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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Was it a good trade for Knicks? Yup

Carmelo Anthony #15 of the Denver Nuggets and

Carmelo Anthony #15 of the Denver Nuggets and the Western Conference reacts as he sits between Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers. (Feb. 20, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

With all due respect to Raymond Felton . . .

Can we have a reality check, please? The last time the Knicks won the NBA championship, 38 years and countless tears ago, their top seven scorers were future Hall of Famers.

Seven! OK, the seventh, Phil Jackson, qualified as a coach. But still. Add coach Red Holzman and team president Ned Irish, and those Knicks got contributions from nine Springfield-bound men.

That is a mind-boggling figure, and it is the moral of the story as Knicks Nation debates the decision to bet most of its chips on Melo, damn the role players and full speed ahead.

Like it or not, in a star-driven league that does business in a star-driven world, the huge - perhaps even reckless - gamble was worth it.

Did the Nuggets get the Knicks to pay a stiff price to acquire Carmelo Anthony?

Yes, absolutely, thanks to the mischief-making Nets, who drove up the price by staying involved to the finish, much to the amusement of owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

Is it a shame that Anthony felt he couldn't risk waiting four months for free agency?

Yup. It would have been wonderful to add him to the existing Knicks in July. But that would have meant asking him to risk leaving millions of dollars on the table, which hardly seems fair.

Are there any guarantees Amar'e Stoudemire and Anthony will make sense as a star duo? Nope.

But there are only so many elite basketball scorers on Earth, and the Knicks now have doubled their total. The rest eventually will take care of itself.

Let's set aside those 1973 Knicks of Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere, Earl Monroe, Willis Reed and Jerry Lucas for now. That was very long ago, and they were assembled in a pre-salary cap era.

Consider a more recent example of the power of stars, and their effect on others:

Remember when the Celtics added Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to Paul Pierce in 2007? There was great excitement, but also great concern about the nondescript guard who was supposed to run the show.

Four years later, Rajon Rondo is a two-time All-Star and one-time NBA champion.

Point being: Seemingly average players often can raise their levels when partnered with more talented teammates.

There are no givens here. Anthony and Stoudemire do not necessarily have complementary skills. Far from it. But they are two pieces of what someday could be a greater whole.

This being the Knicks, naturally there is more to the conclusion of the Melodrama than mere basketball talk.

It surely will lead to speculation about Donnie Walsh's future with the franchise. It is too soon to tell how all that will shake out, but we do know this: Walsh's work in clearing salary-cap room made the arrivals of Stoudemire and Anthony possible, and the likable collection of role players he gathered was enough to make the huge package worth the Nuggets' while.

The saga of Anthony's future went on too long, but it was good for the NBA, keeping fans and journalists interested during the dog days of mid-February.

The buzz likely helped All-Star weekend secure its best ratings in years on TNT, including 6.4 percent of New York area homes for Sunday night's All-Star Game, up 88 percent from last year.

The presences of Stoudemire and Anthony in L.A. surely had a lot to do with that. Just as the sight of them in Knicks white is sure to rock the Garden as soon as tomorrow night.

Was it worth the price? Too soon to tell. Was it worth the risk? Yup.

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

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