GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Carmelo Anthony isn't discouraged that the Knicks' season ended in the second round of the playoffs, 10 wins short of the championship. He believes the Knicks will contend for the title next year.
"We're right there," Anthony said after the Knicks had exit meetings at their practice facility. "I believe we're right there as a team, as a unit, the guys we have on this team. I'm a big believer in that. I'm very confident.
"This was the first year the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place. We're only going to get better from here on out."
Many of the players who spoke on Monday said similar things about the Knicks' need to stay together and improve individually and through familiarity. But that's not entirely realistic.
The Knicks could have at least seven free agents, and they're an older team that had its weaknesses exposed against the Pacers.
There seems to be little doubt about Anthony's future. He can opt out of his contract next summer but said he isn't going anywhere. Anthony sounded more concerned about what's next for the Knicks than for him.
"When that time comes, I'll deal with it," he said. "Right now, it's all about getting better, myself, as a team and moving forward.
"I know I'm going to be here for a long time. As far as the older guys on the team, I really don't know how that's going to play out . . . We want to win the championship, that's the goal, and we're going to keep striving for that."
Amar'e Stoudemire, J.R. Smith and Jason Kidd didn't speak to the media Monday. Those who did considered winning the Atlantic Division for the first time in 19 years and a playoff series for the first time in 13 years a successful season -- except for Iman Shumpert. The second-year swingman said they should have at least reached the Eastern Conference finals.
"I think we failed," Shumpert said. "We failed to do what we were supposed to do. We know we were supposed to go further and we didn't."
That's why although Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton said this group should be kept together, the Knicks will undergo changes. Chandler and Shumpert think some changes should come from within.
Both starters said the Knicks' offense needs to improve. That sounded like a knock at coach Mike Woodson's system, which is heavy on isolations, usually for Anthony or Smith.
"I think we need some more continuity as far as running something that everybody knows we're in it, something with more pace," Shumpert said. "I hate that we have a lot of dead possessions where we don't really have any cohesiveness. We're just sort of out there and it becomes watching whoever has the ball, and we can't do that."
Chandler said: "I would like for us to develop some consistency with our offensive game plan. Right now, we're a jump- shooting team. I'd like us to have a free-flowing offense that we all can be comfortable with and we'll go from there."
"Everybody to a man is going to have to come back better regardless of what you did this year, including coaches," Chandler said. "As long as we're all honest with ourselves this offseason, come back as better players, we'll give ourselves a shot again."
The Knicks likely will try to move Stoudemire, but his contract -- two years and $45 million left -- is an albatross.
Smith, Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland are their top free agents. Kidd's future is cloudy. He has two years and $6.2 million left but could seek a buyout if he doesn't retire.
The Knicks have problems to address, but Anthony still believes they're close.
"We kind of teased the city of New York a little bit," Anthony said. "Now everybody expects us to play at this level, this high level. That's where we hold ourselves accountable and push ourselves in this offseason to come back and be at that level and even better."