With Carmelo Anthony on board, Knicks work on chemistry in preparation for clash with Heat

New York Knicks' Amare Stoudemire (1) pats Carmelo Anthony (7) on the back after Anthony fouled out of the game in the fourth quarter in an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 115-109. AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
New York Knicks' Amare Stoudemire (1) pats Carmelo Anthony (7) on the back after Anthony fouled out of the game in the fourth quarter in an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 115-109. AP Photo/Tony Dejak) (Tony Dejak - AP)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 26, 2011; 7:32 PM

MIAMI- When the revamped New York Knicks take the court against the Miami Heat Sunday night, fans will see the largest collection of certifiable superstars any Eastern Conference matchup could produce. No two franchises have bigger names or heavier expectations. Yet missing is any sense that these are the East's two best teams.

Certainly not yet.

The Knicks have been "disoriented," in the words of Coach Mike D'Antoni, since management blew up the roster Tuesday to acquire Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups from Denver. And the Heat, whose massive makeover occurred last summer, has been dominant mostly against sub-.500 opponents, going winless in five games against the powerhouse Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls.

"Regardless of [whether] this is my second game or third game, for us it should be a statement game," Anthony said after practice Saturday. "For us to come out here, we want to beat this team. . . . We want to make a statement right now."

So far, the Knicks have spoken in whispers. Since Tuesday's trade, New York won at home against the Milwaukee Bucks but fell miserably Friday night against the lowly Cavaliers. Which is surely why, just eight hours after landing in Miami at 3 a.m. Saturday, D'Antoni summoned his squad to the court for a full two-hour practice.

"We have to have energy and we have to play hard as heck until we get things worked out," D'Antoni said. "At times, in games, we look a little disoriented because we're not on the same page. Yet you just have to fight through it."

As New York worked, Miami took the day off.

The Heat is well beyond the early-season struggles that followed its summer signings of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, and the re-signing of Dwyane Wade. Yet the Heat has been schooled by the Celtics in three meetings, and beaten twice by the Bulls, raising questions about its readiness to contend for the first of the multiple championships James predicted when he signed.

The problem of climbing from excellent to elite is one New York hopes to grapple with soon. The Knicks' immediate issues are far more daunting. A sore elbow aggravated Friday night prevented Anthony from taking any shots with his shooting hand Saturday, though he did participate in the entire practice and said he would play against the Heat.

Anthony's full-bore participation seems critical; Billups said he and Anthony are struggling to absorb a different offensive system, different terminology and differences in style.

"It's very difficult," Billups said. "This is not like any system I've ever played in. It's really like more of a European-type of offense, a lot of motion without the ball. . . . It takes some getting used to."

Even after they master the system, the NBA world will be watching to see how effectively Amar'e Stoudemire and Anthony divvy up the spotlight they have been forced to share. Eyebrows were raised when Anthony took 25 shots in his debut Wednesday against Milwaukee while Stoudemire put up just 13, though on Friday, Stoudemire (27 shots and 31 points) outshot Anthony (22 and 27). To date, each has been most effective when the other has been on the bench.


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