Knicks insider: Chemistry lab

Jeremy Lin, right, and Carmelo Anthony, left, celebrate

Jeremy Lin, right, and Carmelo Anthony, left, celebrate after defeating the New Jersey Nets. (Feb. 4, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Carmelo Anthony has heard the talk, seen the stories and read the tweets about how when he returns, he could mess with the chemistry the Knicks have had under Jeremy Lin's direction.

Here's a thought: What if Anthony makes the Knicks better? That is possible. It goes against what it seems everyone has predetermined will happen. But Anthony, who likely won't play Sunday against the Mavericks, actually can help the Knicks. He deserves a chance to show he can fit in with Lin and in Mike D'Antoni's system.

Remember when people said the Knicks would be better off without Patrick Ewing? How has that worked out? The Knicks have won two playoff games, zero postseason series and have had two winning seasons since Ewing was traded.

The situations were different. Ewing was older and the Knicks' style was changing with Latrell Sprewell and Marcus Camby playing more prominent roles. Anthony is a four-time All-Star in his prime. But some of the chatter and speculation have been similar, even to a former Knick who played with Ewing and works for the organization now.

"It's a joke," said John Starks, the Knicks' alumni relations and fan development adviser. "In order to win a championship, you have to have two superstars and you have to have a good support staff."

Anthony has to adjust his game. He can't be the ball stopper he was earlier this season. More adjustments will follow when another scorer, J.R. Smith, joins the rotation. But this is about Anthony and the potential firestorm brewing since Lin-sanity began.

Anthony is smart enough to know he has to shoot less and take a backseat to Lin right now. If he dominates the offense and it doesn't work, he will take the blame.

This is a critical stage in Anthony's career. He has said he has nothing to prove, but it says here he does. Anthony has won two playoff series in his NBA career and zero postseason games in New York, where he pushed the Nuggets to trade him.

The Knicks eventually will need Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire to carry the offense. But here's a novel thought: Let's wait and see what happens when Anthony returns instead of predetermining a disaster.

 

Knicks can keep Lin

Lin could finish in the top five in assists, lead the Knicks deep into the playoffs and win the Most Improved Player Award, but he can't get more than roughly $5 million next season from the Knicks or any team.

Since he got a two-year contract as a rookie from Golden State last year, Lin will be a restricted free agent in July and the most any team can give him is the average salary, or roughly $5 million. The Knicks can match that by using their midlevel exception.

It's known as the "Gilbert Arenas rule." It limits teams that have cap room to outright sign a restricted free agent, who has been in the league for less than three years. It stems from Washington signing Arenas, a second-round pick in 2001, to an $8.5-million offer sheet in 2003 that Golden State couldn't match.

 

Make room for Jeremy

Lin received treatment in Toronto that not even Vince Carter or Chris Bosh did in their returns.

There was a news conference for Lin in the press room before the morning shootaround Tuesday and after the game to accommodate all the media in Toronto, which has a high Asian population.

Carter put Toronto basketball on the map and was the Raptors' most popular player until becoming arguably their most hated. In his first game back with the Nets, Carter met the media in the hallway. In Bosh's Toronto return last season, he was brought to a small room adjacent to the locker room.

The Knicks also have been holding news conferences for Lin at their practice facility and the Garden.

Reporters stood on a table and chairs at Friday's shootaround. At games, the Knicks have taken away the removable wall in the interview room because of the amount of media. Perennial All-Stars Anthony and Stoudemire speak at their lockers.

 

Lin's road to Knicks: If if if

Here are some of the many things that happened in order for Lin-sanity to become a part of our vernacular and an international phenomenon.

The Warriors drafted Charles Jenkins, making Lin expendable when they needed to clear salary to sign DeAndre Jordan to an offer sheet that the Clippers ultimately matched.

The NBA vetoed one trade for Chris Paul involving the Rockets, Lakers and Hornets and if Los Angeles hadn't backed out of a second, Houston might have had room to keep Lin if not for those factors. The Rockets signed Lin and waived him on Christmas Eve because they needed money to sign Samuel Dalembert.

Dalembert was available because a deal he had with Dallas fell apart at the last minute.

The Knicks already had shown some interest, but if Iman Shumpert hadn't sprained his knee in his NBA debut, they might not have signed Lin.

Baron Davis' setback in his rehab from a back injury helped pave the way for Lin to play.

Shumpert, Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby didn't run Mike D'Antoni's offense successfully and the coach was desperate with the Knicks losing 11 of 13 games. So he gave Lin a shot off the bench Feb. 4 against the Nets.

Lin scored 25 points and had seven assists versus the Nets just days, if not hours before the Knicks were going to cut him.

When you consider all that, it's all pretty Lin-sane.

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@Al_Iannazzone

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