The case for bringing Carmelo Anthony back to Knicks

The prospect of Carmelo Anthony returning to Madison Square Garden to play for the Knicks again is turning from a whisper into a conversation — with Anthony doing nothing to rebuff the possibility.

Leon Rose, who served as Anthony’s agent at CAA, will take over as Knicks president this week, and bringing his former client back to play for his home town team is certainly an option worth exploring.

“Until I sit down and see the whole plan, I don’t know,” was Anthony’s response to all the chatter.

The Knicks beat the Bulls, 125-115, Saturday at Madison Square Garden to improve to 18-42 on the season. But Rose has plenty of work to do once he takes office. The absence of previous experience running an NBA franchise makes it impossible to guess how he plans to turn the struggling basketball franchise into a playoff contender. But the Knicks are hoping he’ll have similar results as former agents Bob Myers and Rob Pelinka have had with the Warriors and Lakers, respectively.

Whether the plan includes the return of Anthony is uncertain, but before you say, “Been there, done that,” let’s look at the positives of such a move.

The Knicks, who snapped a six-game losing streak with Saturday’s win, are clearly rebuilding, hoping a core group of young players — RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Frank Ntilikina, Allonzo Trier, Kevin Knox and Dennis Smith Jr. — can be part a long-term nucleus. Robinson had a career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds against the Bulls, while Barrett had 19 points and Knox 12. But they could use a veteran like Anthony to show them how to be consistent pros.

Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo AnthonyPaul J. Bereswill

It would be an entirely different role for Anthony than when he was first acquired by the Knicks from the Nuggets in a blockbuster deal at the 2011 NBA trade deadline. Anthony was asked to be the savior then. He was Brooklyn-born, a national champion at Syracuse and the face of his new franchise. He tried to live up to those lofty expectations, but never got past the second round of the playoffs during 6 ½ seasons.

When he was traded to the Thunder in 2017, there were no bridges burned. Time and too many defeats had taken their toll. The Knicks needed a change — and so did Anthony.

It would be different this time. The Knicks wouldn’t be asking Anthony to be their savior again. He’d be more of a sage. Anthony will turn 36 in May, but judging by his current tenure with the Trail Blazers, he still has plenty to offer an NBA team. He is averaging 15.5 points a game, well off his career average of 23.7, but still enough to contribute on a consistent basis.

Rose should be looking to add players who can make that type of contribution on the floor. Anthony won’t dominate the way he did during his previous tenure in New York, when the offense went through him and he was responsible for taking all the last shots. Julius Randle, who had 22 points Saturday, handles that now. Anthony doesn’t have to be that kind of player anymore, which is why he might be good for a redo with the Knicks.

Barrett, Robinson and the all the top draft picks the Knicks will have in the coming years represent their future. But Anthony can make a positive impact with his stature, his leadership and his experience.

He knows the league and he knows the city and its expectations.

A return to New York might be good for Anthony, too, a chance to handle some unfinished business and help make the Knicks winners again. During his first tenure, he was nothing but professional. Maybe he didn’t handle “Linsanity” that well, and he didn’t always agree with the revolving door of coaches. But he was professional and understood his role as the team leader.

Rose will need someone to anchor this turnaround. Someone who has broad shoulders and the kind of experience that takes pressure of the younger players.

Anthony wouldn’t be a long-term answer. But Rose has to start somewhere — and bringing back Carmelo wouldn’t be a bad start.

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