Year after trade, Melo's time as Knick falls short

By Brian Mahoney

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 21 2012 5:32 p.m. MST

FILE - In this Jan. 16, 2012, file photo, New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game agains the Orlando Magic in New York. Before they fell in love with Jeremy Lin, Knicks fans adored the Brooklyn-born Anthony. It's been exactly a year since the Knicks acquired him from Denver. Anthony hasn't made the anticipated impact, and his return from injury Monday revived questions about whether the team is better off without him.

Seth Wenig, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony briefly had what now belongs to Jeremy Lin.

Madison Square Garden shook when he was announced. Fans lined up to buy his jerseys, chanted his name, delighted in having the New York native back in the city.

The happy homecoming hasn't lasted.

The Knicks are a sub.-500 team in the year since Anthony's celebrated trade from Denver, and the New York Post even wrote Tuesday that the Knicks should try to deal him to the Lakers for Pau Gasol.

Still popular, Anthony is no longer beloved. Fans appreciate his talents but question whether they translate to victories, writing on Twitter they feared he'd mess things up once he returned from injury to play with Lin.

Anthony tried to laugh that off, but the truth is he craves the popularity of Lin, an underdog success story whom Anthony compared to Rudy.

"I don't see why fans (would) not like me. I don't say I wouldn't care, I don't care, because I do care if fans like me or not. But at the end of the day I'm here to do one thing and that's to win basketball games," he said last week. "If people don't like it, then they don't like it. I move on, I go on."

The problem for Anthony is he isn't winning enough games.

The Knicks were 14-14 after acquiring him on Feb. 22, 2011, after going 28-26 before his arrival. They are 16-17 this season, but 6-4 without Anthony.

Meanwhile, Lin is the winner, leading the Knicks to an 8-2 record since earning his first meaningful minutes in a victory over the Nets on Feb. 4. Anthony strained his right groin two nights later and missed the next seven games while the offense emerged from what had been a season-long funk.

The better they looked without Anthony, the more people speculated that Anthony, despite being the Knicks' leading scorer, had been the problem all along.

One person tweeted on Feb. 12 that he wondered if Anthony "knows or cares how terrified Knicks fans are about his return."

Yes, Anthony was aware. And yes, turns out they had reason to worry.

The Knicks lost 100-92 to New Jersey on Monday, as a rusty Anthony shot only 4 for 11 from the field for 11 points. He said afterward he was trying to play as the Knicks did during the previous two weeks and reiterated his belief in Lin's ability to run the team.

"I want Jeremy to have the ball. Hands down. I want him to create for me. I want him to create for Amare (Stoudemire). I want him to create for everybody and still be as aggressive as he's been over the past two weeks. I want that," Anthony said.

"There's going to be times I have the ball during the pick-and-roll situations, being a distributor, trying to be aggressive. But for the most part, I want Jeremy having the ball in his hands."

Anthony was greeted with a loud cheer Monday, maybe even louder than Lin's. He was voted by fans to start the All-Star game — though the TNT analysts announcing the picks unanimously said he was undeserving — so he's still got a huge following. He thanked his fans Tuesday with a message on Twitter.

"Big shout to all my fans and the (Knicks) fans as well," he wrote. "It's been 1yr. Wow!!!!!!"

Still, it's fallen short of hopes.

He wore a huge grin throughout his Feb. 23 debut Milwaukee, when the words "I was born in Brooklyn, New York" played across the overhead video board to a raucous ovation before he scored 27 points in a victory. He doesn't flash it nearly as often now in a frustrating season in which he's battled an assortment of injuries.

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