Preparing for Melo's return

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- After Wednesday's shootaround, Steve Novak said that Carmelo Anthony will be rusty to start against the Magic, but he knows that won't last. Novak referred back to games this season in which Melo returned from an injury and still put up big numbers.

In early December, after missing two games, Anthony scored 34 points in a win over the Nuggets. After missing two games in mid-December, he scored 31 points in a win over the Nets. When he missed games in two other occasions, the Knicks barely lost the next Anthony he played; he put up 45 and 39, respectively.

Anthony, who has missed six of the past eight games with a knee injury, said Wednesday he would be ready for that night's home game against Orlando.

"We know he's going to make a big difference," Novak said. "He's a guy we can throw it to and get buckets, and I think at times we've missed that guy to be able to give it to him and let him go to work. When the shot clock's running down, we can throw it to him. I mean, he's such a great scorer that it's going to be a huge benefit to all of us."

Anthony has especially helped the Knicks gain early leads and finish strong. He's averaging an NBA-best 8.6 points in first quarters and a fourth-best 6.8 points in fourth quarters. But what's key for the Knicks looking ahead is enabling Melo's offense to develop better in the flow of things, as it was in the beginning of the season when they went 18-5.

He thrived off more catch-and-shoot opportunities, but when the ball movement stuttered, more of his points came from having to work extra in isolation, facing additional defenders.

What could benefit Anthony this week without Tyson Chandler (neck strain) is the Knicks' new two point-guard backcourt featuring Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton, who are starting together only for the second time. Previously, Jason Kidd played the role of Prigioni, but he thrived as more of a 3-point shooter. Prigioni has recently been making better plays off pick and rolls, and he could help Anthony clear some space to take more open shots.

The Knicks also need to continue their defensive prowess shown in their last two games in order to find Anthony for transition 3-pointers. He has been huge in that area this season. Overall, shooting is his greatest gift and the team needs to get him in better positions to do that. He can still score in the low post if needed, but it shouldn't be a constant as it gets to be grind, stalls the offense and he's not a great passer to the weak side.

Woodson was asked about potential adjustments with having his star player back, but he's not planning any.

"Nothing's going to change for Melo," he said. "I think when you average 28 points per game, [you don't] all of a sudden you change your system. Melo's been great at scoring the basketball and everybody around him has benefited from it as well."

What does Anthony think?

"I'm not trying to rush anything out there on the court," he said. "Just play my game, play basketball, have fun with it and not think about it much."

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