The questions swirled around Carmelo Anthony like a nor'easter wind as soon as he arrived in New York.
Can you fit into Mike D’Antoni’s system? Can you share the ball with Amare Stoudemire? Can you even share the court with Stoudemire?
Perhaps the best answer to the endless inquiries came late in the first half on Sunday, in the final game of the Knicks’ season.
With 7:12 to go in the second quarter, Delonte West fouled Landry Fields on a breakaway attempt and stood over the Knicks rookie with clenched fists. Seconds later, Anthony arrived on the scene with Stoudemire, who shoved West to the side, out of Fields’ way.
A brief skirmish followed. Both Stoudemire and West received technicals.
Anthony wanted to show West that “you’re not going to stand over the top of one of my teammates while you block a shot.”
Anthony had gotten his point across, standing side-by-side with Stoudemire.
The play seemed inconsequential in the wake of the Celtics’ four-game first-round sweep of the Knicks.
But after the game, D’Antoni said chemistry development between Anthony and Stoudemire is one of the biggest long-term issues facing the franchise.
“I felt toward the end, especially the second half, Amare and Melo were having a good chemistry together,” D’Antoni said. “…. And I think that’s something, going forward, that needs to be resolved. But I do think it’s easily doable.”
A banged-up Stoudemire posted a double-double in the Knicks’ Game 4 loss to Boston. Anthony hit for 32 and grabbed nine rebounds. No chemistry issues there.
But there’s no doubt Stoudemire and Anthony struggled to play together at different points in the season.
Too often, Stoudemire seemed to get lost in the background while Anthony took over on offense, particularly late in the regular season as the Knicks reeled off seven straight wins. Sure, the team was winning.
But in order for the Knicks to do anything of consequence, they need Anthony and Stoudemire to perform at their peak -- together.
That much was clear in the playoffs. Stoudemire dominated Game 1 (28 points on 12-of-18 shooting) while Anthony struggled, missing 13 of 18 shots.
With Stoudemire sidelined in Game 2, Anthony soared, tying a career playoff high with 42 points.
On Sunday, Anthony said that he and Stoudemire “learned a lot” from each other over the past 32 games.
“The sky is the limit,” Anthony said. “He is only going to get better and we are only going to get better as a team. We have only been together for two months. I have learned a lot from him … I am sure he has learned a lot from me. We are going to make it work.”
No matter what happens over the next three seasons, Anthony is happy that he has a permanent home. Melo-Drama is in his rear-view mirror.
“I will never forget this season,” he said.
Now, he says, he is focused on bringing a winner to New York.
Said Melo: “This is the first step in something great to come."