Should Carmelo Anthony veto a trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the New York Knicks must begin playing some serious hardball.

If Kyrie Irving is serious about wanting to be traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers, the New York Knicks must do whatever it takes to make Madison Square Garden his next home (unless it involves trading Kristaps Porzingis).

Building a championship-caliber team starts with having an elite point guard and bringing in Irving, who played high school basketball in New Jersey, would really speed up what is expected to be a lengthy rebuilding process for the Knicks.

Irving has not only listed the New York Knicks as one of the teams he’d like to be traded to; he’s apparently dying to call the Garden his home. Chris Onorato of ESPN reported earlier that Irving ‘very badly’ wants to come home and play for the Knicks.

Trading Irving to New York would make sense for both the Knicks and Cavs. The Knicks would finally have a top-tier point guard to build a team around. For Cleveland, the package they would get in return ensure they remain the toast of the Eastern Conference. Also, unlike trading Irving to a team like the San Antonio Spurs, the Cavaliers would not be dealing him to a team that could instantly threaten their shot at another title.

However, the biggest obstacle in the way of a trade sending Irving to New York might be the center of the package Cleveland would get in return: Carmelo Anthony.

Melo has a full no-trade clause in his contract and according to Kurt Helin of NBC Sports, he would not accept a trade to the Cavs and wants to play with James Harden and Chris Paul on the Houston Rockets.

If the Cavaliers are willing to trade Irving for Anthony and future draft picks (or even Frank Ntilikina), the Knicks shouldn’t hesitate to get a deal done. If Melo is going to be stubborn about accepting a trade to Cleveland, then it is time to play hardball with him and make it clear he either accepts a trade to Cleveland or he’s stuck with the Knicks (where he clearly wants out) the final two years of his deal. If he has a problem with that then it’s too bad.

From Anthony’s standpoint, not only would it be a mistake for him to reject a trade to the Cavs, it would be completely foolish.

With or without Irving, the Cavs are still, by far, the team to beat in what is still a fairly weak Eastern Conference. For Melo, a trip to Cleveland is most likely a one-way trip to the finals, somewhere he has still never been in his career. While the Rockets with Melo might have a better team on paper than the Cavs with him, the road to the finals in the west will probably be much tough and go through teams like the Golden State Warriors and Spurs. Even if Cleveland appears heavy underdogs against the Warriors, yet again, at least they know it won’t be their problem until early June.

The other reason why Anthony would be crazy not to accept a trade to Cleveland is the opportunity to play with LeBron James. Anthony and King James have been buddies since they first broke in the league and the chance for the two to win a championship together could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Even though many people took Melo’s side for how he was treated under the reign of Phil Jackson, he still can’t afford to further damage his personal image. He is still often viewed as selfish for not only forcing his way out of Denver when he was on the Nuggets, but for also making the Knicks gut almost all of their starting lineup to acquire him in the middle of the 2010-11 season. The Knicks have every right to put their foot down if he is going to be stubborn about being traded to the Cavs.

So what if Melo holds out or refuses to report to training camp? If he does that he is only hurting himself and he takes that approach no contending team will want to acquire him.

The Knicks desperately need an elite point guard. It is clear that Anthony wants out of New York. A trade to the Cavaliers would make Melo an instant finals contender and in return the Knicks would have a centerpiece, along with Porzingis, to build the team around.

The Knicks need to hold firm and make it clear to Melo that they are giving him the best shot he’ll ever have at a ring and either he gets traded to Cleveland or he won’t be dealt at all.