After exhaustive coverage of myriad trade rumors and ultimately its actual denouement, Carmelo Anthony, $65 million richer, will take the stage as a New York Knick tonight at MSG.
Stubhub, and other ticket brokers, not to mention scalpers outside the “world’s most famous arena” will do a brisk business, on what ironically is Legends Night, one of whose members, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe’s retired No. 15 hangs from the rafters, depriving ‘Melo of his favorite uni designation.
Will Anthony’s No. 7 be fitted accordingly a decade from now? Let’s not get too far ahead of things, just as any Knicks supporters with dreams of championship banners unfurling this season, need to wake up and check the team’s lack of size and thin bench.
Nevertheless, the Brooklyn-born former Denver Nugget will pair with $100 million free agent Amar’s Stoudemire, as well as teammates old (Chauncey Billups) and new (Landry Fields, Rony Turiaf) as coach Mike D’Antoni tries to shape the next chapter in the rejuvenation of the orange and blue with just over one-third of the 2010-11 NBA season remaining.
Say what you will about the assets surrendered - three youthful starters, a 7-foot reserve center, a No. 1 pick, a pair of second-rounders and millions in cash - and whether Knicks owner James Dolan overpaid to keep Anthony away from New Jersey Nets kingpin Mikhail Prokhorov, who’s still looking to gain some measure of NBA credibility and relevance in the market in advance of his club’s move to Brooklyn for the 2012-13 season. (The billionaire Russian netted some with his acquisition today of Utah point guard Deron Williams, a potential Knicks free agent target down the road.) The end result is that the ‘Melo and ‘Mar’e show is about to open at MSG.
Merchandise sales (the Anthony gear had yet to arrive at the Modell’s store on 42nd Street near Grand Central this morning) should skyrocket with one of the game’s top scorers in the MSG house (although Felton, Galinari and Chandler jerseys all are headed to the discount rack.)
While those trading MSG stock didn’t have much of a response, there should be favorable returns with Nielsens in the New York DMA tonight and beyond. MSG Network is providing a ‘Melo Marathon’ of sorts with Carmelo in 60 cutdowns of his two games against the Knicks this year, and full-blown encores of his first game at MSG in 2003 and his 50-point explosion in the building in 2009. Not sure how much of his 2006 fight with former Knick Mardy Collins, which drew a 15-game suspension, will be on display.
Curiosity, coupled with improved play and the securing of a playoff berth, should build ratings for MSGN, which has already garnered a 55% improvement to a 1.52 in-market household average through 51 games.
In turn, sales staffs will move more spots and packages. Moreover, seats and suites will become more precious — can someone say higher prices — over the years, as MSG moves to complete its $850 million refurbishment.
Still, the honeymoon moment for ‘Melo could be short-lived, given the raised expectations of many fans. Although the team has just been assembled, there will be pressure to take down the Bucks at home tonight, and the lowly LeBron-less Cavaliers in Cleveland on Friday. Then, the measuring sticks get a lot higher with a pair of road game: versus James’s Miami Heat on Sunday night (MSGN and ESPN figure to eat into ABC’s Big Apple Oscar ratings) and Dwight Howard’s Orlando Magic on March 1.
Those on-court moments might not prove so memorable for ‘Melo and Amar’e and the newly constructed Knicks.