How Knicks think Garden faithful will react to Carmelo’s return

More cheers than boos? That’s what Carmelo Anthony’s ex-teammates are expecting Saturday at the Garden.

The Knicks have proven better off without Anthony, new management having made a good trade with Oklahoma City. It has them off to a 15-13 start – better than the Thunder’s 13-14 clip.

Anthony’s six-and-a-half season stint with the Knicks wasn’t a success – one playoff-round victory, the last four years out of the playoffs.

Anthony told The Post recently he expected a fully positive reaction on his return Saturday. His former teammates, though, realize that failed expectations may lead to some boos, but expect more positive than negative.

While Anthony’s best buddy, Lance Thomas, thinks his jersey should be retired one day, he knows that’s probably not happening either. He’ll have to settle for a video montage Saturday — at best.

“I don’t think he deserves to be booed,’’ Thomas said. “You never know. Regardless, he’ll bring his ‘A’ game. We’ll bring ours as well.”

Oklahoma City has not found the chemistry yet and could come to the Garden with a losing record pending their results Friday in Philadelphia. Anthony has had a rough time of it in December. In the last seven games, Anthony is averaging 34.3 percent from the field – 24.1 percent on 3-point shots. Anthony is still averaging 17.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists.

“I think it will be a mixed reaction – more cheers than anything,’’ said Courtney Lee, who has emerged in Anthony’s absence. “You can’t fault the guy for just playing hard and leaving it all out on the court. He tried to help the team win whether it was the style some fans want or didn’t want but he competed night in and night out. And you have to respect him for being a professional and how he handled everything with the media last year. I think it will be more cheers.’’

Unfortunately, the Knicks may be hard pressed to stop the Thunder because they will likely be sans Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr.

“I think he was as professional as he could be in his time here in New York,’’ said Porzingis, who considers Anthony his mentor. “I don’t see why they wouldn’t receive him with love.”

After the Knicks lost the season opener in Oklahoma City, Anthony told The Post, “It’s too far away to think about yet, but it will be a home game for me. (I have) a good feeling. I have a good feel about that one. Coming back and playing in front of those fans. I feel good about that.’’

So only cheers?

“I hope so,’’ Anthony said. “I don’t see why not.’’

Hardaway Jr., who played with Anthony in his first stint, believes Anthony and the Thunder will be on a mission.

“It’s going to be great for him to be back here,’’ Hardaway Jr. said. “He knows the arena [and] the rims very well. We expect him to come out here, no matter how he’s shooting the ball, he’s going to come out and we’re going to treat him like an All-Star. He’s coming back home. We know what the guys have to do when they step on the floor with him. They did a good job getting a win for PG [Paul George] in Indiana so they’re going to try to do the same for Melo coming here.’’

Lee is expecting a fired-up atmosphere.

“It’s going to be an emotional game for [Carmelo], emotional game for the fans because some of them were die-hard Melo fans,’’ Lee said. “Seeing him in a different jersey will be tough [for them].’’

It hasn’t been so tough for the Knicks, who are playing better defense and sharing the ball – two attributes not identified with Anthony. Starting center Enes Kanter and sixth man Doug McDermott, obtained in September for Anthony, have exceeded expectations.

Lee said the Knicks would’ve been fine with Anthony since the dreaded triangle is gone in favor of Jeff Hornacek’s preferred offense.

“If he was here, we would’ve made the adjustment with him,’’ Lee said. “We can’t look at him and say he left and [we] made these adjustments. We were playing this style of play this year with Melo.’’

“I’m biased,’’ Thomas added when someone asked if Anthony’s jersey should be retired one day. “I think it should. He fought for this city but a lot of factors go into that. My yes vote isn’t going to put it up there.’’

Source: https://nypost.com/2017/12/15/how-knicks-think-garden-faithful-will-react-to-carmelos-return/

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