NEW YORK -- For the third straight game at Madison Square Garden, the boos came cascading down from the Chase Bridges.
Carmelo Anthony could not have imagined this would be the sound track to the opening stages of his impending free-agency season. Six games into a season in which Anthony has already called a team meeting to ramp up the Knicks' urgency and effort, the team looks as motivated as Eddy Curry.
Mike Woodson's team was humiliated at home by the San Antonio Spurs 120-89, in a game that was over at the tip.
"It was embarrassing," Anthony said. "It wasn't about losing a game. It was just how we lost the game. We didn't compete today and it showed out there on the court."
Even Latrell Sprewell, who notoriously despised getting up for these Sunday matinees, would've been appalled. The Knicks were down 21-4 within minutes, and unlike against Minnesota last Sunday, Woodson's team would not make a face-saving run at the end.
Sunday's Spurs debacle wasn't an isolated incident, or one the Knicks can just chalk up to the occasional no-show that happens in the NBA. They're not competing. And at this rate, the only thing Anthony will be contending for this season is another scoring title.
With such a grim early outlook, Anthony must be wondering what's in store for him and his team this season. The Knicks superstar will likely opt out of his contract and become a free agent next summer. And while the odds are probably in the Knicks' favor of him staying (he likes it in New York and can sign for more money), Anthony can't like what he is seeing.
The Knicks lost leadership and experience with the departures of Jason Kidd and Kurt Thomas, among others. They are dangerously thin inside with Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin playing limited minutes. And even though their defense is nonexistent with Tyson Chandler out, the Knicks' effort has left much to be desired.
If frustrated, however, Anthony isn't letting it show as he tries to lead the Knicks out of this early mess.
"I have to remain very confident, very positive for this locker room and hopefully my teammates feed off of that," he said. "I have to bring it every day, that mentality, that attitude, because if not, they follow my lead.
"If I'm in here being negative then they're going to be in here being negative, moping around, and then the morale is down. We can't have [that], not right now. It's easy to go into that place, but we're not going to allow that."
If the Knicks don't start improving, Anthony will lose patience eventually. He's human and can't do everything by himself. Yes, he needs to play better and score like he did last season. Actually, he likely has to be even better than he was last season, which ended with him nabbing his first scoring title.
But he also needs help. And even with Chandler, who's out four to six weeks with a broken leg, in the lineup, there's not enough around. On Sunday, Anthony scored 16 points on just 10 shots. Gregg Popovich doubled Melo and dared the other Knicks to beat his team.
J.R. Smith missed 8 of 9 shots in his return from suspension. Iman Shumpert missed 4 of 5; Raymond Felton missed 7 of 10. The only Knicks to match Melo's five field goals were Andrea Bargnani (16 points) and Metta World Peace (13 points)
But most alarming was how the team sleepwalked out of the gate, at home, for the third straight game -- a trend that has done nothing to pacify the team's impatient owner and fan base.
Owner James Dolan could not have envisioned his team falling behind by as many as 37 points to the Spurs. And each boo is only going to intensify the boiling pressure felt at Madison Square Garden around a team that Dolan fully expects to compete for a championship.
"This city and this organization is not known for being patient," Anthony said. "But right now we have to figure it out. If patience is the way to go, then patient we have to be. There's no panic button being pushed right now. We have to figure it out."
Anthony understands that the Knicks aren't going to hit every shot. But the overall effort must get better. He has already implored his teammates to step it up once, and they responded by beating undermanned Charlotte before laying down for the Spurs.
It's evident that Melo is going to have to do a lot more this season in order for the Knicks to win. And he needs more help from his teammates, Woodson and GM Steve Mills, who will probably try to pull a rabbit out of his hat and trade for another star.
Anthony is patient right now. But how long will that patience last? He won't, and can't, tolerate more games like Sunday's loss.
"I'm not worried," Anthony said afterward. "But we do have to figure it out. Whatever it is we have to figure it out quickly.
"I guess there's more that I can do," he added. "Whatever that is I don't know, but I just got to do it. We'll figure it out. I'm very confident that we'll figure this out."