The New York Knicks take on the Milwaukee Bucks in London on Thursday with the latter in dire need of an upturn in form. The return of Carmelo Anthony to the lineup, as is expected, could be just the tonic but NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo has warned that the pressure put on the veteran's shoulders can have an adverse affect.
Speaking exclusively to GiveMeSport, Mutombo offered his insight on both teams as they prepare to take to the court at the o2 Arena, admitting that the Bucks and Knicks have been hampered by injury this season.
The four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year did though back both franchise's to improve in the future, highlighting their similarities as well as expressing and his hope that an alleviation of pressure on Anthony would lead to greater things for the Knicks, and the player in particular.
"The Milwaukee Bucks have went through a few injuries which was unpredictable and the Knicks, they've had the injury to Carmelo (Anthony)," Mutombo told GiveMeSport.
"They both have new coaches, they have young teams that they are trying to build so I think both teams are going in the same direction.
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"But for now winning, that is a little bit different," the ex-Atlanta Hawks star continued.
He's not wrong there. The Bucks have improved on a disastrous 2013-14 season. They head into Thursday's game with a 20-19 record. At the same point in January 2014 the team was sitting on 7-30. New head coach Jason Kidd has certainly made a positive impact and while the loss of rookie Jabari Parker was a big blow the teams is moving in the right direction.
The New York Knicks meanwhile are in free-fall. Attempting to implement the triangle offense under rookie head coach Derek Fisher and the returning Phil Jackson the team is effectively regressing to its foundations before building again.
Pressure on in New York
A 5-35 record is on course to match the worst ever in the NBA and having traded the likes of J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert the team is left with a lack of experienced, quality players.
As such the pressure on Carmelo Anthony's shoulder is even greater and Mutombo believes that has impacted his ability to turn out All-Star performances this season.
"Sometimes when you carry so much weight of the team and responsibility it can mean you wear out a little bit and I think those are the factors that you see with Carmelo.
"But I hope that he can heal up fast and be able to display his skill and talent tomorrow (Thursday)."
Melo's three point efficiency, rebounding and points per game are down on his previous two seasons but Knicks fans will certainly be hoping that the second half of the season brings better things for both team and player.
The Milwaukee Bucks take on the New York Knicks at NBA Global Games London 2015 at The O2 on January 15. The game is live on BT Sport 1 and on NBA LEAGUE PASS. To follow the NBA in the UK visit www.facebook.com/nbauk