MINNEAPOLIS - Carmelo Anthony hesitated for a moment, then he just could not suppress a wry grin when someone asked him Monday night about photos that showed Anthony and Kevin Love side by side during the NBA All-Star Game. Anthony asked, "Where are you going with this?"
Even on a night when Anthony said he wished he could change the subject from the repetitive postmortems about Knicks losses, he was not going to touch the hypothetical issue of whether Love will play for the Knicks in 2015, or if Anthony will still be on the team then. That is a long way off for a squad that is scuffling to get through every day.
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Suffice it to say that Love, the Timberwolves' franchise player, had a much better night than the Knicks did Monday. He had 33 points and 19 rebounds to help the Wolves finish a 4-1 trip and remain alive on the fringes of the intense Western Conference playoff race. The Knicks fell to the Pistons and dropped to 61/2 games out of the final spot in the going-in-reverse Eastern Conference playoff picture.
So though it is generally assumed that the Knicks will pursue Love if he becomes available in 2015, their more immediate concern is stopping him. Whether he can someday be the solution, he represents a big problem Wednesday night when the Knicks visit Target Center, desperately trying to end their losing streak at seven games.
"It's a struggle because we've lost so many," said Raymond Felton, who has struggled more than any other Knick lately with his shooting. "But we're not over yet. Until we see that thing go across the screen that says we have no chance of making the playoffs, we've still got hope."
It would be too simplistic for the Knicks to dream far ahead and believe that Love is all they need. But the big man certainly has made an impact for the Timberwolves, and on the whole league. During February, Love averaged 34 points and 14 rebounds, a combination not accomplished by an NBA player since Moses Malone in March 1982. Unlike Malone, Love has deep range, having averaged three successful three-pointers a game in February.
"He's a guy who became a 'stretch four,' " Anthony said, using NBA shorthand for someone who plays the power forward spot with a small forward's skills and mobility (as Anthony does). "He worked on his shot, he worked on his three-ball, he worked on spreading the floor out. He can also go inside. He's one hell of a rebounder. He's a guy who got better every year since he's been in the league and still, he's improving now."
Many NBA teams salivate over what Love could do for them if he opts out of his contract after next season. He is aware of that and does not like the speculation that accompanies it. In his news conference before the All-Star Game, he said: "If I say, 'Oh yeah, Charlotte's a great city, I love spending time there,' then all of a sudden I'm going to Charlotte. Anything I say is going to be a misconception. Really I would love to not talk about it and focus on winning right now with the team I'm on."
The Knicks, having lost 13 out of 15, need to focus on winning just one game. They keep approaching it the way Anthony did late Monday, when he said: "Tomorrow is a new day. We bounce back."
Early in the season, J.R. was fined $25,000 by the NBA for a tweet directed at the Pistons'Brandon Jennings, who had questioned whether Chris belonged in the top league. The Knicks waived Chris on Dec. 31 to make room for Jeremy Tyler, after which J.R. posted an Instagram picture accompanied by a message that included the word "betrayal." The younger brother was claimed by the Knicks' D-League affiliate as a free agent, but averaged only 8.1 points and 3.3 rebounds in 23 games.
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