The Knicks are 3-0 for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. They won their first three games by double digits for the first time in franchise history. They currently lead the league in points allowed, giving up only 85.3 ppg. All of these accomplishments can be linked back to Carmelo Anthony’s new found commitment to defense.
Carmelo Anthony has long been known around the league as one of the best and most versatile scorers in the game, but he is almost equally infamous for his lack of defensive intensity. ‘Melo has consistently performed better against the Lebron’s and Kobe’s, but has played down to his competition throughout his NBA career. In fact, his defense was considered such an issue that it was, and still is, one of the biggest criticisms of trading for him; to have Stoudemire and Anthony on the same team is murder to all defensive aspirations. Most people assumed that even under Mike Woodson, ‘Melo would still be one of the worst defenders on the team.
But, not this year, not this ‘Melo. Anthony has been fantastic in the early going so far, and is leading the team in blocks and rebounding. He’s averaging one steal per game too. As great as all that sounds, it is still just three games, and those numbers may adjust, but what won’t will be his effort. We have never seen Anthony diving over fans, being verbally engaged on defense, or executing well on both sides of the court.
Carmelo’s defense coincides with the new emphasis on defense from Head Coach Mike Woodson, and the overall make up of the team. With the additions of Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, Ronnie Brewer, Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace, Jason Kidd, and Kurt Thomas over the last two years, this has become a team filled with defensive pieces that have helped lead to the surprising (to some) start.
‘Melo has been leading the charge, and if this continues there’s no way of knowing how far he, and the team, can go. Anthony has been accused of not having a complete enough game to be considered in the same league of his draft classmates D-Wade and Lebron, but what if that’s all in the past? What if ‘Melo can remind everyone just how good he is at scoring, and at the same time make stops at the defensive end. Could it result in the team winning the division? A championship? Could he win the MVP?
The problem with those goals, is that it all banks on a BIG if. Carmelo has never been able to play great defense all season long, and this year he could fall back into his old habits after the freshness of the season wears off. That’s very possible, and the media who are calling the Knicks overrated and are believing that they will come back down to earth cite that as the biggest reason why. ‘Melo hasn’t been consistent, especially in his seasons with the Knicks.
The good news is that everyone is saying all the right things. Teammates are saying ‘Melo seems motivated, and is becoming a true leader of this team. The Coaches are happy with his weight loss and effort so far in the season. And even ‘Melo himself has said that he wants to be a more complete player, and that defense and sharing the ball is where it will start.
If ‘Melo continues to buy in to the defensive game plan then there is no telling how high the ceiling is for the team, but they came into the season with the goal of winning the division. Anthony playing the way he has been is one big step in the direction of taking over from the reigning Celtics. In my opinion, that, along with the top 4 seed that comes with it, would be a great sign of the success the team has coming its way.