Speaking publicly on Monday for the first time since Knicks president Phil Jackson made a series of roster moves, Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony applauded the front office and was hopeful about the team’s chances of being a contender in the Eastern Conference.
“The front office stepped up,” said Anthony, an 11-time All-Star who has been a Knick since 2011. “It was a collective effort. They did their job and they did what they had to do to make some moves and make things happen. They put us in a situation to give us an opportunity. All we have to do is take advantage of that.”
“I think we have a good opportunity to do some things this year. It’s all about what we do. It’s all about us now. It’s all about how we come together, how we jell together. For the most part, the pieces are there, so it’s up to us.”
The Knicks, who have not had a winning season since they won 54 games in 2012-13, were able to trade for point guard Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls the night before the NBA draft. Jackson and the front office brass then had the cap space to sign Rose’s teammate Joakim Noah, swingman Courtney Lee and point guard Brandon Jennings.
Although Anthony believes the Knicks “have a very special team on paper,” there are plenty of red flags. Noah and Lee are 31 and 30, respectively. Jennings, once a top young star in the league, averaged seven points per game with Orlando last season. And Rose, the 2011 league MVP, is 27 years old and injury-prone. He has not played more than 70 games since that MVP year.
Despite the injury concerns with Rose, Anthony said he is not worried about the point guard’s health.
“As far as injuries go, it happens,” Anthony said. “But I think sometimes you just need a breath of fresh air, in Derrick’s case. I talked to him maybe once or twice, but he’s locked in right now. He’s focused. I’m hearing he’s healthy.
Anthony also said he has been working out with some of the new guys in order to get ready for next season.
“I had Joakim with me working out a couple of times,” Anthony said. “I had Brandon Jennings the other day with me in L.A. … I’m just trying to get everybody in the gym working. That’s how you build those relationships off the court.”
In 2014 as a free agent, Anthony almost joined Rose and Noah in Chicago, saying he was impressed with the team’s competitiveness.
“Just seeing that team as a competitor and playing against them always knowing what that team was missing,” Anthony said. “That’s why I was really looking at that opportunity at that time. They came to me now. It’s kind of a couple of years out but we’ll take it.”
Anthony now is 32 years old and only has so many more years left in the NBA. He may go down as one of the greatest players to never win a championship. Now with an All-Star worthy point guard in Rose, a young phenom in power forward in Kristaps Porzingis, and a defensive-minded center in Noah, this may be Anthony’s final chance to get a title.
“Now is a time when we can go out there and put a competitive team out there and play,” Anthony said. “For me the time is now. For us as a city, as an organization, that should be the mindset — the time is now.”