By Vincent Barone 

I know that the Carmelo Anthony deal made for a pretty cool commercial. He was born in Brooklyn; now he’s coming back to play in The Garden—I get it. Neat.

And lest we forget that Melo’s first game in the blue and orange may have prompted Clyde Frazier to wear the baddest suit ever to grace a press box.  But will the trade that sent off (bear with me, here) Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov (gasp), and the 2014 first-round pick to Denver  in return for crypt keeper Chauncey Billups, Melo, Sheldon Williams, Anthony Carter, and Renaldo Balkman really help the Knickerbockers in the long haul? Is Melo really the answer? In short, no.

We watched Anthony’s New York honeymoon get crashed by Antawn Jamison and the lamentable Cavaliers, who notched 115 points in their victory over the Knicks on February 25. I know that it was just Billups’ and Melo’s second game with the team—that they’re still working out the “growing pains”— but their Swiss cheese defense made Cavs’ power forward  J.J. Hickson look like Dwight Howard; The Knicks D is my foremost concern moving on.

I know you’re probably saying, “Vin, dog, have you ever played as the Knicks in NBA 2K11? Their defense rank is deplorable, everyone knows that. They’ve been an offensive-minded team all season. That’s just how they play. You’re just getting straight reckless right now.” Well, you’re right. Lord knows that Amarè and Melo couldn’t keep a frat boy out of the library, so how are the Knicks supposed to keep the likes of Kevin Garnett, LeBron and Dwight Howard out of the paint?

Well, Sunday night the Knicks impressively stymied the Heat offense, baffling “experts” who predicted Lebron to drop 60 points and lead the Heat to a 351-295 victory. They looked the best they have all season. There was that huge three from Billups and that game-saving block by Amarè, shutting down Lebron’s drive to the basket with just seconds left. “Take your talents elsewhere, dog,” Amare may or may not have said after the swat.

The Knickerbockers pulled away with a 91-86 win over the Heat. Nobody thought that both teams would have scored fewer than 100 points.   The win was a paradigm of how pivotal defense is for success. Without a it, the Knicks will not get anywhere in the playoffs. And Anthony, while a tremendously talented athlete, is not the cog to lead the Knicks to the Finals and thus, was not worth surrendering most of the Knick’s youthful core.

Let us break down the trade, player by player (well, at least the significant ones):

Knicks Get:

  • Chauncey Billups—an odd looking fellow, but a grizzled veteran of the playoffs who knows how to knock down a buzzer beater. He’ll bring some leadership to the point guard position.
  • Carmelo Anthony—not much needs to be said. Prolific scorer, one of the league’s best.
  • Renaldo Balkman—YES. Finally! The gangling, underachieving forward finally makes his triumphant return to the Knicks. I’ve been pining for this failed first round pick to don a Knicks jersey once again.  (Note: like Anthony, Balkman was born in NY, too. So he’ll be coming home, as well. Somehow I feel like this has been lost in all the Anthony hullabaloo.)

Knicks Lose:

  • Danilo Gallinari—a budding, upper-tier player who gave the Knicks a substantial threat from behind the arc.
  • Wilson Chandler—Another young player who played with an inimitable tenacity that really rallied the Knicks in dire moments
  • Raymond Felton—Once again, a talented young player, who, I admit, sometimes got a little too ambitious with the rock, but nonetheless a player who was enmeshed in the Knicks’ doggedness.

Essentially, the trade ripped apart the heart of the Knicks.

I hoped that the Knicks would hold out and wait for the summer to try to land Anthony. But as the trade deadline neared, while I watched an exhilarating young Knicks team scrap together wins, it became painfully obvious that Melo wanted out of Denver post haste, New York be damned. The Knicks were put in a position to trade for him during the season, or they most likely would’ve not landed Anthony at all. That tough spot essentially forced the Knicks to give up a little too much to get the elite player they have been coveting for years. Imagine if the Knicks sat on the deal and Melo went to Chicago or some other competitive team.

Now, the Knicks should be able to comfortably net 100 points each game. Unfortunately, there’s little stopping their opponents from scoring 101. Yes, the Knicks’ defense has been woeful all season long and they probably wouldn’t have made it far if the Denver trade fell through, but they still won’t make it past the first round of the playoffs now, even with Carmelo and Billups. If they held on to their young talent and maybe scooped up a big man with a paint-clogging propensity, the Knicks would have been one of the most well-rounded teams in the league for years to come.

Think about it. Think about the 90’s, the last time the Knicks were great. They didn’t frequent the playoffs because they had one of the best scorers in the league. The reason for their dominance was because Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley were two daunting big men who didn’t let anyone drive the lane.  If you tried, you got knocked to the floor and had to earn your two points from the line.

Imagine if the Knicks sat on the deal and Anthony went to Chicago or some other big city. Their management would have been lambasted for skipping on the deal. New York wanted their superstar. The Knicks couldn’t come through with LeBron. They needed to get someone soon. The fans wanted a big name. I know that number seven Anthony jerseys are selling out faster than you can say championship, but this trade wasn’t necessary.