Stoudemire won’t carry the Knicks far without Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony falls. (NBA.com)
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If Sunday's demoralizing loss to the Miami Heat contained a number of positive trends, it is equally true that Monday night's thrilling comeback win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, 102-97, held within it a development that could derail the Knicks' season.

Carmelo Anthony, the center of this Knicks team, crumpled to the floor in the second quarter, his team trailing 52-30. He hadn't been playing well, shooting just 1-for-5 as the Cavaliers ran out to a big lead. His injury seemed harmless enough, but he did not return, and after the game told reporters his knee had been bothering him for a while.

"You know how some days you wake up and you just really don’t feel right? I came out here and I tried to warm up and I still wasn’t feeling right," Anthony said following the game. "I thought it was going to loosen up before the game. Then throughout the game some of the things that I was doing, I felt like I was dragging my leg."

Anthony revealed he'd had an M.R.I. on the knee to figure out what the problem was a few days ago, but the test came back clean. His availability for the game against the Detroit Pistons is unknown.

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Naturally, a certain skepticism is warranted when it comes to health proclamations from players and from the New York Knicks generally. Jeremy Lin told reporters that his knee was just fine on a night last March he missed a game and was called day-to-day by the team; he never played for the Knicks again. Raymond Felton, earlier this year, assured reporters his hand was fine, and no tests were scheduled; the next day, a test revealed s fracture that kept him out a month.

It's impossible to know whether the 41 minutes per game Anthony played in January simply took its toll, or if Anthony would have gotten hurt anyway. Either way, it is vital that the Knicks get Anthony healthy for the playoffs, because the comeback Monday night simply isn't replicable on a regular basis.

Much was made of Amar'e Stoudemire's 30-minute per game playing time limit, but that wasn't created for fun. Stoudemire is navigating a comeback from knee surgery, and this will help keep him healthy. Accordingly, the fact that he blew past it Monday night, playing 32 minutes and scoring 22 to inspire the Knicks' comeback, doesn't mean he can now resume the heavy workload of his earlier career. 

The other significant ingredient in the team's comeback that isn't particularly sustainable is Raymond Felton's ten assists. Felton has been in a massive slump over the previous ten games, shooting less than 42 percent overall, and less than 28 percent from three point range, while averaging a meager 3.5 assists (with a game high of just five). To be fair, Felton was quite good in the five games before that, and also had a November to cherish. But this is the puzzle that is Felton; he seems to go long stretches of time, not measured in minutes but rather weeks, where he forgets to get teammates involved or penetrate, settling for contested jumpers instead.

But the rest of the night consisted of improved defense, inspired late-game heroics from Tyson Chandler, and three-point shooting from Steve Novak and Jason Kidd, the latter appearing to be coming out of a months-long slump. All of this is well within the established talent levels of the team.

Even so, they barely managed to beat a Cleveland team that fell to 20-40.

To beat better teams, they'll need Carmelo Anthony back. 

Elsewhere in New York sports:

NETS

P.J. Carlesimo has two scoring centers, and plans to start playing them together more.

YANKEES

Brian Cashman's skydiving for charity went horribly wrong.

METS

Terry Collins, at least, wants Johan Santana to put his long-term health first.