DENVER -- Only a couple of days ago, Carmelo Anthony actually forgot who he was playing tonight, according to the Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman, and he shrugged off the arrival of the Knicks -- believed to be his choice destination -- as "just another game on my schedule."
But the more telling comment came when asked about Mike D'Antoni's system:
“You’re up and down, fast-paced and you get extra possessions in the game,” he said. “On the flip side, I’ve been on teams where we weren’t known for our defense, and that’s not something I want to ever deal with again.”
Yes, Carmelo is well known for his defensive intensity.
He had 20 points and 22 rebounds in Phoenix -- in, it should be noted, a loss -- and is doing all the right things as a pending free agent by putting up big numbers (he's fifth in the NBA in scoring (24.5 points per game) and nearly averaging a double-double (9.4 rebounds).
The idea of adding his explosive offense and perimeter game with Amar'e Stoudemire is tantalizing for fans to consider, but as we told you in the previous blog, Carmelo might not be the right Nugget to target right now. In fact, the New York Times offered up analytical data that backed up our argument that the point guard position is the more critical position to upgrade.
What I'm looking forward to seeing tonight is how Danilo Gallinari handles going head-to-head with Melo. Remember last March when the two got into an entertaining shot-for-shot duel at the Garden? Gallinari won't publicly admit he was bothered by the trade rumors involving him as a centerpiece going to the Nuggets for Melo, but those who have been around him say it did squelch his mojo.
How does Gallinari handle tonight? Does he go at Carmelo, to try to prove himself and maybe give the Knicks -- and their fans -- something to think about? Then again, if he does play well, wouldn't it only impress the Nuggets enough to perhaps consider him more than they do right now (which is, I'm told, not at all)?
He'll deny it, but there will be a lot going through Gallinari's mind tonight.
Overall, it's going to be a very uncomfortable scene here, much like it was in Cleveland when the Knicks would come in and everyone knew the Knicks wanted LeBron. The only difference is no one knew if LeBron really ever wanted the Knicks. We eventually found out he didn't.
There has been enough evidence and chatter since the summer to suggest Carmelo does want New York. The question isn't if, it's when and perhaps more importantly: how?
The fact that the Knicks are in an awful tailspin isn't as much a detriment as it was with LeBron, because all it does is feed the notion that they need Carmelo to join forces with Amar'e. And the salary cap space the team has going forward ensures the ability to at least go after another star player, such as Chris Paul or Deron Williams, the following year.
That kind of future looks a little brighter than what's happening in Denver, where three major pieces to their 2008-09 run to the Western Conference Finals -- Carmelo, Chauncey Billups and George Karl -- are each looking for contract extensions.