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Knicks vs. Nuggets: The ghost of Melo's future? (7pm MST)

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The bad news? The Nuggets have to play their fourth set of back-to-back games this season when the Knicks arrive at Pepsi Center on Tuesday night. The good news? The game isn't in Phoenix.

10 games into the 2010-11 NBA season, reality is setting in for Carmelo Anthony's current team - our Denver Nuggets - and his possible future team - the New York Knicks.

After a great training camp and a (mostly) good nightly effort, the Nuggets record is nothing to brag about at 5-5, even though Melo is playing some of the best all-around basketball of his career. Comparatively, the Knicks - after having a supposedly good training camp themselves (although you can't believe anything that comes out of the New York media anymore) - have dropped five straight games, look as bad as last season and sit at 3-7. Now you see why Denver isn't jumping for joy at the prospect of trading their best player since Alex English in exchange for Danilo Gallinari, Anthony Randolph and Eddy Curry's expiring corpse (more on those three under "Knicks Stiffs" below).

Records aside, I've long maintained that Melo's best "basketball situation" resides here in Denver with the Nuggets having ample cap space after this season is over, a few good young players on board for the supporting cast and an eager management team in place to build a long-term winner around #15. But the allure of the Big Apple remains strong for Melo, who was born in Brooklyn and reportedly grew up as a Knicks fan. Simply put, unless Melo re-signs with Denver or accepts a trade elsewhere, the Melo-to-the-Knicks rumors will never die. And it doesn't help that the Knicks are engaged in borderline tampering through their surrogates such as Spike Lee and Isiah Thomas.

When the Knicks take on our Nuggets on Tuesday night, Melo will get a close-up view of the team he might theoretically be joining some day. Like our Nuggets, the Knicks are undersized but have a number of dynamic athletes on the roster who can out-score an opponent on any given night. Unfortunately for New York, they can't out-shoot anyone, evident by the Knicks currently ranking third-to-last in team field goal percentage. And thus, when New York's already suspect shooting goes south it's inevitable they'll lose the game. Since head coach Mike D'Antoni's arrival two seasons ago, defense has been optional in New York...so the Knicks rely on a variation of D'Antoni's seven-seconds-or-less offense that worked well in Phoenix where he was loaded with talent.

Knowing Melo could some day be wearing a Knicks uniform, the team in blue and orange will want to make a good in-person impression. They'll also be playing on a full day's rest. The Nuggets, on the other hand, will be playing on no rest having just lost to a Phoenix Suns team that was also playing on no rest (although frankly, the Suns could beat the Nuggets in Phoenix if they were playing a double-header and the Nuggets had had a week of rest). Point being, the Nuggets can't use these back-to-backs as excuses, especially against poor outfits like the Knicks.

If the Nuggets insist on playing .500 basketball in the coming weeks, those Melo-to-the-Knicks rumors will become louder and louder and louder. NBA.com's David Aldridge reported on Monday that "the Nuggets have that trade that would send Anthony to the Nets in their back pocket", but I'm not sold that Melo has signed off on being a Net. You have to believe that Melo would much rather be playing for D'Antoni alongside Amar'e Stoudemire than playing for the defense-first, control freak Avery Johnson alongside Brook Lopez.

What I do know is that if the Nuggets don't get their act together on the court soon, Melo won't sign off on being a Nugget, either. If that scenario comes to pass, his current team will get to choose between a Gallinari/Randolph combination or getting two meaningless first round picks for the best player they've had in 20 years.

SCOUTING THE KNICKS...

Knicks Non-Stiffs

-Amar'e Stoudemire: Oh, what a difference Steve Nash makes - just ask Shawn Marion. Melo's wedding toast buddy Stoudemire has seen all of his numbers drop (except personal fouls and turnovers, which are up) since joining the Knicks, but he remains a force to be reckoned with in the post.

-Wilson Chandler: Chandler is a microcosm of the current New York Knicks. He puts up 17.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg and 2.3 bpg. All good numbers. But he does so while shooting an inefficient 42.4% from the field.

-Raymond Felton: Felton has been an upgrade for the Knicks at point guard, averaging a career-high 15.5 ppg and 7.4 apg.

Knicks Stiffs

-Eddy Curry: Robbing the fans blind since 2007, amazingly Curry isn't even 28 years old yet.

-Danilo Gallinari: Drafted ahead of Eric Gordon and Brook Lopez (hell, even Robin Lopez is better), Gallo is "shooting" 36.7% from the field in what should be his best season to date. Watching Gallo play, getting nothing for Melo might be a better option should the Nuggets deal with the Knicks.

-Anthony Randolph: Talk about not improving your trade value. Randolph's 24% shooting makes Gallo look like a marksman.

NON-MELO SUB-PLOT TO WATCH

Newest Nugget Al Harrington spent two years as a Knick before coming to Denver and will be facing off against his old teammates for the first time. As further proof that being in the country's biggest media market means something, Harrington even had his own shoe while playing in New York. Not shoe contract, mind you, his own shoe. This is why Melo's team has convinced him that he can make up in endorsements whatever he loses in salary and taxes should he play for the Knicks in 2011-12.

FINAL THOUGHT

Under normal circumstances, being .500 at this point in the season wouldn't be a big deal considering the difficulty of the Nuggets schedule. But with every game possibly affecting Melo's decision-making, we need wins early and often. Trouncing the Knicks and showcasing their myriad of flaws as a basketball team and organization won't hurt.

Opposition's Take: Posting and Toasting