Sunday, July 25, 2021

Carmelo Anthony watching Tom Thibodeau, Obi Toppin grow with Knicks

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Carmelo Anthony decided not to join the Knicks in November as a free agent, but he said he feels coach Tom Thibodeau has them on the right path.

The 36-year-old Anthony will be a free agent next summer again, and nobody would be surprised if he hooks up with his former agent, Knicks president Leon Rose.

Anthony and the Trail Blazers will face the Knicks (10-13) at the empty Garden on Saturday for a 1 p.m. matinee. He saw firsthand last month the Knicks’ spunk, when they rallied in Portland from a 25-point deficit to give the Blazers a scare in the final minute.

“I think we all know what Thibs brings to the game, just his intensity and focus and attention to detail,’’ Anthony said Friday on Zoom after a Blazers practice at the Garden. “Any team he’s ever coached, they play the same way. They play hard. They leave it all out there on the court.

They never quit. Regardless of the outcome, you see that with this young team that he has now. So you see the impact that he has early, especially within the first 20 games of season.’’

Though Anthony has a connection with two Knicks rookies, Obi Toppin of Brooklyn and Immanuel Quickley of the Baltimore area, he chose not to join Rose’s program. Anthony identifies himself with both Brooklyn and Baltimore.

Carmelo AnthonyGetty Images

Anthony once scrimmaged with fellow Brooklyn native Toppin at one of his Manhattan pickup games couple of years ago, after Toppin’s freshman year at Dayton when still a relative unknown.

“I think [Obi] came to my ‘black op’ runs one time,’’ Anthony said. “I think he was still at Dayton when he came and played in the runs.

Guys were talking about him, trying to figure out who it was. And then when you watch him throughout that next year at Dayton, just what he did, then we really put everything together, OK, this makes sense.

“But once I knew he was going to be in that top picks, this was a place that I feel like needed him, meaning New York. A great situation for him. Hometown guy. But also just the way that he plays and what he brings to the game. Once he starts to fully develop, I think this city will be happy.’’

Anthony has the scoring record at the new Garden with 62 points versus Charlotte in 2014. (The actual record for Garden scoring is held by Elgin Baylor, who racked up 71 points at the old arena in 1960.)

Anthony’s 62 game stands as the gemstone evening of an otherwise up-and-down seven-year stint — lowlighted by a war with former team president Phil Jackson.

“It was different — especially me having to deal with it day-to-day and just accepting it,’’ said Anthony, averaging 12.6 points for the Blazers, but shooting just 38.5 percent. “Never complaining, come in and be a professional and be there for my teammates and just play ball. I was able to still get on the court and block everything out, still try to figure out a way to find joy in that and in that eye of the storm.”

Anthony seconded his buddy LeBron James in saying the impromptu All-Star Game is not necessary but added a qualifier.

“I don’t think it’s right,’’ Anthony said.

I don’t really know the details that are happening with that, so if they feel it’s the right thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. They know best, not me.’’

Thibodeau, who has raved about Julius Randle’s leadership ability since OTAs, said he hasn’t made Randle the official captain yet.

“He’s been the veteran leader, but I want a team of leaders,’’ he said. “It’s more about doing the right thing every day. You want the veterans to set the example and bring the young guys along.’’

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