Cole Anthony missed the new garden experience.
The Manhattan product finally got it on Sunday night and made it a memorable homecoming.
In front of a “crowd” of friends and family — his mother Crystal, sitting in the courtyard on his birthday — Anthony scored 29 points to upset the Magic, career-high 16 rebounds and eight assists in a 110-104 victory over the Knicks.
“It means a lot,” Anthony said. “I’m so happy to be back here. I had a bunch of family and friends in this game. I was looking around the stage and seeing a lot of people I know. I was like, ‘Yo, what’s up? What’s up? What’s going on? Big shout out to all the fans.”
The second-year point guard played at Fanless Garden last January due to an epidemic, then was injured on the second tour of the Magic in March. But in the stands Sunday, 16,273, the son of former Nick Gregg Anthony performed.
Anthony scored 15 points in the first quarter and 21 in the half, and he and Harlem native Mo Bamba (10 points, 13 rebounds) came home to ensure the Magic’s first win.
“I personally think I’m better than my dad,” Anthony said, laughing. “Shout out to Greg.
Anthony — drafted 15th overall in 2020, passing the Knicks to take eighth-place OB Tappin — had the second-highest scoring output of his short-lived career, but it was his rebound. He is listed at 6-foot-2 — he claimed to be 6-foot-3 on Sunday night — but used his motor on all boards.
“The rebound is about the effort,” he said. “It’s about who you want. You need a relapse, go and get it. … At the end of the day, whoever wants more, they get it.
Magic coach Jamal Moseley left Anthony laughing about the show.
“Cole is back home and playing with that toughness and confidence, that resilience,” Mosley said. “The ability to revive the basketball and he made the right plays. He made the simple plays. One of the things he’s getting better and better at making simple plays. He made his teammates better tonight. It’s great to see.”