Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — First Kevin Garnett moved from the West to the East.
Amar’e Stoudemire followed.
And now Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams have taken their talents to the Eastern Conference.
So, has the balance of power in the NBA shifted?
“Absolutely,” Stoudemire said Wednesday after the Knicks beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 114-108, in Anthony’s New York debut at Madison Square Garden. ‘Melo had a game-high 27 points and 10 rebounds in his first game as a Knick.
“I think it started when Kevin Garnett came to the East,” Stoudemire added. “Then everybody started to trickle over. But I think the East now is a serious powerhouse, where most of the elite players from the West are now in the East. And the East was already pretty stacked with great players. But now, it has kind of shifted over.”
When you factor in that players like Baron Davis (Cleveland Cavaliers), Carlos Boozer (Chicago Bulls) Ray Allen (Boston Celtics)and Shaquille O’Neal (Celtics) have also moved from West to East in recent days and years, Stoudemire isn’t alone in thinking this way.
“Everybody’s bringing their talents to the East,” LeBron James of the Miami Heat said Wednesday, according to ESPN.com. “It’s going to be fun.
“We came here to team up and we knew we were starting a trend. Teams are going to have to load up because the competition level is rising.”
Anthony and former Denver Nuggets teammates Chauncey Billups were sent to the Knicks late Monday night in a mega-deal that was finalized Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Nets announced that they had acquired Williams, one of the NBA’s top point guards, from the Utah Jazz in exchange for guard Devin Harris, forward Derrick Favors, two first-round draft picks and cash.
“We took two of the best players in the West and brought them to the East,” James said. “D-Will has been a multiple All-Star in the West and Melo, of course, has been a multiple All-Star and now they’re in the East. Amar’e Stoudemire was a multiple All-Star in the West and now he’s in the East too. So it is shifting.”
Still, behind Kobe Bryant, Pao Gasol and Lamar Odom, the Lakers have won back-to-back championships.
Between the Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs, the West has won nine of the last 12 NBA titles.
Only the Boston Celtics (2008), the Heat (2006) and the Detroit Pistons (2004) have won coming out of the East during that time.
The Spurs feature the NBA’s best record this season.
Billups, who was the MVP of the 2004 NBA Finals with Detroit, was asked what it would take for the Knicks to compete for a championship.
“We got a lot of things that we probably need to get better on as a whole,” said Billups, who had 21 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds in his first game as a Knick. “Defensively is definitely one of them. I don’t think you can be an NBA champion without being a solid defensive team.
“I don’t know if you have to be the best defensive team in the league, but you gotta have some principles and some concepts that you can go to and be able to get stops for three or four minutes at a time. I think with the personnel that we have and the athletes that we have, we can probably do that. But it’s just not that easy to say and go do it. It takes work.”
Even ‘Melo conceded the Knicks needed to improve their defense, which is tied for 28th in the 30-team NBA at 105.6 points per game allowed.
““Defensively, I really want to focus in on that,” said Anthony. “I think once we get everybody to buy into that mentality, we’ll be good to go. I think we all know that this is a high-powered offense. We know that we can score 120 points a game if we really wanted to. But that’s not going to win too many games, especially coming down to the end of the season.”.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.