NEW YORK (AP)-- Carmelo Anthony wanted New York and Knicks fans wanted him — if the price was right.
The Knicks probably exceeded it when they acquired him six years ago this month, setting expectations Anthony was eager to face but is increasingly unlikely to ever meet.
But if his time in New York is almost up, if the Knicks really are considering moving on without him, a word of warning.
"He had 25 (points) in one quarter this year. Very recently," LeBron James said. "So you tell me. How many guys do that?"
Not many, but that hasn't stopped round-the-clock trade speculation over the last couple of weeks, with still a couple more until the NBA trade deadline.
If Anthony is dealt, he will leave without leading the Knicks to a title, or even getting particularly close. For his many critics, that will make it easy to label him a disappointment, especially by those who never wanted him in the first place at the cost of three starters and a top reserve off a promising team.
But Mark Jackson, a former Knicks guard and current ABC analyst, cautions the failure belongs to the Knicks, one of the NBA's sorriest franchises of the last 15 years, and not Anthony.
"You don't win with just one person," Jackson said. "He's a great player, a future Hall of Famer, there's no question about it. So to me, it's been team-wise, they haven't been successful overall. But what he's done and what he's been able to do should be acknowledged and recognized. He's one of the great Knicks."
On Saturday, Anthony passed Earl Monroe, who was on one of the Knicks' two championship teams in a four-year span in the 1970s, to move into seventh place on the franchise's career scoring list. He'll soon move into the top 25 on the NBA's career scoring list, and with his collegiate and international championships, he should easily get into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
"Listen what he's done in this game ... national championship at Syracuse as a freshman, that's hard. What he's done with FIBA basketball, I said (earlier this season), the Olympics, world championships, how he represented our country, it's fantastic," said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, a Knicks assistant when Anthony was acquired. "He's had a fantastic career. Still a heck of a player."
Opposing coaches agree, denying any slippage in Anthony's game, even as his scoring and shooting percentage have fallen at 32. But President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson apparently isn't convinced, with reports the Knicks have contacted the Cavaliers, Clippers and Celtics about an Anthony trade.
Anthony wants to stay in New York and he can, given his no-trade clause that allows him to veto any deal, but some supporters are ready to see him go.
The boos were noticeable as Anthony's shot was off in a recent game and again Saturday in a loss to Cleveland. One fan's impatience was evident after a particularly bad shot.
"Two more years of that, you've got to be kidding me!" he screamed.
Anthony angered some fans before he ever arrived by pushing for a trade and a more lucrative contract. Anthony was set to be a free agent in July of 2011, but instead, he sought a swap that would allow him to sign a more profitable extension, and the Knicks ended up sending Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Timofey Mozgov to Denver.
The deal paid off for a time. The Knicks made the playoffs the season Anthony arrived, their first appearance since 2004, and in 2012 won a postseason game for the first time since 2001, ending an NBA-record 13-game skid in the postseason. New York won 54 games and dethroned Boston to win the Atlantic Division championship in 2013, with Anthony winning the NBA scoring title as the Knicks reached the Eastern Conference semifinals.
They've since returned to their losing ways, on pace to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season. Maybe that makes it easier for Anthony to accept a trade to a contender, if Phil Jackson is able to find one.
The Knicks have gone down that road before when they traded Patrick Ewing in 2000. Anthony, by just about any measure, has had the best Knicks career since.
Soon it might be over.
"He's a great player and he can care less, he's going out and getting the job done and I've seen teams push guys out and wish they had him back," Mark Jackson said. "He's the one guy with all due respect to everybody else that you have to as an opposition, that you have to game plan against, and he's the one you highlight."