After finally being introduced to the New York media this afternoon (and to its most famous delicatessen as well), Carmelo Anthony will don the Knickerbocker uniform for the very first time tonight when the Knicks host the Milwaukee Bucks at what is sure to be a sold-out Madison Square Garden. After all the hype subsides after player introductions tonight, the ball is finally tipped, and the dreamworld image of Anthony wearing the storied orange and blue becomes a reality- basketball will actually be played believe it or not and there is a lot to watch for tonight. Here are five key items to watch for as the Carmelo Anthony-era finally takes off tonight at MSG.
We all know about Carmelo Anthony's ability to score, but can he provide the Knicks with a much lacking defensive spark?
While my guess is probably not, Anthony did admit in today's introductory press conference that he will be putting an added value into his defensive game. Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun offense has helped the Knicks put up a lot of points this year but they've also given up almost as much. Anthony, known not for his defense, will not be pressured by D'Antoni's system to provide on the defensive end and that could end up hurting the Knicks in the long run.
Along with his celebrity, Melo brings with him his 25.2 points per game this season to a Knicks team featuring their own high-profile scorer, Amar'e Stoudemire. Stoudemire has not only been the Knicks number one option this year, but at times their only option. With the loss of their second, third, and fourth-leading scorers due to the magnitude of the Anthony trade, the Knicks do however need to make up a lot of ground. Will Melo's superstar shine brighter than Amar'e's tonight in Gotham?
This is a no-brainer. While there might be a few sour cases within the Big Apple, most of New York is head-over-heels in love with the addition of the newest Knick. Look for a huge standing ovation tonight during player introductions and trust me, this sold-out crowd will have all eyes on Anthony's every move, looking for even the smallest reason to erupt.
While everyone and their mother is in a Carmelo Anthony state of mind right now, the acquisition of Chauncey Billups is one that shouldn't go overlooked. Billups is a proven point guard, leading the Detroit Pistons to an NBA Title, taking a Finals MVP Award along with him. While Stoudemire had developed quite the groove with now-Nugget Raymond Felton, Billups might just be the experience this young Knicks team needs.
Once the game gets underway, there will undoubtedly be a few highlights but also a few mishaps. Anthony is playing on a team he was not even a part of 48-hours ago. There will be a ton of pressure on Melo to lift the Knicks out of their .500 season so far and we can only wait and find out if he'll be able to do it. The on-court relationship between Amar'e Stoudemire and Melo will also be a huge factor if the Knicks are looking to make a late-season run this year.