
Hall of Fame player Charles Barkley said that, even with Anthony, the Knicks aren’t among the elite teams in the East.
The Miami Heat, behind LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, have the most wins in the conference at 41-15, followed by the Boston Celtics (40-14), Chicago Bulls (38-16) and Orlando Magic (36-21).
“They’re better with Carmelo, because he’s a terrific player, but they’re not one of the four best teams in the East,” Barkley, an NBA TV analyst, said on the league’s website. “They’re not a contender right now. Everything hinges on what point guard they can get -- whether it’s Chris Paul or Deron Williams -- in the next couple years.”
Stoudemire, who came to New York in July after eight years with the Phoenix Suns, declined to comment yesterday when asked about Paul eventually joining the Knicks. The team has made one playoff trip since 2001, when their run of 14 straight postseason appearances ended.
“The plan is in motion,” Stoudemire said. “We are taking the right steps toward building something special here. It’s been a long time coming, and the Knicks are back.”
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