Carmelo Anthony didn't need to be told the Knicks reached the midpoint of their season Thursday even though his mind and body are telling him something else. "It feels like it's March already,'' he said.
This isn't just the grind of a long NBA season. This is an extraordinary season -- and not in a good way -- that has Anthony's body calendar off.
The Knicks are 5-36 and have won only once in 27 games since Nov. 22. Their last victory was Dec. 12 in Boston, which has been followed by a franchise-record 16 consecutive losses.
In some ways, Anthony probably wishes it indeed was March so it would be closer to the end. But he is trying to maintain a positive outlook amid the Knicks' struggles and his own physical troubles. His left knee eventually will require surgery. But he wants to hold out as long as possible and keep playing.
There's no doubt that playing in the Feb. 15 All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden is one of his goals. But after returning from a six-game absence in the Knicks' lopsided loss to the Bucks in London on Thursday, he said he doesn't want "to turn his back'' on his teammates and wants to "fight with them.''
Anthony, who expects to play Monday against New Orleans, said this was one of the reasons he and the training staff came up with a two-week program that they hoped would help him get back on the court and continue playing rather than be in and out of the lineup. "I just want to get focused on just getting healthy,'' he said. "That's my number one goal -- to get healthy and to be able to come back next year at full strength.
"I took this time off so we really can gauge the injury and see if rest would help it and not make any drastic decisions right away. Right now I'm just trying to come back and be out there with the team, be out there with my teammates, trying to give them some confidence as young players who've never been through the situation before. I've never been through it before, so we're going through it together.''
Not all of the Knicks will continue to go through this, though. Phil Jackson started the roster overhaul nearly two weeks ago, trading J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland and waiving Samuel Dalembert. Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani and Tim Hardaway Jr. also could be on the move if takers can be found.
The Knicks have so few first-round picks, which are invaluable in trades. It's doubtful they will get one for Bargnani, who has appeared in only two games this season because of a calf injury. If they can't find a taker, they might waive Bargnani, the lone Knick who didn't travel to London for the four-night trip. He is in the last year of his contract.
The same holds true for Amar'e Stoudemire. He could ask to be waived so he can sign with a contender, but he missed nine games with knee swelling before going scoreless in eight minutes Thursday.
There still is so much that can change between now and March, but Anthony said as long as they're together, the Knicks need to stay together.
"We'll just continue getting in the gym and try and figure this thing out and win some basketball games,'' he said. "Guys get their confidence back. And that's what we should do. There's no need to give up as a team, as players. We have to continue working hard.''
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