GREENBURGH, N.Y. — There were times, Carmelo Anthony acknowledges, he wondered if he made the right decision to stay in New York.
The first season after he re-signed with the Knicks as a free agent was the worst in franchise history. The team went 17-65, with its All-Star forward on the bench for the final two months after knee surgery.
He tried to avoid thinking about whether he should’ve left, but there were times it was difficult.
“As a human being those thoughts definitely come into play,” he said at the team’s training facility. “You sit down at night and you’re thinking, ‘Did I really make the right decision?’ Or just things like that. But not often did I think like that.”
Now he’s not thinking back at all.
The Knicks will have a top-five pick and around $25 million to spend this summer, so Anthony is looking only in one direction after what he called a season that was “definitely challenging.”
“But for me, I’m the one that’s got to face it,” he said. “I’ve got to stand up to it; I’ve got to accept it. We have to accept it, and we’ve got to move on. The season is over. We can’t keep looking back at what happened this season.”
Anthony spoke to reporters for the first time since February’s left knee surgery. He said he is still working to strengthen the knee with plans to be back on the court in June.
That’s about when the Knicks hope to start fixing the team.
They had the second-worst record in the league, giving them a 19.9 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick in the June 25 draft.
Free agency opens a few days after that, with the Knicks well-positioned to spend after team President Phil Jackson gutted the roster in his first full season in charge.
Breaking it down was the easy part. Building it back up could be considerably tougher.
“Now we really and he really gets a chance to put his stamp on what he wants this organization to be about, what he wants this team to be about, what players he wants in here,” Anthony said of Jackson. “So this is the time now where he’s going to step up to the plate.”
The Knicks finished the season with a roster of such little-known players that team officials made only Anthony available after their exit meetings, figuring there was little interest in guys who may not even be back.
Jackson had already traded away most of the ones who had accomplished anything noteworthy in the NBA and will now look to replenish the roster with some who can better execute the triangle offense.
Anthony said he is like a general manager with his own list of players on the board and knows exactly what the Knicks need most.
“Players,” he said, before specifying, “good players.”
He will be 31 soon as he heads into the second season of his five-year, $124 million deal, so he hopes the Knicks will draft someone who will make an immediate impact. He came to New York to play with other stars and compete for titles, and he is currently doing neither.
Yet Anthony refuses to believe it will be that way for long. “There’s definitely hope,” he said.
That depends on whether Jackson, who won a record 11 titles as a coach, rebounds from a difficult first year as an executive. He thought the Knicks could compete for a playoff berth, and the only thing they competed for was the NBA’s worst record.
“Nobody expected the season to be like this. We all expected at least to somewhat compete in the Eastern Conference,” Anthony said. “At the end of the day this next season, for me and for the organization and for Phil, it’s like this is where we earn our money.”
(BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer)