Carmelo Anthony explains what it will take to return to Knicks next season

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NEW ORLEANS – Carmelo Anthony says he still wants to retire a New York Knick under one circumstance: The struggling team must show him a strong plan in the offseason toward building itself into a title contender.

"At the end of the season it will be the time where everything will have to be laid out and be on the table from both parts," Anthony said during Eastern Conference All-Star media availability on Friday afternoon. "If it's something that we grow with, we can build on, we can compete with at the highest level, we're rolling. If that's not the plan that we have, then we have to talk about something else."

Anthony said that he plans to opt out of his contract after this season to test the free-agent market. The seven-time All-Star, however, also said his "first priority is to stay" with New York. Anthony arrived to the Knicks via a trade from the Denver Nuggets in February 2011 after asking to be dealt.

"I don't want to be traded," Anthony, 29, said. "I've said it before that I wanted to retire as a Knick. That's something I wasn't just [expletive] with. I said it. I meant it. That's how I feel."

Anthony also said, "Let's figure that out together. Just because I said I want to be a free agent doesn't mean I'm going to leave. I've never been a guy coming into a situation where it's not going well to leave like that. That's not my style. That's not my personality."

By opting out of his contract with a year remaining, Anthony will turn down being paid $23.3 million during the 2014-15 season. However, he could sign a new five-year contract paying as much as $129 million with the Knicks, which is more than any other team can offer. Anthony said he can get paid no matter where he goes, and he is more worried about the talent around him.

Anthony added that he "knows for a fact" he will not be traded prior to Thursday's trade deadline, nor is he seeking a trade. He said he didn't feel like it was his last All-Star game representing the Knicks. An NBA source said the Knicks will not trade Anthony during the All-Star break and that the team is hoping to add some talent prior to the trade deadline to help.

"I don't think there is any way possible I will be traded," Anthony said. "I don't think they're considering it. … If they felt that they wanted to get rid of me, I feel we would have already had that [discussion]."

Even more, Anthony said he is willing to take a pay cut to help the Knicks bring in better players. He also added that "there is no better place in the world" to play a basketball game than in New York's Madison Square Garden.

"If it takes me taking a pay cut, I'll be the first person to say, 'Take my money,' " Anthony said.

Anthony said he expected New York to take a "step forward" after winning 54 games last season, but instead it has been a "step back." The Knicks' disappointing 20-32 record at the All-Star break sits them 10th in the lackluster Eastern Conference. Anthony described the Knicks' season as a "roller coaster" and expressed embarrassment about Wednesday night's home loss to the struggling Kings (18-35).

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So how is Anthony coping with the losing?

"Body armor. You got to have that body armor," said Anthony, who is averaging 27.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists this season. "You got to build this wall around you and just take it. A lot of times people go through stuff they're not ready for. I wasn't ready for this season and the way that it is going.

"But just as far as just all the things that come along with it, I kind of embrace myself for that. Nobody can tell me from their own experiences how to deal with my experience. It's a learning curve for me. But I prepare myself for a lot of what is going on by not reading [about it] or listening to it, not feeding into it. I'm just focusing on what I need to do to make the team better."

The Knicks also have a coach who appears to be on the hot seat in Mike Woodson. But when Anthony thought a reporter was dancing around a question about whether Woodson would be fired, the small forward said with a laugh: "Do I think he is going to be fired? Just ask me that question. You don't have to beat around the bush. We have practice in Memphis on Monday. 'Woody' will be there, plain and simple."

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