They said it would never work.
When the Knicks traded for the flamboyant Earl Monroe in 1971, many Knicks fans scratched their heads. How in the world was the flamboyant Monroe going to coexist with the equally flamboyant Walt Frazier? Was one team really big enough for two big-time superstar scorers?
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No one was asking that question Wednesday about Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, who played their first game together in a Knicks uniform. Yet, considering that Stoudemire is the NBA's No. 3 scorer and Anthony the league's No. 5 scorer, Frazier thinks it is a question that needs to be asked.
"When Earl came, they said we were going to need two basketballs," Frazier said. "Team chemistry is that important. I think it's very crucial that Carmelo is aware of that. Amar'e has been here and rejuvenated that franchise. He's coming in here to keep things going and be a part of it."
Frazier and Monroe were among the half dozen former Knick greats being honored last night at Madison Square Garden as part of Legends Night. And Frazier said they reason that they were - the reason that they were able to come together and win a second title for the Knicks - is that Monroe went out of his way to make it work.
"Earl changed his game," Frazier said. "He said this is 'Clyde's team.' I'm just coming to blend in. He already had all the individual accolades. He just wanted a championship."
While there are some parallels between the acquisition of Anthony and the addition of Monroe, there are also some major differences. The biggest difference is that while Frazier was caught off guard by the addition of Monroe, Stoudemire is friends with Anthony and had been actively recruiting him to join him in New York.
The Knick team that Monroe joined in 1971 was also an established team, one that had won a NBA title in 1970 and another in 1973. These Knicks, by contrast, just added Stoudemire this past summer and are looking for their first trip to the playoffs since 2004.
But perhaps the biggest difference between the two situations, said Monroe, is the mentality of today's player is very different. "When I came to the Knicks, guys looking to get traded to a team would just try to fit in," he said with a laugh. "The guys today, they're taking 25 shots in their first game. I think these guys can figure things out."
Monroe said he wasn't worried about there being two go-to guys on one team: "These guys have known each awhile and there will be some sacrificing on both sides. I think that together they will make this into formidable team again."