Melo scores 35, and assist from Kobe


NEW YORK -- Kobe Bryant probably didn't intend to give his Olympics teammate, friend and presumed recruiting target Carmelo Anthony a blueprint, detailing perhaps the only way Anthony can rationalize staying in New York rather than opt for free agency this offseason -- because of the perennial reminders that Knicks management has no idea how to build a championship team.

But that's what Bryant sort of inadvertently did Sunday during a lengthy pregame interview, before the swooning Lakers lost 110-103 to the Knicks in their one regular-season visit to Madison Square Garden.

Bryant said that sometimes a franchise player like him -- and like Anthony -- needs to bite back at his own club if he doesn't like how things are going. Speak up. Publicly flex some power. Forget about being the Nice Guy.

Demand a culture change rather than risk going down in NBA history as, say, one of the greatest scorers who never won a title -- a label Bryant will avoid but Anthony has yet to shed.

"It is important for the organization to understand the level of competitiveness that you have, that you won't tolerate having a team that is not in contention for an NBA championship -- which is what I did [in 2006 and 2007]," Bryant said. "It rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. But sometimes you got to kick down a few doors and piss some people off and trust that it will pay off in the long run."

"If you are willing to do that," Bryant added, "more times than not, you will be OK."

Anthony hasn't shown the stomach to do anything close to that here in New York. Earlier this season, he initially caused a stir by saying he did intend to opt out and explore the free-agency market -- only to moonwalk back from the statement a month later and say he wants to retire as a Knick. Nor did Anthony call out J.R. Smith for his numskull antics and failure to know game situations before or after coach Mike Woodson finally did so, benching Smith. Anthony should've come down on Smith, too.

But with the NBA trade deadline now just over a month away, the pressure is going to rachet up, on both the Knicks and Anthony, to declare their intentions a bit more.

The Knicks have to decide whether they should trade Anthony rather than risk letting him walk without getting any compensation. That would only add to the franchise's already long list of disasters.

But Anthony needs to figure out what he wants to do, too, rather than let his future just happen to him. And if, by some chance, he really does want to stay in New York, it wouldn't be the craziest decision ever.

The Garden was electric Friday night when Anthony poured in a franchise-record 62 points against the Charlotte Bobcats. It's not hard to imagine how nuts the city would be if Anthony was the guy who ended 40-plus years without a championship, dating back to Red Holzman and Clyde Frazier and Earl Monroe.

"This is the mecca of basketball," Bryant said. "There is so much history here and the culture of the game and what this building means. This is the last one left in terms of all the history."

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