J.R. weighs in on Melo: He’ll still be here

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
12:27
AM ET
NEW YORK -- J.R. Smith is one of Carmelo Anthony's closest friends in the NBA.

The two have played together for seven seasons.

So when Smith says something about Anthony, it's worth listening.

[+] EnlargeJ.R. Smith
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIJ.R. Smith doesn't believe his close pal Carmelo Anthony has played his last game for the Knicks.
Here's what the New York Knicks shooting guard had to say about Anthony's pending free agency:

"In my heart, I believe he’ll still be here. It’s just a matter of him coming up with that decision. Whatever it is, we’re still going to be friends 'til our dying days, so I mean, whether he’s on my team or he isn’t, I still love him like a brother."

Asked if he was "worried" that he'd played his last game with Anthony, Smith replied, "No, not really."

Wonder if Phil Jackson is as confident as J.R.?

Anthony will sit out the season finale against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday due to a small tear in his left labrum. So the next step for Anthony, aside from rehabbing his shoulder injury, is to turn his attention to free agency.

The 30-year-old should have a number of suitors on the open market. The Knicks can re-sign him to a five-year contract worth $129,135,806. If he signs with another team, the maximum he can get is $95,897,372 over four years.

The Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are among a group of teams expected to pursue him during the offseason.

Anthony has said that this season won't have a major bearing on his decision -- and that's probably a good thing for the Knicks.

New York is at the tail end of a miserable season. Picked by many to finish among the top teams in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks instead will miss the playoffs for the first time in four years.

Smith is as surprised as anyone about the team's downfall.

"I mean, going into this season I was thinking a championship, a championship-caliber team," Smith said. "We’ve got the right pieces, hungry people, we’ve got young kids, vets, people who’ve been there before, so it's very sour."

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Ian Begley

ESPN New York Writer

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
23.4 3.3 0.8 36.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsA. Stoude... 7.4
AssistsJ. Calderon 3.9
StealsP. Prigioni 1.3
BlocksS. Dalembert 1.3