After two weeks of stress and anxiety, Carmelo Anthony was able to breathe easy late Wednesday night.
The Knicks star returned to the floor after a lengthy battle with a mysterious knee injury. He scored 21 points in 33 minutes in a 106-94 win over Orlando.
Afterward, Anthony mentioned four words that should help Knicks fans sleep soundly at night.
"I had no pain," he said. "It's a big relief for me. Especially mentally, emotionally."
And it's an even bigger relief for the Knicks, whose playoff hopes and dreams rest largely with the health of Anthony.
For 16 uncomfortable days, there was a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the superstar.
Back in Cleveland on March 4, Anthony left the Knicks-Cavs game late in the second quarter with knee tightness.
The tightness, later attributed to a fluid buildup, kept him out of the Knicks' next three games.
He tried to return -- naively, he said -- for the Knicks' game against Golden State last Monday. But he was nowhere near the player who was an early season MVP in November, scoring 14 points on 4-for-15 shooting.
He also tried to suit up for the Knicks' next game against Denver -- his first trip back since being traded to New York in 2011.
But, again, Anthony was hobbled by the unexplained tightness in his knee. So he removed himself in the third quarter and opted to return to New York to get the fluid drained.
"I was worried because I didn't really know what the cause of it (was), what was going on," Anthony said. "I knew for sure that it wasn't no ligament damage or anything like that. I just wish I could have gotten to the bottom of it quicker or we could have gotten to the bottom of it quicker."
Anthony said he started feeling tightness in his knee on Feb. 13, right before the All-Star game. He was able to play through the pain thanks to the All-Star break and the Knicks' schedule. But it became unbearable during New York's back-to-back set against Miami and Cleveland on March 3 and March 4.
"Nobody really knew what it was," Anthony said.
The answer truly didn't come for Anthony until he warmed up for Wednesday's game.
He felt good when he hit the floor, and it showed as he knocked down a 3 to open the game. He finished with 14 points in the first half, the most promising two coming on an alley-oop dunk from a Marcus Camby pass.
"I feel good, I feel healthy," Anthony said. "I'm glad I went and got that procedure done and put that behind me."
So are the Knicks.
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