Carmelo Anthony definitely wants to play in New York — on Sunday.
He insists he isn't thinking about his future beyond that, and denies circling the Denver Nuggets' lone visit to Madison Square Garden on his calendar.
"Everybody's been circling it for me. So I didn't have a chance to circle this game," Anthony said Saturday after practice at a local sports club.
It's Anthony's opportunity to inherit LeBron James' old role as the superstar who receives a raucous ovation from the Knicks' fans, because they believe he'll soon be joining them.
James passed on the Knicks — "Now they boo him," Anthony said — and the Nuggets' star reiterated Saturday that he hasn't already decided he's Big Apple bound, no matter what has been reported.
"Everybody's got something to say about every situation," Anthony said. "My mind is not made up, my mind is just focused on this game tomorrow. That's really all I'm focused on right now. My mind is not made up, I don't know where that's coming from."
It's not certain Anthony will play. He missed the last two games with a sore right knee, and the Nuggets are calling him a game-time decision. Anthony worked out and said he'll arrive early to the arena to test the knee, but coach George Karl said his gut feeling was that Anthony would try to go.
Anthony seemed to be moving well during his workout, saying he felt better but was still bothered sometimes when running or jumping. If he plays, the Knicks expect him to play well.
"If he's out there, he's going to be a handful," coach Mike D'Antoni said.
One that Knicks fans envision lining up alongside Amare Stoudemire in a powerful front line.
Anthony has refused to sign the three-year, $65 million contract extension that has been on the table since last summer and can become a free agent in July. A resolution will come before then, as Anthony said he has constant discussions with general manager Masai Ujiri and expects a decision one way or the other to be made before February's trading deadline — when the Nuggets would likely deal Anthony if he told them he wasn't coming back.
If Anthony is considering New York, where he was born, lived his first eight years and was married this summer, the Knicks can show him something they couldn't when they tried to recruit James. They have won seven straight and are 15-9, playing their best basketball in a decade, and with Stoudemire in place have a much better chance of convincing a free agent he can win here.
"I think every organization, that would be better," D'Antoni said. "I think that you win, you get more valuable pieces."
Whether he comes or not, Anthony has already helped the Knicks. He last spoke to Stoudemire after the Nuggets' 120-118 victory in Nov. 16 in Denver that dropped New York to 3-8. Anthony said he told his friend to "get them boys on track, to do what he's got to do."
The Knicks are 12-1 since, and Stoudemire tied a franchise record in Friday's 101-95 victory at Washington with his seventh straight 30-point game.
"It sunk in and he's doing everything I told him to do," Anthony said.
Though the game is getting attention in New York and Anthony joked that all of Brooklyn might be in attendance, Karl said it's just another game for the Nuggets. Anthony is treating it the same way for himself.
"I haven't been distracted all year by anything, everything that's going on, so I'm not going to let just one game like that," he said. "If anything I'll be excited, but I won't be distracted."