Carmelo Anthony deserves nothing but respect from the Madison Square Garden faithful when he returns to New York as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, according to Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis.
"I think he was as professional as he can be in his time here in New York, so I don't see why (fans) would not receive him with love," Porzingis said of Anthony's return, according to ESPN's Ian Begley.
Porzingis spoke before Thursday's game against the Nets, but later suffered a knee injury in the contest. He's listed as questionable for Saturday.
"He was here for a long time," Porzingis added of Anthony's often-stormy six-and-a-half seasons with the Knicks. "He was trying to do the right things to win, but it was just not clicking. It was not the right pieces around him to make that happen."
Anthony arrived in New York via trade from the Denver Nuggets during the 2010-11 season, and helped the Knicks reach the playoffs three straight years. But the bottom fell out after that, with the franchise last making the postseason in 2013. Anthony began taking heat over his isolation-heavy style and due to the large haul the Nuggets received in exchange for him. He also later butted heads with former team president Phil Jackson.
It isn't lost on many that the Carmelo-less Knicks have a slightly better record (15-13) this season than the so-far disappointing Thunder (13-14). Yet, his former New York teammates were quick to downplay any suggestion that his departure has anything to do with it.
"If Melo was here, we would’ve made that adjustment with him," Knicks guard Courtney Lee said, via the Daily News' Stefan Bondy. "So you can't just pinpoint it at him and say, 'Well he left and we made these adjustments.' The style of play was going to be different from last year regardless."
Lee thinks many in the Knicks' jaded fan base will cheer Melo on Saturday - but not everybody.
"I think it will be a mixed reaction," he said.