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Monday, February 21, 2011
Updated: February 23, 7:28 AM ET
Say it with me, New York!

By Stephen A. Smith
ESPNNewYork.com

Hallelujah!

Carmelo Anthony is coming to New York. The Knicks have a bona fide superstar tandem. Someone who can guarantee 20 to 25 points per night, who's a headache for opponents, the ultimate blessing for Amare Stoudemire -- and the quintessential missing piece of the Knicks' puzzle.

The people who run this franchise would have looked like buffoons for perpetuity had they not pulled the trigger and gotten Melo to Gotham City. This is what New York needed. This is what this city wanted. This is who the Knicks absolutely had to have if they were going to transform themselves from abysmal to mediocre to respectable and beyond.

In acquiring Carmelo Anthony, along with Chauncey Billups and a few players who simply are not important enough to mention right now, we still don't know if the Knicks will be legitimate championship contenders. But the reality is that not knowing is actually a good thing. Especially when all you've known for years is that "no way in hell" was the first thought entering anyone's mind the second the Knicks and championship contention were mentioned in the same breath.

"I'm ready," the exasperated Anthony told me during All-Star Weekend, hours before learning he'd finally received his wish of returning to New York. "All I can do is put my head down, play ball and hope things happen. But forgive me if I'm surprised it's taken this long."

Anthony surely wasn't surprised that the Knicks eventually decided to trade Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Timofey Mozgov, along with the Knicks' first-round pick in 2014 and $3 million in cash. What surprised him was their apprehension over doing the deal, as if there was an actual debate as to whether or not it should be done.

At 6-foot-8, 245 pounds, Anthony is listed as a small forward, but can actually play three different positions on the offensive end of the floor. Maybe even four.

Anthony can handle the ball well enough to bring the ball upcourt. His .333 percent shooting from beyond the arc says he can shoot the 3. His 25.2 points per game validates his ability to score from inside-out, with his back to the basket, facing the basket. His girth says he can score on small forwards or power forwards. And his 82 percent shooting from the free throw line leaves nothing but a bevy of questions for opponents as to how anyone can possibly stop him.

In the motivation department, he's got that covered, too.

"The perfect situation for me is to be in a position where I'm confident I'll have a chance to compete every night," Anthony said. "Where I'm coming to work every day knowing there's a chance to win, to compete, to be in an environment that's like that."

That situation wasn't the Knicks for years. With Melo and Stoudemire, it certainly is now. What's more, Stoudemire benefits more than most because he'll have someone to take the offensive load off his shoulders and that injured toe.

As for the players the Knicks lose, no disrespect, but who cares?

Really!

Felton is a tremendous loss because of his youth and the season he's had, but he's being replaced by a champion in Billups, who's also known as a big-shot artist and one of the best leaders in the game today.

Wilson Chandler is a shooter. He's replaced by Melo.

End of conversation.

Gallinari is a solid player with skills and a tremendous upside. But unless he's about to become the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki, there's nothing else to say about him other than he's young, we'll miss him, and a sincere "We're sorry" to our Italian-Americans all over the city.

The Knicks are a better team today. A better attraction. They are officially on the basketball map again. No longer do they have to defer to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.

South Beach is another matter, of course. But I digress.

Despite higher taxes, cooler weather and no championship pedigree to speak of with roundball, Carmelo Anthony's arrival changes all of that.

It doesn't change it because it guarantees a title. It changes it because it puts the Knicks in the conversation of Eastern Conference contenders.

It ain't the whole ball of wax, per se, but it's a marked improvement over what they had.

The Knicks are on the upswing. Madison Avenue will be calling once again. You can talk about crawling before walking, but this is a little bit more than that. It's officially the best chance the Knicks have had to compete for something significant since the days when Latrell Sprewell and crew went to the Finals in 1999, back in the Patrick Ewing era.

That's good enough for me.