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For Carmelo Anthony and Knicks, excitement of season opener ends with a reality check

Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks reacts after missing

Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks reacts after missing a shot against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Just in case Carmelo Anthony's choice was not evident when he arrived Wednesday wearing white rather than red, there he was in a video on the big scoreboard during an early timeout, jogging around New York -- narration by Melo.

"This is where I chose to be," he said. "I bleed blue and orange. This is a Knicks town. I'm all in."

Well, there you go. No looking back at what might have been had he succumbed to temptation and signed this past offseason with the talented Bulls, the Knicks' opening night opponent at Madison Square Garden.

That's good, because the Bulls demonstrated to Melo what he might be missing, flashing a versatile lineup headed by finally-healthy Derrick Rose en route to a 104-80 victory.

But this was but one night in a long season, and in fairness, Anthony re-signed with the expectation Phil Jackson eventually will turn the Knicks into championship contenders, not that he would do so before Halloween, 2014.

So despite the loss, the vibe at the Garden was more about celebrating the start of a new season and a new era than lamenting the Knicks' current weaknesses.

That was the goal, anyway.

The guest list included Joan Jett singing the national anthem, Blue Man Group punctuating the introduction of the Knicks' lineup, Questlove serving as DJ, a light show, an appearance by renowned hand balancer Christian Stoinev and a halftime program featuring the Knicks City Dancers performing to a new Taylor Swift song, "Welcome to New York," complete with Swift in the house, seated next to John McEnroe.

But perhaps the most telling of the let's-get-everyone-excited elements came 10 minutes before tip-off when Jackson himself was shown on the scoreboard in an inspirational video.

Let's put it this way: Not many local franchises would try to pump up their followers with a pregrame address from the team president. (Well, the Jets have tried everything else. Maybe it is time to trot out Neil Glat to rally the fans.)

Despite all the hoopla over the return of hoops, rookie coach Derek Fisher did his best before the game to position it as just another night at the office for him and his players.

But of course it was more than that, just as Thursday night's game against LeBron James' Cavaliers surely will be. Both games rated national television coverage, even if that was more about the opponents than the Knicks, who seem to be the target of some sort of cruel practical joke by the NBA's schedule-makers.

The Knicks trailed by 15 late in the second quarter but were within 10 at halftime and hung around early in the third. Not for long. The Bulls led by 20 with four minutes left in the third, prompting scattered boos from the audience, which had little to cheer about.

Even with a relatively spry Amar'e Stoudemire, the Knicks' limitations were evident -- exacerbated by the fact point guard Jose Calderon sat out with a calf injury.

When Anthony was on the court, he lacked a comparable second option. When he was not on the court, well, that was even worse.

As for the much-discussed triangle offense . . . who knows?

Check back around Jan. 1 for a fairer assessment. By then, the Bulls might be long gone in the Eastern Conference standings.

Anthony was back on the scoreboard in another video during a second-quarter break, assuring fans -- and perhaps himself -- that this is where he wants to be.

That's good. The Knicks had better hope he still feels that way after Thursday night -- and more importantly on opening night next autumn.

New York Sports