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Monday, February 13, 2012
D'Antoni 'can't wait' to see Lin/Melo combo

By Ian Begley

There's a lingering question mark hanging over Linsanity. And its name is Carmelo Anthony.

Many wonder how Anthony will mesh with Jeremy Lin's uptempo attack when the star small forward returns from a groin injury. (Didn't think you'd read that sentence 10 days ago, did you?)

Will Anthony be able to adapt his isolation game to Lin, who has run a Knicks offense predicated on ball movement, spacing and penetration to create open looks?

That's one of the biggest questions surrounding this team going forward.

It's clear that the Knicks have looked like a different team since Lin took over at point guard.

New York (13-15) is averaging 11 more points per 48 minutes with Lin on the floor. The Knicks' shooting percentage is up 5 percent higher with Lin. And, oh yeah, they are 5-0 since the former Harvard guard started playing major minutes.

Mike D'Antoni acknowledged that adjustments will need to be made when Anthony returns. But he's optimistic that things will work out. He compared the Lin-Anthony pairing to last season, when the Knicks had Chauncey Billups and Anthony in the same lineup.

"I only see it helping. I don’t see it as a problem," D'Antoni said late last week. "There will be some adjustments on both people’s parts. I see it as a big, big plus. I see it when Amare (Stoudemire) comes back, there’s another pick-and-roll guy, maybe the best in the game. I see that as a big plus. (Both Lin, Stoudemire and Anthony) have never played together so we can’t make that conclusion until we see it then we’ll adjust to it. I can’t wait to get those guys back.”

Just when Anthony returns to the court is unknown at this point. His status for Tuesday's game at Toronto is up in the air. The Knicks medical staff said his groin injury would sideline him for 1-2 weeks. He originally suffered the injury last Monday.

Stoudemire is expected to return to practice on Monday. He has been out since last Monday, in Florida mourning the death of his older brother.

Many believe Stoudemire will benefit from Lin's presence because of the point guard's ability to run the screen and roll.

But how Anthony fits with Lin is less clear.

Anthony's game is isolation-based (entering play this month, he was among the league-leaders in isolation plays but shooting under 30 percent in such situations). The Knicks' success under Lin is due in large part to ball movement and spacing -- two things that are missing when Anthony turns to isolation.

In addition, Lin has had the ball in his hands an awful lot over the past five games. This is another area where Anthony and Lin will need to adjust because Anthony, as we all know, is a player who needs the ball in his hands to be effective.

Lin and Anthony rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in usage rate -- a measurement of how many possessions a player uses per 40 minutes.

Can both Lin and Anthony figure out how to be effective with the ball in their hands a little less? Is there a balance to be struck between letting Anthony have his isolation plays and giving Lin the freedom to run an offense based on ball movement?

D'Antoni thinks so.

“I’m excited about the possibilities of where we can go," D'Antoni said late last week. "We can only get better from here. Guys will have to bend a little bit. And we’ll bend toward them but we see the light."

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