As far as their recent history shows, it can be said that the New York Knicks had a successful season. Led by Carmelo Anthony — who led the league in scoring with 28.4 PPG — the Knicks made it past the first round for the first time since the Allan Houston/Latrell Sprewell Knicks back in 2000. They won 54 games, made 891 threes (An NBA Record), sent two of their players to the All Star Game (Anthony, Tyson Chandler), as well as J.R. Smith who toned down the recklessness in his game enough to win the 6th Man award…. in a contract year. Carmelo has emerged as the biggest marquee star the Knicks have had since Patrick Ewing. More than that, he wants to be a Knick, can handle the city’s media glare & understands its major market pressures. That’s the good part. Here’s the bad part: he wants to do it on his terms with the team revolving around his skill set. Now you might be saying, “So?! All star players would want this”, & you would be right. Just as long as you understand this: No team (much less the Knicks) will ever win a title as long as Carmelo is your best player playing the way that he does. Not even close.
People believe that Carmelo coming to New York brought the Knicks back on the map. Well let’s rewind back a few years ago to the summer of 2010. Back then, the Knicks cleared all of their cap space & bad contracts to land some major stars. They figured with their blank salary cap slate, the allure of playing in a major market, & all the business opportunities available because of it, that they would go full throttle after LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, & Amar’e Stoudemire to come play for them & make their franchise relevant again. But after the way they handled/bungled/mangled the last decade….. actually, let’s list just some of the events & decisions that was made:
- They traded their long-time franchise player Patrick Ewing after 15 years with the team without letting him know beforehand. (Ewing found out about the trade in his car while in traffic);
- Had one playoff appearance since 2001;
- Signed Eddy Curry to 6yr/$56M contract;
- Signed Jerome James to a $30M contract;
- Not letting Stephon Marbury know that his father (in the stands at the time) suffered a heart attack & was rushed to the Hospital until after the game. He died before Stephon could get to see him;
- Signed Jerome James to a $30M contract. No, this is not a typo.
Surprisingly, all the big named free agents blew their offers off, except for Amar’e. So while Miami became a conglomerate onto itself, the Knicks signed Stoudemire & his uninsurable knees to a 5 yr/$100M deal. Everyone expected the Knicks to flounder with only one star player surrounded by a bunch of young bucks & role players. Instead, he put the team on his back, raised the level & value of Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, & Wilson Chandler, & had the buzz back in MSG while playing like an MVP candidate the first half of the season (26.1 PPG/8 RPG). Everyone noticed including Melo in Denver, whose impending free agency was hanging around his team like a stale fart…. while at the same time, he started angling his way to get to the new hot team. Once Jim Dolan caught wind that Melo wanted to come to New York & that the negotiations between the two teams weren’t going fast enough, he took over the meetings, and offered up all his new valued assets with the desperation of a man offering to pay rent & hand wash panties on a first date. Yes, even though Melo had an opt-out a few months later & could have just signed with the Knicks outright, they went ahead & traded Gallinari, Chandler, Felton & Timofey Mozgov for Carmelo & Chauncey Billups.
After a hero’s welcome for a hometown boy (even though up until then, we all thought he was raised in Baltimore but whatever), he played in his first game vs. Milwaukee, & went 10 – 25 from the field in a 114 – 108 win. TWENTY FIVE SHOTS!!! This was eventually a precursor for things to come. You know how the rest turns out, he spends the rest of the season struggling to fit his game with Amar’e but the Knicks still sneak into the playoffs. Lost quickly to Boston in the 1st round. Then after the team gets off to a rocky start after the lockout, Melo gets hurt, Linsanity begins, the team shares the ball & starts winning games…. until Melo starts complaining about his touches in the offense. Mike D’Antoni resigns, Stoudemire’s knees continue to erode, and they make the playoffs under a new system on the fly, and lose again quickly in the 1st round to the Heat.
Now we have this season where Melo is playing the four & has his best regular season as a Knick. In an offense designed for him, he gets to do what he does best: Shoot from wherever & whenever he wants. We kept hearing how much veterans like Jason Kidd helped him to become a better leader, and a more mature, complete basketball player. Maybe it did to an extent….. But it didn’t totally reflect in his stats:
2011-12 Melo: 22.6 PPG/6.3 RPG/3.6 APG/43% FG/33% 3FG/1.1 SPG/0.4 BPG
2012-13 Melo: 28.7 PPG/6.9 RPG/2.6 APG/45% FG/38% 3FG/0.8 SPG/0.5 BPG
It also didn’t reflect in the playoffs either. In 12 playoff games this year, he shot the ball 24 times or more in 9 games. During the first 5 games of the six-game Boston series, he had 6 assists. In the Pacer series, he shot 65 – 150 (43% FG). Take away the stats in Games 2 & 6, and he shot 38%. Ironically enough, it’s right around his playoff averages as a Knick (39.9%). He had a teammate (Chandler) indirectly call him out for the way that the offense was sticking to his hands. He had more fouls (29) than assists, steals, and blocks combined (14). I’m not expecting him to turn into Magic, or even LeBron all of a sudden. He’s a scorer and that’s his strength. I understand this. But he’s gotta affect the game in more ways than just his scoring. I always believe at some point, the team takes on the traits and personality of their leader. So when I watch the Knicks playoff games & observe guys going one on one, taking up chunks of the shot clock before heaving up a low percentage shot, it says something about Carmelo.
You always hold onto the hope that the potential of people can be reached, but after a while, you realize that this is who they are. Eventually, you realize that with some people, the only thing that changes about them are their clothes. Anthony is headed into his 11th season. He’s only been out of the first round twice. Unless he has an epiphany in the next couple of years and changes his game where he makes his team better, this is who he is. If you’re a Knicks fan, you may want to get prepared to see him sit beside Dominique Wilkins, Allen Iverson, George Gervin, and every other historical gunner who ended his career without a ring….
……. & maybe that’s just how it’s supposed to be.
Cal Cee // South Shore Ave
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