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Carmelo Walks Back That Lin Business [Updated]

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 20: Jeremy Lin #17 and Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks play against the New Jersey Nets on February 20, 2012 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Fairly or not, if the Knicks do not bring back Jeremy Lin — and we'll know by midnight tonight whether or not they're going to match his offer sheet — Carmelo Anthony will take a large part of the blame. The primary reason, of course, is that Carmelo, by hook or by crook, effectively ended Linsanity; he and Lin ultimately ended up meshing fine, but he and then-coach Mike D'Antoni absolutely did not, and the subsequent failings toned down all the Lin madness. When D'Antoni left, this officially became Carmelo's team again, and it has remained that way. (Which it arguably should. Many people argue this!) For many who adored Linsanity and still lament its passing, Carmelo is particularly polarizing: The guy wants to win, but only wants to win his way, with himself at the center of everything. So when Carmelo made his "ridiculous contract" remarks about Lin's offer sheet from Houston, many felt that was a sign from Carmelo to Jim Dolan and the Knicks' front office: Don't re-sign him. This is my team now. Carmelo, perhaps wisely, backed off a bit last night.

After the U.S. national team's not particularly impressive 80–69 win over Brazil last night, Carmelo took great pains to note that he didn't mean any offense to Lin.

“I hope we can get it done, man,” Anthony told after Team USA beat Brazil, 80-69, in Washington. “I would love to see him back. Honestly, I would definitely love to see him back. But knowing the business of basketball, it’s kind of a tough situation for both parties. ... It was ridiculous for them to do what they did as far as throwing that out there and making it tough on us to sign him back. That’s why it’s called free agency, though. ... For Jeremy, I know that he definitely wants to be back in New York and James Dolan definitely wants him back. But it’s just a matter of figuring it out at this point.”

So ... how do we unpack that? As always with Carmelo and the Knicks — why they're such a perfect match, really — it's tough to tell which parts are honest, which parts are disingenuous, and which parts are both. Basically, Carmelo says he really wants Jeremy Lin back but understands why the Knicks wouldn't bring him back. Now, just how much control Carmelo has over the front office is up for debate — on the one hand, he admitted to not playing hard until the coach he didn't like was fired and brought in a ton of veteran friends of his from across the league; on the other hand ... well, there is debate somewhere, we're sure! — so perhaps he, in the big championship push he's supposedly making in this three-year window, is just worried about Jim Dolan's pocketbook. Or he's trying to save face but doesn't really want Lin back. Or maybe he's fighting for him now, this very second. One thing we're sure of: Carmelo Anthony has a lot more say over this than he's pretending he does.

Listen, we love Carmelo. We really do. But if he wants Jeremy Lin back, he'll be back. We know how this works now, right? If there has been one constant since Carmelo joined the Knicks, it's that Carmelo always gets his way. Why should this be any different, one way or the other?

It's gonna be a long day, people.

Update: The New York Times reports that the Knicks will not match Jeremy Lin's offer from the Rockets for $25.1 million over three years.

Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images