By Tolulope Oladele
It has been little over a year since Carmelo Anthony bullied his way to the New York Knicks in hopes of forming a “super team” along with Amare Stoudemire. Anthony lighting it up at Madison Square Garden was a strong aspiration–for both sides–so much so that the New York Knicks were willing to part ways with practically a starting five in Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and Danilo Gallinari for just Anthony and an aging Chauncey Billups.
Before the trade, the starting lineup with Stoudemire was posting a 28-26 record before the Anthony trade and was starting to form great chemistry under former head coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. However, during Anthony’s tenure with the Knicks, the team sports a mediocre 39-39 record and experienced an embarrassing first-round sweep to the Boston Celtics in last year’s playoffs.
Indeed, Anthony’s record with the Knicks has an imaginary asterisk over it, simply because of injuries that plagued both Anthony and Stoudemire during the stretch. But the Knicks’ unimpressive record should also be blamed on the lack of chemistry between Anthony and Stoudemire–exhibited offensively–under the D’Antoni system. Both players have not had the proper time to gel with one another, with Anthony arriving toward the end of last season and the shortened training camp limiting their practice time with one another this season.
As a result, scouts have started to question whether Anthony was even a right fit for the D’Antoni system. The same offensive system made Stoudemire a multiple-time All-Star back in Phoenix because the up-tempo style of play meshed well with his physical gifts. On the other hand, Anthony has been struggling under the same system, averaging his lowest points per game average (20.2) since his sophomore campaign seven years ago.
Anthony’s struggles could be lingering effects from his off-season elbow surgery or the wrist injury from earlier this season, but it seems more likely that they are due to the fact that Anthony is a half-court player who thrives in isolation–something that was not part of D’Antoni’s system. But it is very clear something isn’t right with Anthony, who is shooting a lowly 40 percent from the field and a dismal 30 percent from three-point range on the season.
Despite these shooting woes, the New York brass stood by Anthony and sacked D’Antoni in what was reported as a mutual decision. Under new head coach Mike Woodson, the Knicks are now sitting in the seventh seed in the standings and are 3.5 games behind the Boston Celtics for the Atlantic division lead.
During this “Woodsanity” era, the Knicks and Anthony are, to a certain degree, red hot, but they have also had two huge casualties in both Jeremy Lin (knee) and Amare Stoudmire’s (back) injuries. The Knicks now need Anthony to lead the Knicks –on both ends of the floor–in order for them to solidify their playoff seed and to possibly capture the division crown. To do so, the Knicks will need Anthony to get out of this shooting slump and be the prolific scoring threat that he’s known to be, a scoring machine that has once scored 30 points in a single quarter.
Recently, Anthony has been bothered by critics saying he is too selfish to play alongside Lin.
“It’s a tough situation. I’m human at the end of the day, so it’s like damn, where is this coming from?” Anthony said. “I know I’m not a selfish player. People around me know I’m not a selfish player. I do everything I can to make people around me understand I’m not a selfish player.”
However, Anthony may need to embrace this “selfish” style of play during this stretch to keep the Knicks winning since both Stoudmire and Lin are an essential part of the Knicks’s current offense. It seems that Anthony is starting show signs of shooting touch again, especially after scoring 25 points on 9-15 shooting from the field in a blowout win against the Orlando Magic.
It will be really interesting to see how Anthony responds during this stretch because this where Anthony fought to be when he stiff-armed his way to the Knicks last year. He wanted the spotlight and to be “the man,” and now is his chance to do so. There is no room for error given that he doesn’t have Stoudemire to back him or Lin to work miracles right now. Anthony must lead by example with great energy and motivation to inspire his teammates to play hard every night and to keep collecting wins.
Say what you will about Anthony’s record with the Knicks and rumored strife with former coach Mike D’Antoni, but the Knicks need him desperately for the playoffs now more than ever. In fact, one could say it was Anthony’s destiny to end up in Madison Square Garden, given that his name, Carmelo, is Hebrew for “garden.”