The NBA's third annual Global Games showcase takes center stage in London on Thursday night -- 2 pm local time in Wisconsin -- with the Knicks and Bucks in very different places. While Jason Kidd and the Bucks have bootstrapped their way to a surprising fifth in the calamitous East, the 5-35 Knicks find themselves in a position the Bucks knew all too well a year ago. With 15 straight losses, Phil Jackson's squad sits atop the lottery standings, a full three games ahead of the 7-31 Sixers.
Still, the London Knicks figure to have a fair bit more firepower than the team we've seen struggle mightily over the past month, with both Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire expected to give it a go.
Bad things, man.
That's New York's season in a nutshell. Six months after signing Carmelo to a new nine-figure contract, the Knicks have been throttled by a wicked cocktail of injuries and ineptitude, making the final three months of the season rather anticlimactic. The deconstruction of the team began last week with the move to dump J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert for a pick and salary relief, and it's anyone's guess what happens from here on out. Who stays? Who goes? And will celebrities finally stop showing up at MSG?
There's no real reason for Carmelo Anthony to put off surgery on his ailing knee, but perhaps royalty has its own healing powers. Speaking after a meeting with Prince Harry, Anthony hinted that he may play for the first time in two weeks on Thursday:
"It's London, man,'' Anthony said. "We don't get these chances often. So for me to be able to push myself and at least get back on the court tomorrow night, I'm looking forward to that. Hopefully I can do that. Once I'm back, it's not just about London. If I play tomorrow, I'm going to continue playing. It's a big possibility.''
Officially Anthony and Amare Stoudemire are both listed as probable with sore knees, while Andrea Bargnani is out with a calf injury. None of them played in the Bucks' 95-82 win in New York on January 4.
Four days off have also been good news for the Bucks, as Ersan Ilyasova is expected to come off the bench for the first time since suffering a concussion on December 23 against Charlotte. Kenyon Martin (chest) is questionable after leaving Saturday's loss in Chicago, though he did practice on Wednesday.
The Bucks have climbed all the way back up to fifth in defensive efficiency, though their offense (23rd) has been more or less treading water in the low 20s for the past few weeks. As for the Knicks...well, not surprisingly they don't have much to write home about. They're 11th in defensive turnover rate and 13th in offensive rebound rate, but they're otherwise in the bottom third of the league in everything else, including bottom five in overall offensive and defensive efficiency.
Key Matchup: Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Carmelo Anthony?
Look for Giannis, Khris Middleton and Jared Dudley to be among the guys tasked with checking Anthony, who hasn't played in two weeks and looked a bit hobbled even when the Bucks played the Knicks in November. He'll be the most dangerous player on the court if he suits up, but the Bucks will obviously be hoping his rust will make him less effective on both ends. It's possible the mere presence of Carmelo helps Giannis find an extra gear, too. He's already had his share of battles with Anthony, and he's admitted to getting a bit of extra adrenaline facing the likes of Anthony and Kevin Durant.
Our man James Plowright has been on the London scene the past couple days, serving up practice video and a ton of interesting quotes from Bucks' players and coaches.