- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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"Linsanity" has become all the rage in the Big Apple. Power forward Amare Stoudemire is back, giving the Knicks a much-needed interior scoring presence who can mesh with Lin off the high pick-and-roll sets.
That's all well and good, but by the end of the week, the Knicks are going to have to figure out how to incorporate small forward Carmelo Anthony and his high usage rate into their offensive attack.
And that's why former Knick Charles Oakley believes coach Mike D'Antoni needs to meet with Anthony to make sure he buys in and doesn't cause any problems.
"You need to have [a meeting] with him before he comes back and tell him, 'Hey, we're paying you a lot of money and this and that, but it's not about the money,' " Oakley said Wednesday on ESPN New York 1050's "Ruocco and Lundberg." "A lot of guys in this league are making money and don't deserve the money. I'm not saying Carmelo -- one of the best scorers in the league -- doesn't deserve the money, but [it comes down to] how can you play with other guys and make them better?"
Oakley doesn't see why Anthony would have "an ego" at this point.
"The ego stuff goes out the window in the NBA. It shouldn't be about that, because these players, most of them are overrated," Oakley said. "They just hype them because they need the hype. I mean, they want the mention, but they can't play with other players. My thing is, you only got between eight and 10 superstars in the league, and those guys, a lot of them are in the same bag. Because the talent level around the league, guys can't make other guys better, guys struggle every night if you put a defender on them, they can't make plays.
"So with Carmelo, he's a scorer, he needs down picks, pick across screens, and when they isolate, that's the offense, so the offense makes him look worse than what he is sometimes."
Oakley says NBA players can act like "babies" at times.
"I'm not saying he's a crybaby or anything like that, but everybody points the finger at Carmelo, so now you've gotta say, 'Hey, this was my team, now I'm coming back to the team. Do I have to be the focal point now? No.' Just ease my way back into it, and then just keep playing basketball," Oakley said.
Oakley thinks it also would be a good idea for D'Antoni to meet with the entire team as well "and tell the guys, 'Hey, we've got something good going on and it's not about individuals, it's a team effort. The ball's moving, let's keep it moving, and have fun,' " Oakley said.
" 'Keep winning is the key, keep winning.' "
It's up to D'Antoni, Oakley said, to make sure the Knicks continue to play with passion and intensity -- something they weren't doing earlier in the season when they got off to an 8-15 start.
"I picked them to go 48-18 this year. My thing is, you've got the talent, you got the bench now, so it all comes back to the coach. You've gotta put this thing together," Oakley said.
"People in New York see sports and understand sports. I'm not blasting the coach or anything, but it's up to him to make this thing keep going."
Oakley suggested that he'd like to see a more fiery D'Antoni.
"Guys like Doc Rivers and Phil Jackson, they got on players during timeouts and tell them what they're doing wrong," Oakley said. "He's got to get on the Knicks and let them know. We started something the last six games, and we need to continue this throughout the season and into the playoffs."
Oakley called Lin and center Tyson Chandler the MVPs of the team, and he hopes that Stoudemire plays against at the level he played last season, when he captivated the Garden much the way Lin has.
"Last year when he came to New York, New York was on fire because he was doing everything: averaging a high number of points, playing defense, blocking shots, being a candidate for MVP of the league," Oakley said. "[On Tuesday night], I watched the game, and I don't know if his back is bothering him, or he's trying to keep it to himself, but he needs to be more energized like he was last year, because he just made the whole Garden go. He was putting New York back on the map.
"[Right now], he's still trying to find his way around, pick his chances on the floor, but I like it when he goes to the hole, because he's one of the best finishers in the game. I like his game, and I love to see him in the paint."
As for Lin, Oakley said, "He's taking a beating, but he's like a clock, he just keeps on ticking. He never gets frustrated, he just gets up and makes plays.
"He's bringing passion for basketball back to the city of New York."
Oakley praised Lin's leadership capabilities and added, "It's not about where he went to school, it's about what's inside his heart, and he's shown that."
At the beginning of the season, Oakley said he thought the Knicks could finish as a No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Barring a run of epic proportion, that's likely not going to happen.
Still, Oakley said, if the Knicks continue to play like they have been, "They will be the scary team in the playoffs to play this year."
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.