Carmelo, Knicks franchise under intense scrutiny (40346)

Carmelo Anthony is unquestionably one of the NBA’s best players. Early in his career, he was widely viewed as the most versatile scorer in basketball. Now in his 10th season, Anthony, who will turn 29-years-old in May, has gradually evolved into a much better all-around contributor.

But Anthony’s appointed designation to some as the Knicks’ franchise player–and to others an even loftier role as the organization’s savior–has justifiably meant that he is constantly under intense scrutiny. To make matters more pressurized for Anthony, he is inextricably linked to LeBron James, who, at only 28 and also in his 10th year in the NBA, has already been rightfully elevated to the level of the greatest players in history. They will always be tied together–or as long as James remains with the Heat and Anthony and with the Knicks, the former desperately chasing the latter.

“We don’t compare ourselves to Miami,” said Anthony on Sunday, standing in front of his locker after the Knicks lost to the Heat by 99-93 at the Garden. “Miami is Miami … We’ll see them again.” Unfortunately for Anthony, Knicks fans do make the comparison.

It was the Heat’s 14th straight win. They made it 15 in a row on Monday by defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves to extend their record to 44-14. Meanwhile, on the same night, the Knicks overcame a 22-point deficit to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 102-97, to improve to 36-21 in the midst of the most grueling schedule of any team in the NBA. After facing the Detroit Pistons last night (Wednesday), the Knicks host Oklahoma City Thunder tonight and Utah Jazz Saturday before embarking on an eight-day, five-game road trip.

The win over the Cavaliers was completed without Anthony, who injured his right knee in the first half and did not return. He was subsequently fried by fans and media alike for walking off the court after incurring the injury. The criticism comes with being the face of the Knicks and forever being measured against King James.