It is possible the Charlotte Hornets will be the last team to face Carmelo Anthony in a New York Knicks uniform.
It is unlikely that the Knicks star will be traded before Saturday’s game against the Sacramento Kings, but the rumors and reports continue to swirl around the organization and it’s most prominent player. The latest is that Anthony could be acquired by the Los Angeles Clippers - home of fellow banana boat fellow Chris Paul - for less than another superstar player.
While the strength of trade talks involving Anthony wax and wane, the reality is that at 32 the aging star does not fit the timetable for this team. Anthony is the most successful and talented player to play his home games at Madison Square Garden since Patrick Ewing in the 90s, but his successor is waiting in the wings.
Last summer was a grasp for relevance, and the New York Knicks brought on board Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, and Brandon Jennings in an attempt to spark a playoff run. Instead, the Knicks are seven games under .500, Derrick Rose is kicking up clouds of off-court drama, and Noah looks like the worst signing in a summer filled with overpays.
Regardless of if and when, the Hornets have to play the Knickerbockers Friday night, and they cannot afford to overlook this opponent, turmoil or no. Their playoff hopes hang in the balance entering the next few weeks. Four teams are lurking below them in the standings, and with games against Golden State, Houston, Utah, and Toronto before the All-Star Break, the Hornets cannot afford to lose the “easy” ones.
Anthony has historically owned the Hornets, setting his career high in 2014 with a 62-point shellacking at the Garden. He dropped 35 points and 14 rebounds in a November matchup that the Hornets barely eked out in overtime. The next night, unicorn Kristaps Porzingis dominated Charlotte to give the Knicks the win. Charlotte cannot afford to overlook either.
Kemba Walker will take the court for the first time after being named an All-Star reserve Thursday night, and the New York crowd will be ready to ridicule Walker for being named to the team ahead of Anthony and Porzingis if he doesn’t perform. Walker dropped 26 points and 8 rebounds on the Warriors Wednesday night, but he needs to improve his efficiency for the Hornets to find an easy win.
Charlotte is favored Friday night, and they have the All-Star point guard and the successful coach. But if they cannot slow down Anthony and the Knicks, they could see themselves playing their last game of the season a lot sooner than they hoped.