DENVER - Carmelo Anthony says the Knicks are "in a dark space" as they head into Friday night's game against the Nuggets.
"Right now, the game is not fun for nobody," he said after the Knicks lost their seventh straight and fell to 3-11 Wednesday night. "The easiest thing is for us to go separate ways. We've got to be here for one another right now. The hardest thing to do right now is remain positive. It's tough, but we have to do that.''
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The Knicks have had as many closed-door meetings as they have wins this season, including two meetings on this trip. Airing it out can be healthy, but winning would be much healthier for their mental state. Anthony, a former Nugget, said he didn't even remember he was returning to Denver "due to the situation.''
The situation prompted Mike Woodson to let his team -- namely Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert -- hear it at practice Tuesday for saying poor ball movement is the reason they're losing.
After Wednesday night's 93-80 loss to the Clippers, the Knicks' locker-room door remained closed for a long time. Anthony said the coaches and players met and talked. Anthony also held a players-only meeting after the fourth game of the season.
Woodson emerged from the locker room Wednesday almost pleading for J.R. Smith and Shumpert to lift their games.
"We need J.R. to play and score the ball,'' Woodson said. "I need Iman to play and score the ball. I got to get them back thinking like that and get them going.''
Shumpert is in a major funk that he says has nothing to do with trade rumors. In the last two games, the starting shooting guard is 1-for-8 with two points in 47:48.
Smith, last season's Sixth Man of the Year, has scored 13 points and shot 5-for-17 in 50:54 in the last two games. Overall, he is averaging 11.8 points and shooting 32.2 percent, and the Knicks are 1-8 with him in the lineup.
Smith had offseason knee surgery, but he's not using it as an excuse for why he's playing poorly. "It's for me to find out or for us to find out,'' he said. "We're a different team than we were last year. I just got to find my way.''
Not having Tyson Chandler for the last 10 games (the Knicks have gone 2-8) is a big factor. But Anthony and Smith continue to speak of last season's team with reverence, wishing it still were intact. The Knicks won 54 games and had strong leadership in Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace and Kurt Thomas, but they were an older team that broke down. Management decided it would be better to go younger, but it hasn't worked out.
"It was a special bond that that team had last year,'' Anthony said. "The trust factor was definitely there and the most important thing is we were having fun last year. This year it seems like we're not having fun. Every situation is just a pressurized situation for everybody, and we got to get back to playing basketball, having fun, because when the game is not fun, you get results like this.''
This is not the way Anthony wanted to return to Denver, in last place in the Atlantic Division and next-to-last in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks led the division and were second in the conference when Anthony went back for the first time last season. It wasn't a good trip, though. The Knicks lost by 24, and Anthony left the game and ultimately flew back to New York to get his knee drained.
He's not hobbled this time, but the Knicks are.
"I actually forgot I was going back to Denver,'' he said. "When you're going through this, you kind of forget a lot of things. Last year wasn't a pleasant return. I got hurt. I had to leave the game. Hopefully this year is different.''
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