GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The New York Knicks were searching for a second superstar when Carmelo Anthony became available.
The price was high, but they're certain he's worth it.
"When you go out hunting, would you rather have a bigger gun or a little gun?" coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We got a bigger gun."
The Knicks completed a three-team, 13-player trade with the Denver Nuggets for Anthony on Tuesday night. The Minnesota Timberwolves also were involved in the trade, which was agreed to Monday but couldn't be finalized until Anthony signed his three-year, $65 million contract extension with the Nuggets.
Anthony will join fellow All-Star Amare Stoudemire in the frontcourt, giving the Knicks the potent duo they hoped they could assemble last summer in free agency. Instead, they had to give up much of their core, but in return they get one of the NBA's top scorers.
"We liked the way our team played this year and I looked at it and I thought we had one piece that was at the high level of the league. We always wanted two pieces at least," team president Donnie Walsh said.
Stoudemire has led the Knicks to a 28-26 record this season, but said Tuesday they will be even more dangerous with Anthony bringing his 25.2 points per game to join his 26.1 average.
"Every team needs a 1, 1A punch," Stoudemire said. "And so with the ways that we both can score. … we're very versatile, so it's hard to guard us."
Stoudemire said he had "no doubt" the All-Star forwards and longtime friends could play together, and said Anthony would handle the move to New York as well as he has.
"It's what he wants. It's what I wanted, to come to New York and play on the big stage," Stoudemire said. "He has the same type of swag. This is what he wants and he can handle it. We're going to do it together."
The Knicks also got guards Chauncey Billups and Anthony Carter, and forwards Renaldo Balkman and Shelden Williams from Denver. New York dealt forwards Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, guard Raymond Felton and center Timofey Mozgov to the Nuggets.
New York also shipped centers Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph to Minnesota for forward Corey Brewer. Denver acquired center Kosta Koufos from Minnesota, plus New York's first-round draft pick in 2014, second-round picks in 2012 and 2013 and cash.
The Knicks haven't made the playoffs since 2004, but are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference in their first season since acquiring Stoudemire from Phoenix last summer. He thinks the blockbuster deal could make them better equipped to face teams such as Boston or Miami, which already have multiple All-Stars, in the postseason.
"It's not easy and it's not going to get any easier for us now because the target is on our back," Stoudemire said. "Teams are going to be eager to play against us."
Miami's LeBron James said he was happy his friend's uncertainty was finally over.
"I think it's great for the NBA," James said. "The fact that the Knicks are back, the Celtics have been back for the last few years and all the other teams are trying to compete, I think it's great."
Though Walsh and D'Antoni said it hurt to give up so many players they liked, the Knicks felt they had to make the move after failing last summer to land two superstars through free agency.
"Now we've got two guys in our stable," D'Antoni said.
It was Anthony's refusal to take the extension when the Nuggets offered it to him last summer that forced them to explore trading their leading scorer. The Knicks hoped they could sign him next summer in free agency, but felt they couldn't wait because Anthony wanted the extension this season, before a new collective bargaining agreement next summer could severely restrict salaries, and that could have forced him to lock in long term with whatever team Denver traded him to.
So the Knicks agreed to trade four of their top six players, realizing there were few chances to add a player of Anthony's caliber to one like Stoudemire.
The Knicks hope Anthony will be able to play Wednesday when they host Milwaukee. He was expected to arrive in New York late Tuesday.
Nuggets president Josh Kroenke said in a statement the Nuggets enjoyed watching Anthony grow during his seven seasons with the team.
"However, Carmelo made it very clear early in the season that he wasn't willing to recommit to the organization and wanted to pursue other opportunities in basketball and life," Kroenke said. "At that point, we decided it was imperative that we do what was in the best interest of the Denver Nuggets and our fans. We wish Carmelo the best in his career and sincerely thank him for what he's helped us accomplish."
New York's once-passionate fan base was turned off by the team's poor play on the court and embarrassing press off it for most of the decade under Isiah Thomas' reign. But in the third season under Walsh and D'Antoni, the buzz has come back, and it's only going to get louder once Anthony takes the court.
"New York City was on fire even before this trade happened with Carmelo, thanks to (the traded players) and I think with the help of Carmelo and Chauncey and the rest of the guys, we have a great shot at it," Stoudemire said.
Though Anthony was the focus, the Knicks are excited about the acquisition of Billups, a former NBA finals MVP and All-Star who remains one of the league's top point guards and will orchestrate D'Antoni's pick-and-roll offense.
The Anthony trade saga lasted all season and often overshadowed the Knicks' improved play. During a chaotic final week, the Nuggets entertained offers from the Knicks and New Jersey Nets, with both owners meeting with Anthony during the All-Star weekend in Los Angeles.1 comment on this story
Walsh repeated the Knicks' previous denials that Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan — with advice from Thomas — had taken the Anthony pursuit out of his hands and paid more than Walsh would have.
"I'm the one who knows basketball, so my job is to advise him, 'This is good for your franchise,' and I did that," Walsh said.
The Knicks are probably too far back to make a move in the standings over the final portion of the regular season. But they believe they have enough time to fit in the new players and be a threat if they finally get back to the playoffs.
"It'll be up to the players and I'm sure Carmelo wants to come in and win. He didn't come here just to go to Broadway, he wants to win," D'Antoni said. "Amare I know wants to win, I talked to him. I know Chauncey wants to win, so let's sit down and figure it out. And there's a lot of talent there to figure it out."