Garden stage awaits Carmelo heroics

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:21 PM ET

And so the stage is set, no less on basketball's biggest platform, for Carmelo Anthony to revive the Knicks.

Madison Square Garden has seen so much hoops history produced on its floor that it would be foolish to even list the moments.

When it comes to defining flash points when magical players evoke greatness, there's Bernard King, Willis Reed, Patrick Ewing and even the likes of a Reggie Miller or a Michael Jordan, in terms of opponents.

Melo can now add his name to the Knicks lore, his move from Denver to Manhattan no longer in debate considering all the pieces New York parted with to acquire this unique talent.

If it's true that Garden chairman James Dolan interfered and helped make the Melo move to Gotham a reality, then good on him.

In the NBA, no price is too steep when the goal is to acquire a star in a star-driven league.

No agenda should ever be compromised when a top-tier talent becomes available, regardless of the outcry when the deal is officially done and the second-guessing begins.

Anthony is not going to single-handedly lead the Knicks over the Celtics in the opening round, a series that resumes Friday night in New York with Boston leading 2-0.

Not even Dwyane Wade could single-handedly lead Miami to its NBA title five years ago over Dallas.

Flash needed help, he needed someone to make a stop on defence, someone to knock an open shot when the ball was forced out of his hand and someone to produce a rebound.

But no one is more capable of keeping the Knicks relevant and the unofficial home of the hoops vibrant than Melo.

Games of far greater significance and consequence have been played at the Garden, but none in recent memory.

One has to go way back to the lockout-shortened season in 1998-99 to find a Knicks game worth noting other than Friday's much-anticipated tip.

Back then, the Knicks battled through a 25-25 season, made the post-season and would go on a run that would see New York emerge as the first No. 8 seed to play for a title.

Ultimately, the Knicks would fall in five games to San Antonio's Twin Towers of David Robinson and Tim Duncan, the championship clincher produced at MSG.

The Knicks are far from championship-ready because so much must be done before New York is viewed as a serious title contender.

A franchise isn't reborn with one stroke, even if that one stroke happens to be Melo.

No one knows whether Mike D'Antoni will be back, whether Chauncey Billups, who missed Game 2 with a knee injury, will get his contract extended or which point guard has been identified to ride shotgun alongside Melo and Amare Stoudemire, whose problematic back spasms shelved him for the entire second half on Tuesday.

What the Knicks have been craving and what Melo promises to deliver as early as Friday is that star power a city such as New York simply requires.

And by extension, it's a quality the NBA must have in its largest market.

Somehow the ghosts of Reed and Ewing will echo when Anthony steps on to the Garden court for Game 3.

MSG will be rocking and the NBA will have finally returned to Gotham following years of mismanagement and missteps.

That's the power one guy wields, the potential that exists when one sublime player takes his game to another level.

It's why the Raptors will never be relevant again until another Vince Carter is somehow drafted.

These super elite players are rare, but once one is acquired it opens a market that is limitless.

Despite losing yet another late-game heartbreaker, the Knicks returned to New York, the basketball buzz back and the air of anticipation growing as the countdown to Friday night continues.

Whether Anthony is able to go off for another 42-point game, no one knows.

Whether the Celtics will double-team Anthony from the opening tap, no one can say.

What's not in dispute is the magic of Melo and the rebirth of the Knicks.

"When I heard Stoudemire was out, I turned to (assistant) Lawrence Frank and said: 'Oh, geez, they got us right where they want us now,''' Celtics head coach and ex-Knicks point guard Doc Rivers said in the aftermath of his team's Game 2 win.

Rivers knew Anthony would get more touches with Stoudemire unavailable, knowing full well that even a great defensive approach would not stop greatness.

"Melo was in an unbelievable rhythm," Kevin Garnett, who sealed the deal, said. "Some of the shots he made were just incredible."

Incredible will describe the atmosphere that awaits Friday, a moment produced by Melo's magic.


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