Entering his 10th NBA season, Carmelo Anthony has accomplished every prestigious honor in the league. From All-Star and All-NBA team selections to winning Olympic Gold, Melo has done everything but win the ultimate honor—an NBA championship. The closest Anthony has been to this goal was the Western Conference Finals in 2007, while his elite peers (the ones with the same tenure as Anthony) have either an NBA Finals appearance or a title. Anthony has everything it takes to win the “big one” but needs to improve on certain qualities to get himself and his team there. Here are three ways Anthony can put the New York Knicks in the best possible position to win a title this coming season.
1. Being more consistent
One legitimate knock on Melo’s stellar basketball game, is his consistency—on both ends of the floor. Offensively, Anthony can score with very little effort. Whether it’s backing down smaller defenders or facing up bigger defenders and beating them off the dribble, its clear Anthony is a matchup nightmare on any given night.
Yet when Anthony is struggling on offense, he tries to force a rhythm by shooting himself into games. A habit that showed in the Knicks’ one and done possessions and lack of fluidity in their offensive schemes. Anthony needs to use his versatile talents—especially in scoring slumps—to get his teammates involved or get to the charity stripe where he can get himself going.
But in order for Anthony to truly have success on this team, he needs to improve defensively. It’s not that Anthony is bad defender; it’s just that his motivation isn’t always there. In fact, he has the lateral quickness, size, basketball IQ, and length to be a stopper in this league.
He doesn’t need to be the defensive player of the year but he does need to be more of an adequate defender because every elite player (Lebron, Wade, Bryant, Howard, Rondo, Paul) with legitimate title aspirations play defense more times than not.
2. Instilling a “Get Nasty” Culture in New York
I’m seeing a little bit of unconfidence, a little hesitation. It’s not supposed to be easy. Every round gets tougher. Penetrate hard. Good passes. Shoot with confidence. I want some nasty!
A phrase made surprisingly popular by Spurs head coach Greg Popovich in his Western Conference Finals showdown against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Coach Pop used the phrase to motivate his players after a timid and uncharacteristic effort against a tough and hungry Thunders team. If Anthony is serious about winning, he should adopt the same mentality and encourage it in the locker room and on the basketball floor.
Indeed “Getting Nasty” is broad phrase but its essence is true and inspiring. When a coach tells you to “Get Nasty” that means they want to see you make winning plays: get more 50/50 balls, dive on the ground, be aggressive, and just hustle. Establishing this culture next season would do wonders for the Knicks, especially against adversity.
Look at their first round series against the Heat this year, indeed injuries played a factor here but the Knicks seem to have just given up in these games especially when they fell behind early. If they had Mike Woodson screaming “Get Nasty” in their ears I bet they would have a lot more competitive.
I know there is more than one way to be a leader in the NBA. But it takes a certain type of leader to lead a team to a championship. Looking at the last three Finals MVPs (Lebron, Dirk, and Kobe) they all were very aggressive and vocal leaders. I would like to see Anthony be more like them. This doesn’t mean he needs to chew out his teammates—although I would welcome it—he would just need to express himself more.
For instance take the “selfish” label Anthony garnered during the offseason over Linsanity:
“Lin came and we started winning games and then we started losing games, and they could only point to one thing, which is me, the leader of the team,” Anthony said. “They’re not going to point to Amar’e (Stoudemire). They’re not going to point to (guard) Iman Shumpert. They’re going to point to me. I accept that. It doesn’t bother me.”
Anthony doesn’t deny he’s the leader of this team but I do want this to bother him. He needs to take this unrightly criticism and turn it to motivation. Next season, I want him to be more aggressive with his play and speak with a chip on his shoulder. Not only will his teammates pick up on this but so will the rest of the basketball universe.