The New York Knicks have pretty much fallen out of the playoff race. Though they aren’t mathematically eliminated, two straight losses to the Washington Wizards and Miami Heat have put them two games back from the Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks still have games in which they’ll face the Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, and Toronto Raptors, while the Hawks don’t have many games against playoff competition.
A big reason behind the Knicks’ two-game skid has been Carmelo Anthony’s untimely shoulder injury. ‘Melo himself has called it either a “deep bruise” or “light sprain,” according to Ian Begley.
The effects have been obvious. On April 2, Anthony recorded 23 points on 8-16 shooting to go with 10 rebounds and 3 assists in a win over the Nets. In the last two games, Anthony is averaging 11.5 points per game on 29.6% FG, 12.5% 3FG, and 5 turnovers per game (mainly from a 9-turnover performance against the Wizards). As a result, the Knicks have lost two games in a row while their offensive rating has ranked only 20th during this stretch.
Anthony, to his credit, has done other things to try and help the Knicks win. Though his rebounds are down, he’s averaging 5.5 assists and 3 assists in the past two games. Still, Anthony has clearly been affected by the injury as he’s said it’s hurt his movement, particularly in lifting things — y’know, like a jump shot. He’ll continue to play through it, he’s said, but to what point?
Recall that at the end of last season, Anthony faced a similar injury in his shoulder. The Knicks shut him down for the final games of the season, but it didn’t seem to heal the injury as he went on to average only 6.6 rebounds per game in the playoffs while shooting just 40.6% from the field and 29% from three. Anthony chose to let it heal naturally instead of getting surgery over the summer, and though he’s lasted most of this season, he’s once again hurting down the stretch.
For a player as physical as Anthony is in posting up and going for rebounds, a shoulder is among the worst things for him to injure. Not only does it affect his shooting form, but it makes him adjust his overall movements and stray from contact. The Knicks and Anthony will likely continue to keep him active, but it really may just be best to shut him down for the season. The Knicks likely aren’t making the playoffs, and if ‘Melo figures into their long-term plans, then they should prioritize his health.
Still, over this summer, we may end up pondering how this end to the Knicks season could have played out if Anthony had been healthy.