If Melo's smart, he's leaving New York

Melo darted into the lane and made a selfless pass to Raymond Felton, who was unguarded behind the 3-point line. The Knicks had scored all of 38 points in the first half, and had trailed big for most of the game, two truths inspiring the holiday crowd to rise with anticipation for the first time.

Felton shot an air ball. It's almost impossible for an NBA player to shoot an air ball on an uncontested 3, and damn it if Felton didn't pull it off. Kevin Garnett immediately responded with a made jumper, and the home team never again had a shot to cut its deficit to single digits.

The Knicks didn't play any defense, didn't move the ball and didn't seem to care that their neighborhood rivals were making fools of them on national TV.

"That's the only thing that kind of bothers me," Anthony said. "Today we didn't even fight."

So the Garden fans who weren't booing in the end were chanting for Brooklyn. Back in the sanctuary of his locker room, Anthony was asked if it was getting harder to see a championship in New York as a realistic vision.

"It's not getting hard," he said. "Just right now, when you're going through this situation, it kind of blurs everything. It kind of clouds a lot of everything, your thinking, your mentality ..."

Or clears it up. Anthony said he planned to be "patient" with the Knicks, but like Chandler he's clearly frustrated with the constant switching on defense that leaves the Knicks exposed to small-on-big mismatches.

"We just got caught up in the scramble all game," he said.

Woodson, advertised as a defensive specialist, is having a dreadful season, and he's hardly alone. Felton has been a big problem, Iman Shumpert has retreated into another semi-funk and J.R. Smith is one wayward whim away from taking down the whole team with him.

So Anthony has to look at his team from head to toe, and measure the strength of LeBron James' Heat and Paul George's Pacers, and wonder exactly how the Knicks can build a credible title contender in the near term. Does he really believe in the possibility that the Knicks can land Kevin Love in 2015, or that Jay Z will place Kevin Durant in the big city the year after that?

And this isn't an indictment of Jim Dolan's decision to make the Melo trade in the first place. Imagine if the Knicks stayed with Amar'e Stoudemire (broken down), Danilo Gallinari (probably done for the year) and Wilson Chandler (a nice player, nothing more) as their centerpieces. They got Felton back, anyway, and Timofey Mozgov was a useful second-string part needed to complete the deal for a superstar, Melo, who's done plenty more for his franchise than Deron Williams has done for his.

The first-round draft pick this June? That's a killer in a deep draft if the Knicks miss the playoffs, a disastrous prospect in an Eastern Conference that's weaker than Woodson's handling of J.R.

The Knicks are supposed to win their next five home games against sub-.500 opponents, but who would be surprised if they only win one or two? Their best player, Anthony, had declared that it was time "to make something happen," and the Knicks responded Monday by pushing him closer to the Garden door.

"It's a tough situation," Melo said.

He'd be wise to extricate himself from it, too, through a trade or free agency. Anthony wanted to stay in New York for the $129 million max-out deal, and he wanted to believe that victory over Miami in the Garden earlier this month was something more than a fluky reprieve.

But the Knicks are broken and in need of an overhaul. If Melo wants his parade, chances are some other team will have to give it to him.

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