It was 17 games into the Carmelo Anthony era March 23rd, 2011 exactly one month to the day after Anthony’s debut game with the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden after he had been acquired in a trade from the Denver Nuggets. The Knicks had just lost 111-99 to the Orlando Magic, suffering their 4th straight loss and 6th loss in their last 7 games overall. For the second game in a row Anthony had failed to make a shot from the field in the 4th quarter. The previous game a 96-86 loss to the Boston Celtics where the Knicks held a 15 point 3rd quarter lead and then a 9 point 4th quarter lead only to see Boston go on a 23-4 run over the final 7:14 of the game to win by 10 Anthony failed to make a shot from the field in the 4th quarter as well. Both of those games I sat close to the action watching Anthony light up the scoreboard in the first half and then in the second half repeatedly hoist jump shot after jump shot and miss. This was a guy who when he was traded to New York all we heard from media and fans was how he was “The Best scorer in basketball” and “The best CLOSER, late game shooter in the NBA.” I was not seeing that. I can remember thinking to myself at the time that this guy was not playing the way he had been built up to be. There had to be more right? But that stretch of disappointing basketball that saw the Knicks lose 9 of 10 games from March 10th through March 26th in Carmelo’s first month as a Knick is a microcosm of his 4 and a half seasons in New York. A month into his career as a New York Knick fallacies were being exposed in his game and all this time since nothing has changed.
When you trade for a player of Carmelo Anthony’s brand stature who is regarded as one of the elite players in the sport you expect your team to get better when they get the player not go backwards. But that is what happened with the Knicks. This is just one of the reasons why Carmelo is the NBA’s most overrated player. After playing over .500 basketball for the first time in 9 seasons with an offense built around Amare Stoudamire who was second in the league in scoring, shooting efficiently and better than 50% from the field, and receiving MVP chants from the Madison Square Garden crowd the Knicks made the Carmelo Anthony trade and a month into it things were going awry the way they often have on the court for the Knicks since the end of the 2000-2001 season.
As soon as Carmelo became a Knick from his first game on February 23rd, 2011, in which he made 10 of 25 shots nearly doubling Amare’s 13 shots for that game, Carmelo was given the keys to the Knicks franchise and the offense, allowed to do whatever he wanted. The Knicks offense that entire season before the Carmelo trade under then Knicks head coach Mike D’antoni consisted of a fast paced style that featured spacing, pick and roll especially between Amare and then Knicks point guard Raymond Felton that worked like butter. Isolation basketball was frowned upon. Amare was the focal point of the offense and the team made it a point to get Amare his touches and shots throughout the games. Through Amare’s offensive efficiency the Knicks made a dent in the Eastern Conference playoff picture for the first time in years. As soon as Carmelo showed up that offensive philosophy and cohesion left out the window. It became about running the offense through Carmelo Anthony and him taking the most shots every game. Getting Amare his shots was no longer as much a priority. With that shift the Knicks started 7-12 through Carmelo’s first 19 games and finished the post all-star break ,which is when the trade happened, with a 14-14 record.
The beginning of Amare’s decline with the Knicks began when the playoffs began that season where the Knicks had a first round meeting against the Boston Celtics. He played a great game one where he made 12-18 shots for 28 points including a number of strong buckets in the 4th quarter. With the game on the line and the Knicks down by 2 points in the final seconds of the game instead of Amare taking the final shot the ball goes to Carmelo Anthony who finished the night 5-18 from the floor and was ice cold in the second half missing 10 of his 11 shots. Anthony plays “Hero Ball”, a term often used by then Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, takes a deep three point shot on that final possession, misses and the Knicks lose game one by two points. Then Game 2 begins with Amare injuring his back during pregame warmups on the lay up line. That was the end of an heroic run in New York in a Knicks uniform for Amare in what had been his first season with the franchise since coming over from a winning situation in Phoenix where he had been the first eight years of his career. It was the beginning of constant injury setbacks and disappoint for the remainder 3 & half seasons of his Knicks career.
