Carmelo Anthony: Criticism 'comes with the territory'

Carmelo Anthony looks on during a game against

Carmelo Anthony looks on during a game against the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden. (Dec. 14, 2013) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

SAN ANTONIO - Carmelo Anthony's left ankle feels better, but his state of mind has to be of greater concern for the Knicks.

Anthony can opt out of his contract and become a free agent in July, and there already is speculation that he will bolt for either Los Angeles team.

The Knicks' hope is that Anthony will remain their franchise player. But he probably ranks second behind Mike Woodson as the person taking the most heat for the Knicks' 9-21 record heading into Thursday night's game against the Spurs.

Some of the ire directed at Anthony could worsen if the Knicks, who continue this three-game Texas trip Friday night in Houston, don't turn around their season. But Anthony, who returned to the lineup Thursday night after missing three games, sounds prepared for that.

"Who else they going to point the finger at?" Anthony said Thursday. "I don't think they're going to point the finger at nobody else. It comes with the territory. I accept that. Honestly, that's what gets me over that and be able to say this is what I wanted, this is what I worked hard to do and to be at.

"So I'm going to get the criticism, I'm going to get the backlash. So I accept that and I go on with my day."

But it's clear that Anthony's frustration is growing. On New Year's Eve, he responded to a negative tweet directed at him by lashing back via his Twitter account.

"It's kind of hard to be frustrated at this point," Anthony said. "It's easy to be frustrated and it's hard to be frustrated at the same time, especially with the state of mind that I'm in right now. It's kind of hard for me to be frustrated."

Anthony, who forced a trade from Denver in 2011, has said he expected it to be a few years before the Knicks were legitimate championship contenders. They won 54 games in 2012-13, but no one knows the effects this season could have on his future.

"This is not how we envisioned it coming into this season," Anthony said.

The Knicks can pay Anthony roughly $34 million more than any other team, so they have that going for them. But they might need to acquire another star player to make sure Anthony doesn't leave.

In training camp, Anthony said he planned to re-sign and talked about wanting to retire a Knick -- but that was before they lost 21 of their first 30 games. When his future came up Thursday, Anthony said it's not on his mind.

"I'm trying to figure out what we can and what I can do on a day-to-day basis rather than what's going to happen this offseason or in the future," he said. "When that time comes, I'm pretty sure I'll have plenty of time to think about that.

"I'd be selfish if I start thinking about that stuff right now, especially now with the state of the team, the state of where we are as a team. That would be selfish on my behalf to start thinking about that."

The Knicks got a glimpse of what life without Anthony could be like when they lost all three games he missed by an average of 18.7 points. Anthony said he saw "a lot" of things the Knicks need to fix.

"From what I see, it wasn't anything too drastic to change out there," he said. "But there's some things that I saw that I already talked to the guys on the team individually, the coaching staff, just some things that I observed from being out. We'll see what happens with that."

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