Carmelo Anthony sat slumped at his locker Friday morning ready for the onslaught. It was another day in paradise, per se.
Not only was he bombarded with questions about the Knicks’ 4-20 start, 10-game losing streak, and his balky left knee, he was questioned about his desire to stay in New York after a published report said he would be open to waiving his no-trade clause if team president Phil Jackson found a suitable deal.
Less than five months ago, Anthony agreed to a five-year package that would ensure he would spend the rest of his prime in New York. Now his commitment is being challenged. Anthony sat rather sullen, bewildered that after just 24 games there are doubts about whether he made the right decision.
But those doubts aren’t unfounded. The Knicks are a mess, with Jackson and new coach Derek Fisher trying to implement a new offense and new philosophy on old players who were brought in to win immediately. How enthusiastic are players such as Amar’e Stoudemire, J.R. Smith, and Pablo Prigioni supposed to be learning a new offense when they are hardly in the team’s long-term plans?
That apathy, along with a slew of injuries, aging players, and lack of chemistry have quickly turned the Knicks into one of the league’s laughingstocks, having invested $124 million into a premier player with no surrounding help.
But Anthony still appeared offended by a question regarding his commitment: “I really don’t know what to say to that; I guess this is what happens when you hit the wall of adversity, everything just snowballs. It comes with the territory. The cure to all of this is winning.”
When pressed about the possibility of leaving New York, Anthony said: “C’mon man, after all the work I did to get here and get back here, if I was to get up and want to leave now, that would make me weak, make me have a weak mind. I’ve never been a person to try to run from any adversity. I’m not going to pick today to do that.”
The Knicks have $40 million in salary coming off the books next summer, but Jackson still has to attract a major free agent who wants to play under the microscope in New York, play with Anthony, and play in the Triangle Offense.
Fisher, who played 18 NBA seasons before jumping right into coaching, is steadfast in his support of the offense, even though most of his players have struggled to learn the concepts.
While the Knicks were expected to have their issues this season, the 5-20 start has been shocking. The Knicks snapped a 10-game losing streak by beating the Celtics on Friday, but they remain a mess. And since Anthony is considered the team’s cornerstone, its highest-paid player, and one expected to bring prosperity back to the basketball mecca, he is shouldering most of the responsibility.
“I guess it comes with the territory, whether it’s fair or not,” he said. “The cure to all of this is winning and that’s what we have to do, win some basketball games. I’ve been here before. I’ve lost some games and have had all types of things written about me and the team. It’s going to happen.
“It’s hard for me as a competitor trying to accept [losing]. You hear about that, the things that you guys write about, but I don’t want to accept that. I’m not going to accept that as a player or as a competitor despite what anybody else is saying about this season. It’s hard for me to believe that and roll with that. I will never roll with that.”
Anthony couldn’t have envisioned the Knicks making a run at the title this season. But of course he expected more than this. As they showed against a listless Celtics team, the Knicks are decent when they play together. But 20 losses in 25 games has demoralized a once-proud organization.
“I didn’t come in with any expectations,” Anthony said. “The only expectations I had was to get out there, be better than we were last year, make some improvements and strides toward where we’re trying to get to.”
“I guess when you’re losing games, everything gets questioned. That’s the state where we’re at as a team. It comes with the territory. There’s no need for me to defend myself because that won’t prove nothing. That’s not going to do anything.”
Anthony said he knows nothing besides moving on and trying to be a leader of an organization that has majored in dysfunction the last decade. There is no easy way out. Jackson has said the franchise has a loser’s mentality. Fisher is just sticking with the plan, realizing he has nothing to do with the inherited mess. So the onus is on Anthony to begin the resurrection.
“I don’t want to lose, we don’t want to lose,” he said. “Coming into this season, this is not what I expected. But we’re here now. There’s nothing we can do about the previous 24 games. There’s no need to cry over what already happened. We gotta fix it.”