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John Schuhmann

Carmelo Anthony is averaging 21.0 points in the series, but is shooting just 34.4 percent.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

On verge of being swept, Knicks facing uncertain future

Posted May 6 2012 2:49AM

NEW YORK -- Carmelo Anthony, on the brink of being swept out of the playoffs for the second straight year, was asked about his time in New York and his decision to come here last February. (And though Anthony was traded here, we know it was his choice.)

"It's been fun," Anthony said Saturday. "It's been up and down, but for the most part, I don't regret my decision to want to come here. It's been a year and a half and things haven't gone the way we wanted them to go, but we still have time."

Now, by "we still have time," what exactly does he mean?

The Knicks have about 48 minutes to make a dent in these playoffs, hosting the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the first round on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC). The chances that they can send the series back to South Beach seem slim, but with Anthony, New York always has a puncher's chance.

Maybe Anthony was thinking long-term. Assuming his team's season ends at some point in the next several days, Anthony has three more years on his contract to elevate the Knicks from their current state of mediocrity. They're 50-51 since trading for him.

Can he do that though? Or, with no roster flexibility going forward, are the Knicks destined to exit the playoffs early for the next few years?

With New York down 3-0 to the vastly superior Heat, it's hard not to focus on the negative as you project where the Knicks are going. And the pessimism starts with the lack of chemistry between the team's two highest paid players.

Simply, Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire do not make each other better. They operate separately on the floor and take away from each other's touches. Anthony is a ball-stopper, while Stoudemire is at his best when the ball is moving. And that's a problem.

An effective point guard would help some, and Jeremy Lin, a restricted free agent this summer, is a factor in the Knicks' future. But Anthony's presence also compromises Lin's effectiveness. The point guard can't do everything he needs to do if the ball-stopper is doing what he does.

On the other end of the floor, Stoudemire is a matador and Anthony isn't much better. Tyson Chandler improves the Knicks' defense dramatically, but he also makes Stoudemire a full-time power forward, taking away from his effectiveness offensively.

Stoudemire's contract, given his health and defensive issues, is pretty much untradeable. And trading Chandler or Anthony would likely be taking a step backward on one end of the floor or the other. Upgrading the backcourt is a possibility, but difficult to pull off without any cap space.

Maybe Anthony and Stoudemire just need a full training camp and normal season to develop some cohesion. Maybe Lin, as the starting point guard from Day 1, can make a difference. Maybe the Knicks' injuries just came at the wrong time. Or maybe the Celtics will be ready to hand over the Atlantic Division and a top-four seed next year.

Maybe not.

That takes us to Mike Woodson. The Knicks went 18-6 to close the regular season under the interim coach, and he deserves serious consideration for the permanent position this summer. But an early exit in the postseason does not help his candidacy with a franchise known for its instability.

Woodson is given credit for holding his players accountable, especially defensively. But he didn't really have a great defensive history with the Atlanta Hawks. And you have to wonder if he has a solution for the offensive chemistry issues.

Phil Jackson's name will always be floated as a possibility, but this roster is not exactly the '89 Bulls or '99 Lakers, primed to win multiple championships in the coming years.

There's no easy path to a championship for the Knicks, no easy answers to the team's issues, whether they're related to offense, defense or payroll. Nobody shoulders all the blame and solving one problem seemingly creates others.

Given all the different phases the Knicks have gone through this season -- pre-Linsanity, Linsanity, D'Antoni dismay, and the Woody era -- it's impossible to get a gauge on just how good they can be. There were some moments of great basketball over the last 4 1/2 months, but they were ultimately unsustainable.

The Knicks have one more chance to salvage some dignity and end an 11-year run without a playoff win. But even if the 13-game postseason losing streak comes to an end on Sunday, the questions about the Knicks' future will not.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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