Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
‘Melo, Amar’e Endorse Walsh, D’Antoni; Say they Want to ‘Win Now’
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire want to “win now” and believe that Mike D’Antoni and Donnie Walsh are the men to help make it happen.
That was their message when the two stars met with the media a day after the Knicks were swept by the Boston Celtics in Game 4 Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
“Hell, yeah I need to win,” Anthony said. “From my own personal, I want to win. Nothing else even matters to me right now when we talk about basketball, but winning.
“I don’t really care about all the off-the-court stuff. That stuff’s gonna come. If you don’t win, then nothing is gonna come.”
Anthony also revealed that he wanted to be traded by the Denver Nuggets at the deadline instead of waiting for free agency in the summer because of concerns about the collective bargaining agreement.
“It’s just something I didn’t really want to do deal with, not knowing what the CBA would be like,” he said. “I’m glad it happened. I don’t regret anything, any decision that I made. And I’m happy with that. I can live with that.”
Anthony, 26, and Stoudemire, 28, are both young and in their prime, but after bringing the Knicks to their first playoff series since 2004, they say they are anxious to bring a championship to New York.
“Yeah, I’m ready,” Stoudemire said. “I think the time is near. We’re close. I can feel it. The franchise can feel it. I think the city can feel it, that we’re on the right track to ultimately win the championship. I’m still young, but time is of the essence.”
With talk radio heating up over the question of whether D’Antoni should be fired, both stars endorsed his return. D’Antoni has one year remaining on the four-year, $24 million deal he signed in 2008.
“Coach Mike is phenomenal,” Stoudemire said. “He’s been doing great all year, and with the different changes we’ve made throughout the season we still been able to maintain and keep a winning record and also have a chance to do something special in the postseason if it wasn’t for injuries. So I have high confidence in Coach D’Antoni.”
When D’Antoni left Phoenix, Stoudemire said the team lacked a focus on defense.
The Knicks were the third-worst defensive team in the league, allowing an average of 105.7 points a game, yet Stoudemire said D’Antoni “put more emphasis on the defensive end this season for sure.”
“It’s up to us to really come up with a game plan and strategy on how we want to play and what better fits our team, as far as a strategy,” he added. “And take it from there.”
Anthony was somewhat less emphatic in his support of the coach. Asked if the team should bring back D’Antoni and Walsh, he said: “Yeah, I mean, why not? I support whatever decision they make. Mike is here, I got his back 100 percent. Donnie’s here, I got his back 100 percent. So I support all their decisions.”
Team owner Jim Dolan has until Saturday to exercise or decline the fourth-year option on Walsh’s contract, although Walsh emphasized this past Saturday his deal doesn’t run out until June 30.
CBSSports.com reported that the Knicks are considering giving Walsh a two-year contract extension.
After meeting Monday with Walsh, Stoudemire said the president sounded confident he would return.
“Donnie has done a phenomenal job,” Stoudemire said. “He’s one of the main reasons why I’m here in New York, he turned the Knicks franchise around…He spoke with confidence, and I mean that’s what you want from your GM. One whose confident about the future of the team, and how we can rebuild, and possibly winning the championship. Those are the goals.”
Both players said they wanted to see the team bring point guard Chauncey Billups back, although Stoudemire said he wasn’t certain what the team’s plans were.
“I’m not totally sure,” Stoudemire said. “I didn’t get quite a clear vision on what the decision was. But I do believe they have high confidence in Chauncey to do what he’s done throughout his career.”
The team has until Friday to pick up the $14.2 million option on Billups, who missed the last three games of the series with a strained knee ligament.
Only six players remain under contract for next season, and two of them are Andy Rautins and Renaldo Balkman.
As far as the team’s specific needs going forward, Stoudemire said he’d like to see the Knicks add some big men.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “It puts everyone in their rightful positions and we can grow from there. When you play out of position sometimes you have certain weaknesses that other players will take advantage of. If you’re in your rightful position you can hold your own. So it would help us defensively.”
The rotation of Ronny Turiaf and Jared Jeffries were simply overmatched by the Celtics big men.
Both Stoudemire and Anthony said they believed that the opportunity to compete together for a full training camp with their teammates, some of whom will inevitably be new, would benefit the team going forward.
“On my radar,” Anthony said, “I want to be the top team in the East.”
**Billups uncertain if he’ll return to Knicks
**’Melo, Amar’e to meet with Knicks brass
**Billups wants to return to Knicks
**’Melo: ‘I don’t want to get swept‘
**Knicks’ Walsh uncertain about future
**Injured Knicks don’t have the horses to compete
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.