Carmelo Anthony wore looks of frustration, disgust and disappointment during the Knicks' lopsided loss in Indiana on Thursday. Anthony has looked that way before, but it could be significant, considering the opponent.
Anthony thought the Knicks should have beaten the Pacers in last season's playoffs and believed they had assembled a roster that could get past them if they met again. But in that 28-point loss, Anthony needed help from his teammates and never got it.
The Knicks have what appeared to be a playoff-caliber team, but they don't have the talent, chemistry or physical defenders to match up with Indiana. The Pacers brought the NBA's best record (31-7) into last night's action and Anthony's Knicks are 15-25. They're two teams going in different directions.
Anthony called the loss "embarrassing" and "frustrating" and said, "I don't want to feel like if I'm not scoring the basketball that we don't have a chance of even being in the game. I don't never want to feel like that."
Without Chris Paul, the Clippers crushed the Knicks the next night, with Anthony fighting for 26 points and 20 rebounds. He said afterward, "This is hard to deal with."
Anthony has said it was "smart" that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh teamed up in Miami. Anthony wants something similar. He needs help and he's asking for it. And if a team's franchise player, who has said he will opt out and test free agency, says something like that, his team has to listen.
The Knicks have a month to make moves to entice Anthony to stay or to explore what they can get for him. That's the primary job of the Knicks' front office between now and the Feb. 20 trade deadline: Find out whether Anthony is fully committed to returning and what it will take.
"I would think they would do everything they can to try to ascertain if they can re-sign him," a league executive said. "I think how he views the team going forward is going to be important."
If there is a shred of doubt, Knicks officials should make calls about Anthony -- and the Clippers should be the first call.
They might not want to move Blake Griffin, but the Knicks have to start there. You would think Anthony would re-sign with the Clippers: It's L.A., and his good friend Paul would be throwing him passes.
Otherwise, the Lakers and Bulls could pursue Anthony in July. The Bulls have some things they can do to clear money, starting with amnestying Carlos Boozer. Chicago is not L.A., but it's a big market and Anthony would get to play with Derrick Rose.
If Anthony finishes the season with the Knicks, they can pay him $34 million more than any other team. That's hard to turn down, but if winning matters more, the money might not be enough.
On a related note, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo made his 2013-14 debut Friday after tearing an ACL last season. The Knicks likely will pursue Rondo again. It will be tough to get him, but Rondo in New York is a way to make sure that Anthony stays.
Walsh sees championship ingredients
Pacers basketball operations consultant Donnie Walsh has presided over some Indiana teams that were title contenders, but this one finally could get him a championship.
"I think we're in with a small group of teams that could win a championship," Walsh said. "We have a good team. We play as a team. We have good guys that want to win, that so far have been committed to doing that. They share the ball, they play hard -- all the good things everybody wants, they do. So I love being around them."
Aldridge now happy in Portland
LaMarcus Aldridge is an example of how quickly things can change in the NBA. The Trail Blazers' big man wanted out of Portland last season but publicly has said he now wants an extension. His team began yesterday at 30-9 after winning 33 games last season. "I would like to re-sign here," Aldridge told the Oregonian. "If they want to talk about it, I would talk about it. They haven't yet, but I'm looking forward to the chance to do that."
- The starters for the Feb. 16 All-Star Game will be announced Thursday. The fans pick the starters. Here are our choices -- East: Dwyane Wade, John Wall, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and LeBron James. West: Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge.
- While taking fans' questions on Twitter last week, James tweeted that "Tom and Jerry" is his favorite cartoon. When he was asked, "How do I get my baby to fall asleep?'' he responded, "Put my performance in the 2011 Finals on! Night night immediately."
- The combined 2013-14 salary of the Suns' starting five Monday totaled $19.4 million. Six players make more this season: Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson and Dwight Howard.