Carmelo Anthony returns to Denver at a difficult time

Knicks' Carmelo Anthony stretches during the first half Knicks' Carmelo Anthony stretches during the first half of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. (May 11, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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DENVER -- Carmelo Anthony was in better physical shape than the last time he returned to the Mile High City, but mentally, he was in one of his all-time lows.

"This is one of the toughest stretches I've ever been in," Anthony said at Friday morning's shootaround. "I've never lost seven straight games like this. Never been in a situation like where we have to figure it out the way we have to figure it out right now. It's probably one of my worst stretches."

The Knicks tried to avoid making it eight straight when they ended their four-game trip Friday night against the Nuggets.

Earlier in the trip, it appeared as though Anthony was being singled out when Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert said the Knicks were losing because of a lack of ball movement.

Anthony seemed annoyed after Mike Woodson brought up those remarks in practice. Anthony, who knew the perception was that those words were directed at him, said lack of defense was the issue. Then, after Wednesday night's loss to the Clippers dropped the Knicks to 3-11, Anthony said they are "in a dark space."

This isn't how Anthony expected this season to go after the Knicks won 54 games and the Atlantic Division title last season. But this is a different team.

If it continues to spiral downhill, Woodson could wind up unemployed and Anthony's future with the Knicks could be affected. He will be a free agent this summer and he's said he wants to stay with the Knicks. But that was long before this losing streak took the fun out of the game for him.

"I think last year as a team, we were more synchronized than we are right now due to chemistry, due to having fun, due to having each other's back," he said.

"We just got to start having fun once again on the basketball court, believing in one another. Right now it seems like we have no chemistry with one another, we're out of sync and the energy is very low. I think we can start with having high energy, putting forth some more effort. I think that stuff will start working its way around."

Woodson agreed. "It's no fun for anybody around here right now," he said Friday. "When you're losing, it's not fun on anybody. Everybody's a little upset, and they should be. We all should be upset because we're not playing great basketball."

This was Anthony's second time back in Denver, where he played 7½ seasons before forcing a trade to the Knicks in 2011.

When he returned last season, he walked off the court in the middle of the game because he said he couldn't move his right knee. He flew home to get his knee drained, and he now says he should not have played.

"I should have just sat out that game," he said. "I was being a little naive. I wanted to come back and play here, that first time, that experience. If it was now, I'd be sitting out."

The Knicks experienced one of their lowest points of last season during that trip. They lost Anthony and Tyson Chandler to knee injuries in the 23-point loss in Denver and dropped the first four games of the trip. In the finale, Kurt Thomas, playing with a stress fracture in a foot, helped the Knicks beat Utah to start a 13-game winning streak.

Now the Knicks hope, at some point and in some way, history repeats itself.

"It's going to take us to dig out of the hole that we've dug," Woodson said. "It's not a deep hole, but winning a game might cure a lot of that."

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