NEW YORK -- Most conversations about the Knicks lately have centered around Carmelo Anthony’s uncertain future.
Anthony made it clear last week that he wants the front office to make significant additions this summer. Some in the Knicks organization think Anthony might seek a trade if the front office fails to attract any talent in free agency, sources said. There is, of course, a vocal contingent of Knicks fans who would welcome Anthony’s exit.
But if Sunday night’s loss is any indication, life without Anthony could be pretty ugly for the franchise.
Anthony was sidelined Sunday due to lingering effects from a migraine, and New York scored just 80 points in a loss to the Sacramento Kings. Yes, the same Kings team that came to town allowing an NBA-worst 109.6 points per game.
After the loss, Sacramento coach George Karl noted that the Knicks were easier to defend without Anthony in the lineup.
"We kind of knew where they were going a lot of times and disrupted it somewhat," Karl said after the Knicks fell to 0-8 without Anthony this season. "You take Melo out of the scenario, you can be a little more chancy and risky because you don't get maybe blown up because of your decisions."
That’s high praise from Karl, who, after coaching Anthony in Denver, questioned the star forward's defensive focus and inner drive. Earlier Sunday, Karl was even more effusive in his praise of the 31-year-old.
“I’ve seen a winning Melo over the last two years. I’ve seen him sacrifice his game to try to figure out the team,” Karl said after the Kings' shootaround. “I think he’s had a willingness to understand that he doesn’t have to force the game. The game will happen. And so many teams conceptually tilt the game to take Melo out. He understands ... that he’s got to make other people better.”
Anthony leads the Knicks in points (21.8) and rebounds (8.0), but his assist numbers validate Karl's assessment. Anthony is handing out 4.2 assists per game, a career high and the highest on the Knicks. The unselfish play has led to praise from Derek Fisher, Kurt Rambis and, now, Karl.
"He's become a facilitator," the veteran coach said.
The verbal bouquets from coaches are probably nice to hear, but they don't resolve the frustration of another lost season in New York. Anthony wasn't available for comment Sunday, but you don't need another sound bite to know he's upset. Even Karl can see that from afar.
“He doesn’t want the season to be over April 15,” Karl said. “I think Melo’s had a Hall of Fame career, and I just know right now, just kind of looking at his body language, he wants to win.”