"I'll tell you what, when he comes back this time it will be totally different."
But with the excitement of his return comes fear, as the Knicks are 30-33 in regular season games started by both Melo and Amar'e.
The situation is pretty ironic. It wasn't too long ago the Knicks were winning without Anthony, who was sidelined with an injury while Linsanity led the charge. We questioned what would happen when Melo returned to the lineup the same way we're questioning whether Amar'e will make the team even better or hold them back.
Stephen A. asked Melo whether or not both he and Amar'e could play together, and the star forward answered with confidence:
"When he comes back, he can fit right in with what we have going on."
Though Anthony gave the politically correct response, he wasn't just being PC. He was also being sincere.
Melo is in a really good position right now, with a sense of security he's never had before.
For one, he has virtual immunity from blame if things go sour. If it turns out the Knicks do struggle with him and Amar'e in the same lineup, he won't be the one getting beaten up by the media.
Anthony also knows that coach Mike Woodson won't hesitate to diminish Stoudemire's role if he's negatively affecting the Knicks' offensive rhythm. No way does Woody play Amar'e just to play him if the team is struggling to win games.
In saying that "it will be totally different," Melo was being sincere in the belief that when he's playing his best basketball, there's not a game plan, defender or team that can stop him. And definitely not a teammate.
Melo is also aware of the fact that Amar'e is a team-first guy who is willing to sacrifice personal production for the success of the group.
Stoudemire averages 14.8 shot attempts per game for his career, and I don't think there's any question that that number will continue to shrink. Amar'e being comfortable with this should make for a more seamless transition process, and one with little chance of harming the team's current on-court chemistry.
Stoudemire knows that the only thing he'll be judged on is the team's overall record. He could come back and score 20 a game, but if the Knicks start losing, he will never hear the end of it.
But if he comes back and accepts whatever is asked of him in order to keep the team rolling, he will be revered as the ultimate teammate, whether he's putting up numbers or not.
The fact that Melo knows Amar'e understands all of this has him at ease.
Anthony also understands the value of having veteran teammates with high basketball IQ. He believes in his teammates and coaching staff's ability to put Amar'e in a position to contribute.
For the first time in his career, Melo completely trusts his teammates, and his teammates completely trust him. Which is why he truly believes he and Amar'e should coexist.
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