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Anthony raises Knicks' talent level

Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony (15) drives past

Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony (15) drives past New York Knicks forward Wilson Chandler, left, in the fourth quarter of the Nuggets' 117-110 victory in their NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden. Chandler and Anthony were dealt for one another as part of a trade. (Dec. 28, 2008) Credit: AP

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - When Amar'e Stoudemire signed as a free agent last summer, he declared, "The Knicks are back." As Carmelo Anthony arrives in New York Wednesday to join Stoudemire, it can be now said the Knicks are for real.

"This puts us way ahead of everything because these are the kind of guys that are really hard to get," team president Donnie Walsh said of Anthony, one of the league's top offensive talents. "Whether they're on the free-agent market or whether they're in a trade, they're very difficult to get. They are guys that can get 30 to 40 points in a playoff game."

An agreement was reached on Monday after the Knicks included Timofey Mozgov in the deal. On Sunday the Knicks said they would only part with Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton, but Denver insisted on Mozgov, who is a favorite of Nuggets coach George Karl. Walsh said Tuesday the Knicks felt pressure to get a trade done now rather than wait for the offseason, when Anthony could opt out of his contract.

"He wasn't going to make it to free agency," Walsh said.

Instead, Anthony signed a three-year, $65-million contract extension as part of the trade. Sources told Newsday that Anthony would have accepted a contract extension to complete a trade with the Nets if the Knicks had walked away from the deal with Denver. Anthony, the sources said, was worried about losing millions as a free agent in what is expected to be a more restrictive collective bargaining agreement. His intention was to get a contract extension done before tomorrow's trade deadline.

"I think we all knew that . . . that's what he wanted to do," Walsh said.

Stoudemire spoke with his new teammate Tuesday morning. "We both were just excited, couldn't wait," said Stoudemire, who heard the news directly from owner James Dolan on Monday night.

The complicated 13-player trade involving three teams was cleared through the NBA via conference call Tuesday. All of the players have to complete physicals before any of them are permitted to play for their new teams. Anthony was expected to arrive in New York last night. The Knicks are pushing to have everything done in time for Anthony to make his Knicks debut Wednesday night against the Bucks at the Garden.

The deal also includes veteran point guard Chauncey Billups plus forwards Shelden Williams and Renaldo Balkman and guard Anthony Carter. The Knicks sent a package of Gallinari, Chandler, Felton and Mozgov to Denver along with their 2014 first-round pick, two future second-round picks and $3 million in cash considerations. The Minnesota Timberwolves were the third team in the trade and took Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph and $3 million from the Knicks and sent Corey Brewer to the Knicks. Minnesota acquired a future second-round pick from Denver in exchange for center Kosta Koufos.

The Knicks now boast two All-Stars in Anthony and Stoudemire in a lineup that they believe is one step closer to contending for an NBA championship. The question is if both scorers can coexist.

"That depends on the players," Mike D'Antoni said. "And if they come in here and want to win, they will figure out how to play. It's just a little bit like Miami is doing . . . that's how it is, to figure out how to win."

The new-look team, which is in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a 28-26 record, has 28 games left in the regular season to clinch a playoff berth.

"All these guys are smart, veteran players," Stoudemire said. "They understand the game so it shouldn't take long."

Though Walsh and D'Antoni agree that the deal made the Knicks better, they both were careful to squelch optimism.

"We think we moved the rock ahead a little bit, but let's not get carried away and think we're challenging Miami and Boston and these teams," D'Antoni said. "We're just not there yet."

Critics of the deal have said the Knicks gave up too much, but D'Antoni said the Knicks couldn't pass up an opportunity to get one of the best players in the game.

"You can nitpick it and say, 'What about that,' " he said. "But we can sit here at 28-26 for the rest of our life and say, 'We've got a nice group.' We can sit there for the rest of our life and say, 'What if?' . . . We had a chance to get one of the best players in the league and bit the bullet and did it. Let's see if it works."

The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, MSG and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.

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