The Nuggets issued an apology to Chauncey Billups after dealing him to the New York Knicks as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade -- and he probably deserves another one from the New York media, which treated him like a virtual afterthought at yesterday's intro press conference, viewable below. But had Billups not been on the court last night against the Milwaukee Bucks, Melo might have been on the losing end during his first official night as a Knick.
Anthony was clearly trying too hard for much of the night, frequently tossing up contested, no-hope shots rather than kicking out to open teammates -- a phenomenon not exactly unknown to Nuggets fans. His presence also seemed to diminish Amare Stoudemire, who wound up with just nineteen points before fouling out. But he also showed his knack for excelling when the spotlight's brightest, putting up big points in the fourth quarter to guarantee a 114-108 Knicks victory.
He couldn't have done it without Billups, though. Chauncey wasn't exactly spot-on from the field, either, going just one of six from three-point territory. But he delivered much-needed cohesion, dishing up a storm and serving as a calming element in a Madison Square Garden so energized that it's a wonder the arena didn't implode. He wound up with 21 points, eight assists, two steals and most valuable player honors.
Okay, he wasn't awarded the latter, but he should have been. Given the shakeup to the NYC lineup thanks to the new Nugs (including Anthony Carter, Shelden Williams and Renaldo Balkman, none of whom saw playing time), the Knicks are in desperate need of leadership and professionalism -- and Billups specializes in both.
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As evidence, note his comments at the press conference. He somehow managed to give shout-outs to Denver without denigrating the trade that sent him east. Indeed, he said he was looking forward to the challenge placed before him -- a comment as smart as it was classy. See a little of him and a lot of Melo in the aforementioned clip, which starts with a lengthy spiel by Knicks owner James Dolan (he even salutes LaLa Vazquez) and an awkward photo session:
More from our Sports archive: "Carmelo Anthony on Conan: Melo rejected Denver but still loves Denver omelettes (VIDEO)."