‘Melo’s Arrival Does Little to End Uncertainty

Questions about short-term fits and long-term plans follow 'Melo's arrival

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When the word finally came that the deal was done and Carmelo Anthony was a Knick, it was hard to get past the emotional reaction caused by the way the trade came together.

That's what comes from years of living under James Dolan's regime, complete with the gruesome grin of Isiah Thomas on his shoulder. 

In the light of day, though, we find ourselves thinking less about the process and more about the basketball. That makes it easier to like what went down on Monday evening.

The Knicks today have two of the finer scorers in basketball sharing the court and they have the kind of starry core that every contending team in the NBA, save the Spurs, uses to make their championship case.

The Knicks aren't contenders yet, not by a long shot, but they have more reason to believe that they will be now than they did at this time on Monday.

You don't let Timofey Mozgov stand in the way of that, even if his inclusion signals some scary things about the management of the franchise going forward.

The first order of business will be for Mike D'Antoni to figure out how his offense works with two big scorers in the lineup. There are questions about how well Chauncey Billups will fit in a scheme that relies on transition as much as D'Antoni's, but Denver plays at a high pace and Billups does just fine.

He's a strong shooter and joins Amar'e Stoudemire and Anthony in a trio that will live at the free throw line.

Defensively, well, let's just say the Knicks are just as good on defense as they were before the trade. Ultimately, that means the team was a lot less gutted on the floor than they were on the balance sheet. That means we're still going to get plenty of good basketball in New York, but it also leads us back into uncharted waters for the next couple of years.

Having a base of Stoudemire and Anthony means that the Knicks will be in permanent acquisition mode to round out the roster. Billups' contract expires after next season, which will be useful as they try to land Chris Paul or Deron Williams, but Monday's trade left the team with few other assets to use as enticement to get a deal done.

After LeBron, Melo and Amar'e, it is impossible to believe that any team will simply let a star walk as a free agent ever again so the Knicks will need to figure out a way to be serious players on the trade market going forward.

Complicating matters is the fact that it is impossible to predict the financial landscape of the NBA after this season. There will certainly be a more draconian salary cap, something that will hurt less if salaries are also rolled back, and the Knicks will be right up against it going into the 2011-2012 season.

They have only Stoudemire, Anthony and Renaldo Balkman under contract after that, although Landry Fields and this year's first-round pick must be figured into the mix. They should have cap space to fit another star, but there's also the chance that the NBA institutes a NFL-style franchise tag to further limit player movement.

Long story short, this is just another step designed to bring the title that's been missing for almost four decades. It's not the icing on the cake and we can't know that the icing will ever come, but we can feel more secure than ever that there's actually a cake coming out of the oven.  

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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