Carmelo Anthony made a bold statement down the stretch in Sunday night’s win over the Denver Nuggets. With precious minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Anthony made a sacrifice for the betterment of the team. The quote told from Jason Kidd’s perspective (courtesy of Nate Taylor):
“He told me, ‘Let’s play through you,’ ” Kidd said. “Coach wanted to play through Carmelo, but Carmelo was like, ‘No, I want to play through Jason.’ I think that’s the greatest compliment a teammate can get.”
Anthony’s submission to put the offense in the hands of the 39-year-old Kidd is an indication of the trust he has, not only in Kidd, but in Mike Woodson to call the right plays, and in the rest of his teammates to execute them.
But this is not entirely about Anthony – it is about the effect Jason Kidd has had on this Knicks team, as well as his fellow wheel-man, Raymond Felton. Much was made about the Knicks’ decision to let Jeremy Lin go this summer in favor of Kidd and Felton – both of whom were coming off of underwhelming 2011-12 seasons – but so far, the moves have looked great. Felton is having his best season since his previous stint in New York, and Kidd, while seeing decreased minutes, is averaging better numbers than last year with the Mavericks, while also putting up a PER of 19.9 – his highest in nearly ten years.
Tyson Chandler and Steve Novak have both spoken highly of Kidd, saying that the team has full trust in what he’ll do with the ball, and that they play with more confidence as a unit when he’s on the floor. Kidd’s mentoring ways have extended to Felton who, by and large, has been the Knicks’ primary playmaker this year.
Felton spoke frequently this summer of coming in “with a chip on his shoulder.” He admitted as much to David Aldridge recently:
Everybody’s entitled to a bad year, I think … I busted my behind to get myself in shape, and toward the end of the year [in Portland] I think I picked my play up. But there was still a lot of junk talked, a lot of stuff said in that summertime. I definitely wanted to come out and let people know that I’m still here. Ain’t nothing changed. I’m still that point guard that can run a team and can play ball.”
Kidd has been talking with Felton consistently this year, giving him points about how to run the offense. According to Kidd, he told Felton to run the offense like Peyton Manning (Felton’s favorite quarterback) and settle down and make the right play during Felton’s homecoming in Charlotte. The confidence instilled in Felton has spread to other teammates, too.
Tyson Chandler has feasted off Felton’s aggressiveness in the pick-and-roll, currently leading the league in field goal percentage, at a near-historical level of 70.9%. Felton also told Aldridge that he’s directed Chandler to always roll to the basket, because Felton is going to attack the big man, draw attention, and he’ll free up Chandler for easy baskets. Perhaps this mentality can revitalize Amar’e Stoudemire – who Felton found success with in 2010 – when he returns to the lineup in the coming weeks. Likewise, Carmelo Anthony is currently third in the league in scoring at 26.8 ppg (the third highest of his career), and is benefiting from Felton and Kidd’s work with the ball, getting better shots on the floor as evidenced by his sky-rocketed true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage.
In fact, the oft-discussed chemistry problems between Anthony, Stoudemire, and Chandler could be settled when all three are given the chance to work with Felton and Kidd together for an extended period of time. The Knicks’ Big Three had some success under Mike Woodson last season when they worked with a point guard who had the keys to the offense: the now-departed Jeremy Lin. Though Lin never totally earned the full trust of his teammates as the primary point guard, if the Knicks continue to put faith in Felton and Kidd, the Knicks offense, already the second most efficient in the NBA, could really reach new heights.
It’s all about trust for these Knicks, and if putting the ball in two veteran point guards’ hands, and allowing Anthony and eventually, Stoudemire, to do less, gets the trust of the team, then the Knicks need to keep doing it. Given some more time to all blend together, this New York team might truly become a frightening force in the East.