GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Carmelo Anthony was back in a familiar place Tuesday, playing power forward and responding to some of his harshest critics.
It's officially time for the regular season to start -- and to start the clock on Anthony's future.
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Anthony opens what could be his final season as a Knick Wednesday night when they face the Bucks at Madison Square Garden. He has said he will opt out and be a free agent after the season, but Anthony doesn't sound as if he's going anywhere the way he returned fire at TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, who talked about his ability on the court and inability off it to recruit players to New York.
"They don't know what I'm doing," Anthony said after practice. "I haven't had a complaint yet in my 11 years in this NBA about playing with me. I think people would love to come to play in New York. And when that time comes, we'll be working on that.
"I have a big black book. I have a big Rolodex. People that talk about what's going on with me in the offseason, this and that, I should be getting people to come here, I am. I'm trying."
Smith said Monday there aren't "a lot of guys saying they want to come to New York and play here with [Anthony]." Barkley said Anthony shouldn't be talking about opting out, and should worry about trying to get players to join him.
"I don't listen to that guy," Anthony said.
Anthony and the Knicks are used to being criticized and doubted.
He was the NBA's top scorer last season and led the Knicks to 54 wins and their first Atlantic Division title in 19 years. But with the Nets vastly improved, few give the Knicks a chance to repeat as division champs let alone win a championship this season.
"I don't care about doubters," Anthony said. "I believe we have what it takes. We believe we have what it takes. But we have to go out there and do that, and show that and prove it. It's hard. I mean, it's hard to do, but we've got to take on that challenge. We've got to be ready for that."
The Knicks open the season a little unsettled.
Anthony started at small forward and Andrea Bargnani at power forward in the preseason. But coach Mike Woodson now seems to be leaning toward bringing Bargnani off the bench. It's likely Anthony will start at power forward with Metta World Peace and Tyson Chandler up front and Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert in the backcourt.
Woodson also isn't sure how he'll use Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin. He has talked about rotating and alternating the two oft-injured veteran forwards. Additionally, the Knicks will be without J.R. Smith, last year's Sixth Man of the Year, for the first five games as he serves a suspension for failing a drug test.
But Woodson, touting the Knicks' depth and versatility, said Bargnani, World Peace and backup guard Beno Udrih can fill Smith's scoring void, and is confident his team is a championship contender.
"I think we're solid enough to compete for one, absolutely," Woodson said. "I like to think that we're one of the teams that's going to be in the hunt. I'm going to coach and push these guys in that direction and we'll see what happens."
Anthony likes the Knicks' chances, and continues to say his focus is on this season and not his future.
"The free agency, that's not hanging over my head," Anthony said. "I'll deal with that in the offseason when that time comes. I'm very excited about this season. I believe it'll be a great season and I think we have a hell of a chance to do something this year."