CLEVELAND - Carmelo Anthony went into Wednesday night's game against LeBron James with a winning regular-season record in head-to-head meetings with his good friend. But that didn't matter to Anthony because James has what the Knicks' star wants - championship jewelry.
"If you are an athlete you want a ring regardless of what happens," Anthony said.. "Just because he's my friend that don't [matter] - I want it. I want a ring. It don't matter if he got it or somebody else got it."
James led the Miami Heat to two NBA titles and has appeared in five consecutive NBA Finals. Cleveland is the favorite to get there again this year. If Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are healthy, James' chances of winning his third ring and bringing a championship to Cleveland improve greatly.
For Anthony, there are no assurances the Knicks even will make the playoffs this year.
They're much improved from last season, but Anthony's dream of winning a championship seems a long way away. He seems to be in a good place though, believing that the Knicks are moving in the right direction.
The Knicks didn't sign any stars over the summer, but they should be in position to make a run at Kevin Durant in July.
They added size, depth, versatility and defense, and are high on rookie Kristaps Porzingis now and what he can become. Porzingis' strained neck suffered in Monday's loss in San Antonio was better and he scored 13 points in 21 minutes amid fould trouble Wednesday night.
"I think they've tried to get better, for sure, in the offseason, bringing in some pieces that can help them," James said. "First of all, the most important thing is that he's back on the floor and he's healthy. I know he's happy about that and just having the opportunity to go out and play again and play for that franchise. So, he's excited about what's going on right now."
But Anthony knows he will be measured by how much he wins.
The Knicks have missed the playoffs the last two years, and Anthony has made it out of the first round twice in his career. One of his first-round defeats came against James and the Heat in 2012. All of that is why Anthony's 12-12 record as a member of the Nuggets and Knicks against James' Cavs and Heat teams meant little to him.
"Those are fun stats," Anthony said. "At the end of the day that's not something that we talk about. But at the end of the day when it comes down to postseason, [it] doesn't mean nothing."
Anthony has remained close with ex-teammates J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert - both of whom didn't play Wednesday night because of injury. He was in touch with them during the NBA Finals and worked out with them in the summer.
The Knicks dealt Smith and Shumpert to Cleveland last season and got little in return. The move helped the Cavaliers make their run to the Finals. But Anthony said he didn't watch with envy.
"It was more kind of seeing your family out there than anything," he said. "I didn't watch it kind of from a competitive standpoint. I watched two guys - J.R., I've known him, I've been with him for almost 10 years; Shump is a guy who came in and was kind of a little brother to me; and of course LeBron, who I've been with, kind of connected to since high school.
"So to see all three of those guys competing at that level, it was more watching my family out there, being more excited for them than anything."
But there's no denying that Anthony wants what James has - and could get again this year.