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Melo off the mark

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) laughs

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) laughs with the Orlando Magic bench during the first half. (March 1, 2011) Credit: MCT

ORLANDO -- Carmelo Anthony talked about already feeling comfortable as a Knick after just four games, but on the court he's yet to find a comfort zone with his offense. Sure, his numbers have been prolific (27.0 points per game and 7.8 rebounds as a Knick), but his shooting touch (39.8 percent) hasn't.

Anthony had 25 points in Tuesday's loss in Orlando but had just four in the brutal fourth quarter for the Knicks. He missed all three of his attempts, which included two three-point shots in the quarter. Overall, Anthony was 8-for-24 and 1-for-5 from downtown.
Asked if he was getting the looks he usually gets, Anthony replied, "Yeah, I just missed them. Just missed them."

Mike D'Antoni is still figuring out the best way to maximize the scoring he now has at his disposal and we're already seeing a trend of curl cuts by Stoudemire for mid-range shots and also strong side/weak side separation between the two to force defenses to make a choice. D'Antoni has inserted a post-up iso option as well. Anthony is almost unstoppable in those situations, but a few times against the Magic he ran into help defense from Dwight Howard and was stopped. 

* * *

 - The way Chauncey Billups was walking -- make that limping -- in the locker room after the game offered little optimism that he will be able to play Wednesday night against Chris Paul and the Hornets. Billups was in obvious pain, even as he talked, and D'Antoni seemed to be concerned as well. Don't think that "thigh bruise" is a less serious injury because it is still something that can linger for weeks. We should find out pretty quickly just how valuable Billups was in this trade.

And by the way, who is this "media" that acted as if Billups wasn't an important piece in the trade? Since the deal was done, Billups got plenty of billing by the New York media.

*- If the Knicks are without Billups tonight -- and right now my guess is he won't be able to go -- that makes the arrival of Jared Jeffries all the more important. Remember, D'Antoni often used Jeffries against opposing guards, and he did a masterful job in slowing down Paul last season in a win in New Orleans. The bigger concern is at the other end of the floor, where Toney Douglas has struggled in the role as the primary playcaller. Anthony Carter is a true point guard and a veteran, but after four games he can't possibly have command of the system. The Knicks have been searching for a capable backup point guard since December but were never able to find one.

* - The fact that Roger Mason Jr. remains on the roster after the trade deadline and the waiver period came as a surprise to many. Mason, who has been admittedly frustrated with his lack of playing time, said he thought about asking for a buyout. But he spoke with Billups and Stoudemire about it and, Mason said, both encouraged him to stay. Mason has set an example of professionalism throughout the season by continuing to get his work in before every game and being a positive influence in the locker room. Vets like him are valuable to keep on the bench in case of injuries. Mason has been asked to play point guard -- like the game in Utah, which didn't go well -- but he fancies himself a natural two-guard. The issue there is depth, where rookie Landry Fields and Toney Douglas are taking up the time, while Billups and Anthony Carter handle the point guard role. It's not the way Mason wanted this season to go, but it was his choice to stay.

* - After three quarters, it appeared the Knicks were on the verge of pulling off a Florida road sweep, which is something that has been done only twice before this season. I asked the Knicks PR staff when the last time the Knicks swept a Florida trip and, of course, the request was met with a groan. Jinx? Apparently so. It was like when I covered hockey and after the second period I would look up how many shutouts the goalie had. Sure enough, a goal was scored.

For the record, the Knicks haven't swept the Florida road trip since December 2003. Blame me if you want, but it wasn't me who didn't get out on Ryan Anderson for those two momentum-changing threes in the fourth quarter that were just as much a turning point as Jameer Nelson's run. Just bloggin.


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