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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

It's not if Carmelo Anthony should be shut down, it's when

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is seen on the

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is seen on the court with less than 15 seconds left against the Phoenix Suns during a game at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Carmelo Anthony has given every indication that at some point, his left knee is going to force him to take an extended break or have surgery. The only surprise is that he hasn't already done it.

There are 47 games left, but the Knicks aren't really playing for anything other than lottery position. They're 5-30 and have won one of their last 21 games. Anthony wants to be a leader, wants to play through the pain, but it doesn't make much sense to keep this going.

"I love this game,'' Anthony said recently. "This is what I love to do, and I think that's one of the main reasons why I'm trying to play, because I don't like sitting out. I don't like sitting on the bench and watching my team lose and feeling like I can't be a part of that.''

Before Anthony missed Friday's loss to Detroit because of left knee soreness, Derek Fisher said there will come a time when his star player can't go anymore.

Anthony said as much during the Knicks' recent West Coast trip. It was clear how limited he was and how frustrated he was. He asked out of last Sunday's game in Portland and Fisher wouldn't let him return.

It isn't clear what exactly is wrong with Anthony's knee. He has said he feels soreness, weakness and fatigue in his knee. He also has said he's been told it can't get worse, which is another reason he is trying to keep playing.

There has been speculation that Anthony, who is in the first year of a five-year, $124-million deal, wants to be able to play in the All-Star Game on Feb. 15 at the Garden. When he was asked about it five days ago, Anthony said, "I don't even know if I'll be here next week.'' That says plenty about his physical and mental state.

Anthony's good friend LeBron James gave in and is taking at least two weeks off because of strains in his left knee and back. James said the knee has been bothering him since early in the season. Anthony said his problem started in the second game, against James and the Cavaliers.

Two seasons ago, Anthony's knee was an issue. He had it drained and took a week off in March. After he returned, he averaged 32.5 points in the next 15 games, leading the Knicks to a 14-1 record.

Anthony said it's different this time and there are "options.'' He wants to avoid surgery as long as he can.

"I don't do it for everybody to pat me on my back,'' Anthony said. "I do it because I'm obligated to this game to play.''

Always accused of being selfish, Anthony is being selfless in this situation. But it seems it's a matter of when, not if, he will shut it down.

Doc woos Woodson

Mike Woodson said he was prepared to take a year off after the Knicks fired him in April, but he found Doc Rivers too persuasive. Woodson wound up joining Rivers' Clippers staff as an assistant.

"Doc called and I told Doc on the phone that I probably was going to take a year off,'' Woodson said. "He said, 'Come on, man, I could use you.' When a friend says that, that means a lot. When someone of Doc's status asks you to come over and assist him to help him, that to me speaks volumes. I jumped right to it when he made those statements to me.''

Woodson, whose Knicks looked like a championship contender two seasons ago when they won 54 games, believes these Clippers have "a legitimate shot'' at an NBA title. The West is loaded, but Woodson said, "If we can stay healthy, have a little luck on our side, push the right buttons at the right time when we get into the playoffs, anything could happen.''

All-Star stuff

Rockets GM Daryl Morey is trying to drum up support on Twitter for James Harden to start the All-Star Game. He shouldn't have to. Harden is having an MVP-caliber season and should start, but he trails Stephen Curry and Bryant in the voting.

It should be Curry and Harden, but the fans love Bryant and he'll probably be voted a starter.

In the East, Dwyane Wade is second behind John Wall among guards. Wall should start alongside either Kyle Lowry or Jimmy Butler.

BUzzer beaters

Pistons coach and president Stan Van Gundy says this will be his last NBA job. He told reporters he promised his wife he won't make another move, but he said he's open to remaining with Detroit after his contract expires in 2019. By the way, the Pistons are 4-0 since Van Gundy waived Josh Smith.

 

Bulls guard Jimmy Butler started yesterday leading the league in minutes (1,240) and 101st in turnovers (47).

 

Nuggets coach Brian Shaw, a former teammate of Bryant's, was asked about Byron Scott cutting back Kobe's minutes. Shaw laughed and said, "Good luck to Byron.''

 

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau on his former player, the enigmatic and unpredictable Nate Robinson: "The thing about Nate I always say is he's scaring both coaches.''

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