Welcome to the very first installment of Bucket Over Broadway’s “The Knicks A-Z”. Over the next few weeks, in alphabetical order, we’ll be breaking down every single player that ended the season on New York’s official roster. No matter the minutes played, the amount of money earned, or the level of production amassed, each player will receive a detailed forecast based on how he can help the Knicks in their hopeful future.
First up we have a man who needs no introduction: Carmelo Anthony. Since coming to the Knicks amidst the most chaotic trade deadline in league history, Anthony’s three month long first impression has lived up to all expectations. He hit several game-winners, was historically brilliant in Game 2 against Boston, and handled New York’s intense media with a cool, nonchalant smile, but his success has created somewhat of a basketball conflict with this new Knick era’s original superstar, Amar’e Stoudemire. This from the especially talented Katie Baker:
Games 1 and 2 showcased the dizzying potential of a STAT-Melo combo but also exposed how fraught with neuroses and emotional manipulation such a lineup could be. That’s the bane of the two-star system: it’s tailor-made to generate intrigue and excuses and scandal, even after wins and especially after losses. Every shot has a built-in opportunity cost. Every huddle deserves extra scrutiny. Whose day is today? Who is going home mad? Watching the games felt like being a greedy tween once again, pitting my parents up against one another, asking one for permission or the other for money and allocating affection based on results.
The Knicks were one possession away from a Game 1 road win in Boston. Amare dominated the fourth quarter, twirling and dunking to pick up 12 of his 28 points. But it was Melo who took and missed the final shot, leaving fans overcome with second-guessing and blame. STAT had the hot hand. Why hadn’t they run the play through him? Nevermind that pretty much anyone, if asked which Knick should have the ball in their hands with the game on the line, would have picked Melo, one of the league’s finest clutch performers.
Baker’s point on feeling like a greedy tween has weighted validity. The Knicks have two players on their roster who fans voted into the All-Star game’s starting lineup. So for those counting, that’s 20% of the sport’s 10 best players on one team. Things could be much, much worse; we could all be fans of the Bobcats, Rockets, or Bucks. But then there’s the swords other end: When your team has such overwhelming talent, you should never expect to lose. Watching a healthy Knicks team fall to the Cavaliers (twice!) or those aforementioned superstar-less teams in Milwaukee and Charlotte (badly), should make fans feel ravenous for a suitable explanation. If the Knicks have two—sometimes three, counting a healthy Chauncey—players more talented than every player the opposition can bring to the table, why are they getting beat? Sometimes basketball’s expected outcome doesn’t fall under the correct philosophical jurisdiction; things like chemistry, teamwork, and shot selection temperance can be more important. According to NBA.com’s Statscube, both Amar’e and Carmelo’s points, field goal attempts, and free-throw attempts were below their normal per 36 minute averages when they shared the court. This is a nonissue when a team consistently wins behind its proven identity, but the Knicks have yet to find theirs.
Carmelo Anthony isn’t to blame for the sweep. He’s too good. In the 27 regular season games Anthony’s had so far in New York compared to the 50 he played earlier in the year while ending his days as a Nugget, his three-point percentage went up from 33 to 42 while doubling his attempts per game—almost like shackles being unhinged from his wrists—and both his points and field goal percentage saw slight bumps. Carmelo’s going to be here, whether you like it or not, until at least 2014 (he has a $23.53 million player option the following season) so if you aren’t over losing Gallinari, Mozgof, Chandler, and Felton yet, you better start working on it. For all the negative basketball perceptions Carmelo draws to himself as the game’s preeminent ball stopping small forward, his positives outweigh the negatives like a rhinoceros would a lady bug if the two ever happened to wander upon a see-saw. Anthony is talented enough to fulfill a team’s championship aspirations, but like all other great players who took the court years before he was born and will be drafted long after he takes his final jab step, Carmelo needs help. Time will tell if he receives the proper pieces to get it done: A reliable low post presence, a capable and consistent scorer of the bench, and, stop me if you’ve heard this before, a coach who prioritizes basketball games with defense as the list’s topper. Only then can we judge Melo for what he does in New York. If all this aid is flown in and still no championship? Maybe he wasn’t the player we all dreamt him to be in the first place.