There is no denying that Carmelo Anthony's arrival in New York immediately makes the Knicks a better team, yet lingering doubts remain.
There is apprehension among the fans, who live in fear that Isiah Thomas is playing puppet master from more than 1,000 miles away. There are doubts among those who are curious how all these new pieces will fit together on the court. And there is skepticism from the eggheads, who are as skilled at squeezing insightful information from a bunch of numbers as any PhD in statistics.
On Tuesday, sports talk radio callers sounded cautiously optimistic about the team's prospects, but most couldn't shake the worry of Thomas playing a behind-the-scenes role.
Knicks president Donnie Walsh, whose future with the Knicks could best be described as tenuous entering the week, not only told the media that he and owner James Dolan are in lockstep when it comes to the team, he used it as an opportunity to make a few Thomas-related jokes.
When asked about Thomas's alleged involvement in the Anthony deal, Walsh said, according to The New York Daily News, "I can care less...There's a lot of people who talk to owners. I can care less. … I have no idea, only what I read in your papers. I'm assuming Isiah is getting ready for the NCAA Tournament. That's what I'm assuming."
From Miami, Thomas told the New York Times that “I have no comment on any of that," although he did add: “I always want to see the Knicks do well … and I want to see Jim [Dolan] do well.”
Thomas's current team, Florida International University, is 9-17.
Whatever Thomas's role, the Knicks have games to play. And now those games come with lofty expectations. It's one thing to populate the roster with All-Stars, it's something else entirely to seamlessly fit all the new, shiny pieces together.
Coach Mike D'Antoni has to juggle two prolific scorers in Amar'e Stoudemire and Anthony, and find out how point guard Chauncey Billups -- eight years older than Raymond Felton -- fits the Knicks transition game.
Ultimately, this trade is about wins and losses, hopefully a lot more of the former. But here's the thing, according to statistician Nate Silver: Anthony and Stoudemire deserve "the maximum salary, but do not produce a significant return above and beyond it. Their teams still need to fill out their rosters with cost-effective players to win a championship with them, or to spend significantly more than the league’s ’soft’ salary cap of about $58 million."
And therein lie the concerns about the Knicks giving away so many young players to acquire Anthony and crew. After him and Stoudemire, Silver writes, the Knicks have Billups and Landry Fields, but beyond that "the roster is now very thin."
The upside: Silver thinks that the Knicks are locked into "roughly 50 wins over the next handful of seasons — not a lot more, not a lot less — under most of the more realistic scenarios." That's about 29 more wins than the team averaged in the previous six seasons.
The downside: "One thing [the Knicks might have done differently]might have been to insist that the Nuggets’ center, Nene, was among the bounty of players they were receiving from Denver. A starting five of Billups, Fields, Anthony, Stoudemire and Nene could well be a 60-win team, even with almost no depth."
Surprised Isiah didn't think of that.