Carmelo Anthony scores and loses in the garden. Sounds familiar?



Before the game in Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, Carmelo Anthony glanced at the rafters. He wondered if his number 7 would be up there someday. The Knicks will ultimately make that decision, he said. But he hoped to advance the process.

"You say you have to introduce yourself in life," he said, "so I introduced myself."

Anthony was back in the garden for the first time in 25 months, this time as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers. He plays again and scores again after reviving his career at the age of 35. Against the Knicks, he dusted off his familiar things: the midfield jumpers, the turnarounds with low posts, the skyscraping 3 hands.

In fact, Anthony was great. He finished the race with 26 points and 7 rebounds while shooting 11 out of 17 from the field. Although a game doesn't define much of everything, it seemed to symbolize Anthony's intricate legacy: so much production and potential, so little to show.

Portland had to give up their fifth loss in a row after the Knicks (117: 93) won their third game in a row under Mike Miller, their interim coach. After that, Anthony expressed mixed feelings. The Trail Blazers have big problems that the Knicks have uncovered. But he also sounded nostalgic and grateful.

Again: it was complicated.

"Love was definitely felt tonight," he said. "I have just returned, I think this feeling is difficult to explain."

During the players' performance, the audience greeted Anthony with a warm ovation – and even cheered when he touched the ball at the start of the first quarter. It was an offensive that would have been familiar to anyone who remembered Anthony from his Knicks days: isolated from his defender near the 3-point line. Iso Melo: Back there! Sure enough, when Anthony considered his options, occasional murmurs grew to a roar. When Anthony finally went over to a teammate, the crowd groaned.

The team officials have not put together a video tribute for Anthony. Like when he returned with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017, but the atmosphere was no less charged. Even when Anthony went to the bank at the end of the fourth quarter, a song appeared: "We want Melo!"

"I think being in town makes you a certain type of person," said Anthony. "And in order for me to accept and want to accept this and to accept this challenge, I think I got the love that I have tonight. And I will continue to get that from this city in the future."

The energy couldn't have been more different when Kristaps Porzingis returned to the garden with the Dallas Mavericks in November. Porzingis was constantly booed during this game. The general opinion among fans, fair or not, was that Porzingis had withdrawn from New York last season, that he had fled from the dysfunction instead of struggling and trying to be part of the solution.