The partnership that had so much promise but such limited success lasted just four years before the high-scoring forwards went in separate directions: Stoudemire to Dallas, Anthony to the operating table.
The veterans remaining for the New York Knicks now are Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani – unless one or both is traded by Thursday’s deadline.
Anthony underwent successful surgery on his left knee that could keep him off the court for four to six months, the team announced on Thursday. Knicks President Phil Jackson said Wednesday a timetable for Anthony’s recovery couldn’t really be determined until after the surgery, and that he told the coaching staff he expected the team to be competitive even without its two leading scorers.
“We’re going to have to be better at executing,” Jackson said. “We don’t have the resource to drop the ball off on Carmelo’s lap and say now we can have someone score these 20 points for us. We’re going to have to do a lot more activity as a team, but we’re not going to sit on our hands during this period of time. We’re going to continue to look for players as we go through this season.”
Jackson said he anticipated the procedure, which will include a left knee patella tendon debridement and repair, would be performed this week.
“We’re really confident that he heals well and he’ll be fine,” Jackson said. “We want him to make a full recovery and get ready for this next coming season.”
Anthony has had pain for most of the season but continued to play despite the Knicks’ league-worst 10-43 record. He was able to start in the All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden on Sunday but appeared to be struggling, scoring 14 points on 6-of-20 shooting.
“It’s obvious that he physically can’t do the things that he’s capable of doing, so this is a necessary step for him to take, I think, in order for him to get to the level that he’s capable of getting to,” coach Derek Fisher said.
Stoudemire was granted his release so he could join a contender. The Mavericks announced his signing Wednesday, shortly after Jackson and Fisher spoke.
Stoudemire arrived in July 2010 and the Knicks acquired Anthony the following February. They never won a postseason series while playing together – Stoudemire was injured for New York’s 2013 first-round victory over Boston.
With their 36 points per game gone, Jackson indicated there may be use for Bargnani, the injury-plagued Italian who has appeared in just four games this season. Jackson said teams aren’t interested in acquiring the former No. 1 pick.
“Now that we have a gap in scoring, this is a guy that’s a natural scorer, and I think the coaching staff would like to have him on the court and be competitive with his scoring capabilities,” Jackson said. “Without Carmelo and Amar’e, we’re going to need some scorers out there.”
Not to mention veteran leaders, so Jackson sees a role for Calderon.
“He’s a player that I would call a middle-aged NBA player who has great capabilities of holding a team together, being the glue that holds a team together, and we want to see that continue,” Jackson said. “Especially now without Amar’e and without Carmelo on the floor, he’s going to have to do some of that leadership that we anticipate.”
Anthony did not speak to reporters Wednesday. He finished his 12th NBA season averaging 24.2 points and 6.6 rebounds in 40 games. The two-time Olympian turned 30 in May, two months before signing a five-year, $124 million contract in July, but Jackson said he was confident the former scoring champion would make a full recovery.
Anthony had knee surgery in 2011 during the offseason, and Jackson said he thought Anthony recovered well from that. He also had fluid drained from his right knee late in the 2012-13 season, and Jackson attributed his struggles this season to “continual aggravation” rather than any recent issues.
Jackson will try, either before Thursday afternoon or before next season, to find the pieces that can get the Knicks to where Anthony and Stoudemire together never could.
“I’m not happy but it is what it is,” Jackson said. “That’s what you have to accept, is that this is what we have now and how could we provide help for this team in the future.”
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