Any questions on whether Carmelo Anthony can work together with emerging star Jeremy Lin will likely be answered soon for the New York Knicks.
Anthony is expected to end his seven-game absence due to injury Monday night when they Knicks host the struggling New Jersey Nets.
Lin's sudden and unexpected rise to prominence has come while a strained right groin has sidelined Anthony, the Knicks' All-Star forward and leading scorer. The point guard and former Harvard standout added a new chapter to his story Sunday with 28 points and a career-high 14 assists in a 105-97 victory over reigning NBA champion Dallas, which had previously won a season-high six in a row.
Lin bounced back after committing nine turnovers during an 89-85 loss to New Orleans on Friday.
"(The win over Dallas) is helpful to us, not just to me but to us, just to be able to see where our team can go and what we can become, and I think that's the biggest takeaway from (Sunday),'' Lin said.
J.R. Smith, whom New York signed Friday, scored 13 points in his debut as the Knicks (16-16) earned their eighth victory in nine games.
New York is also expected to get point guard Baron Davis back from a herniated disk in his back within the next week, but Anthony's return could also have an impact on the surging team's newfound chemistry.
"Everybody has to adjust to everybody. It may not be perfect the first week but the potential is there," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It's our job as coaches and their job as players to maximize that potential.
"As long as everybody buys in ... it's going to be fun."
Anthony was in the lineup for Lin's first career start Feb. 6 against Utah, but he played less than six minutes due to his injury. Anthony was averaging 22.3 points before straining his groin, and Lin has averaged 25.0 since Feb. 4, when he scored 25 off the bench in a 99-92 victory over New Jersey. Lin has started all eight games since.
This time, the Knicks will face a Nets team that just got one of its key players back on the court. Center Brook Lopez's season debut wasn't enough to help New Jersey avoid a 92-85 home loss to Milwaukee on Sunday.
Lopez, who sat out the season's first 32 games with a broken right foot after missing none in his first three seasons, had nine points and two rebounds in less than 22 minutes. He averaged 27.0 points last season against the Knicks - his second-best mark against an Eastern Conference foe - and totaled 62 in his two visits to Madison Square Garden
"It felt good," Lopez said of his performance Sunday. "My arch was a little sore, but I think that was just the orthotic. It was just exciting to be out there playing with the guys."
Deron Williams had a team-best 26 points in the loss to the Bucks, his fifth straight game scoring 25 or more. He increased his season average to a career-best 21.7.
While they got Lopez back, the Nets (9-24) learned Jordan Farmar will likely be out until after the All-Star break because of a groin injury. The backup point guard is averaging a career-high 10.5 points this season.
Farmar's absence could make snapping a five-game skid to New York that much tougher. The Knicks have averaged 110.2 points during that streak.
If it can continue its dominance of the Nets, New York would move above .500 for the first time since it was 6-5 on Jan. 12.