DALLAS — Carmelo Anthony won’t let his good friend Chris Paul withdrawing from the Olympics impact his decision to play in Rio de Janeiro this summer. The Knicks’ failure to reach the playoffs the last three seasons has Anthony craving team success.
“I think from a morale standpoint as a player, if you’ve been through the things that I’ve been through the past couple of years, you want to feel what that success feels like,” Anthony said after the Knicks practiced Tuesday. “You want that success.”
The Knicks, who close out a two-game trip against the Mavericks on Wednesday night, have seven games remaining in a season that has been rewarding yet humbling for Anthony.
He returned from left knee surgery and is on pace to play 74 games. Anthony changed his game to be more of a facilitator and get his teammates involved, resulting in a career-high 4.2 assists a game. But the Knicks are 30-45 and will miss the playoffs for the third straight season.
Anthony, a three-time Olympian and two-time gold medal winner, can’t wait for the Summer Games.
“The Olympics for me, I think, is great timing for me, especially coming off this season, and coming off of injury and just being back and being ready to go back out there and play,” Anthony said. “Mentally, I think it’s good for me to get out there and feel what that feels like again.”
Anthony was disappointed to hear that Paul withdrew. Sports Illustrated quoted Paul saying, “I feel my body telling me that I could use the time.” Anthony said he hadn’t spoken to Paul yet and hopes “it’s nothing serious.”
Anthony, who will be 32 in two months, wanted to play one last time with Paul and LeBron James, who says he hasn’t decided what he will do this summer. Anthony said he will talk to both of them. Anthony and James could be the first men’s basketball players to win three gold medals.
“If we were all going to do it, I would have loved for him being a part of that, especially for this one last time,” Anthony said of Paul. “If CP’s already come out and said that he’s done, then he’s done. Ain’t no convincing him. He gets a little stubborn at times. There’s no convincing him.
“You won’t get an answer out of LeBron maybe until after the season, early July or something like that. Please stop asking him. You’re not going to get an answer out of him.”
There have been few positives for the Knicks this season, but one is how Anthony’s knee has held up since his February 2014 surgery.
Anthony has missed only three games because of soreness in his left knee. He leads the Knicks in scoring (22.0), rebounds (7.9) and assists (4.2), and feels good knowing that usually players don’t return to 100 percent until one year after surgery.
“Mentally this year was kind of get back on the court, get your legs underneath you, get completely healthy,” Anthony said. “I didn’t believe I was going to be full-blown 100 percent and get ready to get back to what I was capable of doing before, [and] as far as being as explosive, it was going to take steps.
“But I know for sure over the next couple of months I will be back to myself again.”