Carmelo on the other hand played the best playoff game in the three seasons that he has made the playoffs in his Knicks career. He played like a superstar that night putting the Knicks on his back who also were without starting point guard Chanuncey Billups who got hurt at the end of game 1 and never returned to the series. He finished with 42 points taking over the game at times and keeping the Knicks in the contest where they had a chance to win at the end but fell just short by 3 points. If he had more performances like this then there would be no problem with his game but nights like this are the exception. As good as Carmelo was in game 2 against Boston he was just as bad in the other three games of the series which ended in a sweep. Along with his poor shooting performance in game one of the series in Boston when the series returned to New York to a lot of anticipation for games 3 and 4 in what were the first two Knicks home playoff games in seven years Carmelo laid an egg. The Knicks couldn’t have gotten any more closer to winning the first two games in Boston than they did without winning them so when they returned home to Madison Square Garden it was expected that they would give Knicks fans something to sank their teeth into and cheer about with the hope of getting over the top and winning the games, making the series interesting and giving it some juice.
Which is why it was so disappointing when Boston easily beat the Knicks by the score of 113-96 in game 3 with Anthony managing to make just 4 of 16 shots finishing with 15 points. His counterpart on the other end Paul Pierce made 14 of 19 shots to finish with a game high 38 points. Carmelo was anything but a prime time performer in one of the more anticipated Knicks home games in years. With the outcome of the series a mere formality Carmelo scored 32 points in the 4th and final game of the series as the Knicks were swept. Even though he put up 32 points he failed to make 14 of 24 shots and never took over that game at any stretch. He did what he does on many nights, ends up with a nice point total because he takes a large volume of shots which allows him to reach scoring marks and keep the scoring average up. But there is no substance. When you are down 0-3 in a series any realistic shot of coming back and winning is over as now team has ever come back from 0-3 down in any series.
I remember thinking that if Carmelo was everything that people was saying that he was at the time of the trade “Best scoorer in the game”, “Best closer in basketball” then why was it that he was not able to really take over any of these games and make a difference in the 2nd half when the game was on the line. Why was he unable to just score at will and carry his team ala Bernard King in 1984 when he carried the Knicks to a game 7 in the 2nd round against the eventual NBA champion Boston Celtics who had a plethora of hall of famers led by Larry Bird? Carmelo was not able to carry his Knicks a little bit against these Celtics. Yes he was great in game 2 but that was one game and even though it was not Carmelo’s fault that they got swept it wasn’t as if he was great or even anywhere close to the star that he is made out to be in any of the other three games. As the final seconds ticked off the clock in game 4 as the Knicks were being swept on their homecourt they received a standing ovation from the crowd who were just thankful to the team for giving them a competitive season finishing over .500 for the first time in 9 seasons, with aspirations of even brighter days in the future. In the postgame press conference Knicks head coach Mike D’antoni spoke about the future and raved about the potential he saw with Carmelo in his free flowing run and gun offense, saying Anthony had the ability to be a “triple double guy” in his offense. Of course we had heard for years that Mike D’antoni who was a member of the team USA Olympic coaching staff and had been around the likes of Carmelo, Lebron James and Kobe Bryant for years with those teams was well liked by those players and that they couldn’t wait to play for him because of how his system favors offensive players.
So it was a joke the following season (2011-12) when Carmelo was unable to live up to the praise and the belief that his head coach bestowed upon him when the team began the season with high expectations only to start out of the gate with a record of 8-15. Around that time the head coach was on the hot seat and media reports surfaced with sources close to Anthony that were saying how he didn’t like D’anotoni’s offense and how it was a problem. No, the only problem was that D’antoni and the Knicks organization was building around and running an offense through a guy who wasn’t as good as he’s made out to be but it is always easier to blame the head coach than the star. When a team is underachieving the head coach is always the one who everyone points the finger at first. With the D’antoni firing watch on the Knicks season was struck with an incredible unexpected pick me up that saved their season. His name Jeremy Lin.
Before this 2011-2012 season began there was much anticipation because it was season two together for Carmelo and Amare Stoudamire but the first season they would be together from training camp and the first game of the season. They also added free agent signee Tyson Chandler who had just played a key role in the 2011 NBA Finals with the Dallas Mavericks who stunned Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat beating them in six games. Immediately the three were proclaimed by many as the best frontcourt in basketball. Coming off their first playoff appearance in 7 years and the first season in which they won more games than they lost in 9 years Knicks fans had a reason to get excited about good winning basketball after so many years in the doldrums.
The season got underway and it was disappointment. Dysfunction as usual because losing breeds dysfunction and the Knicks started the season off the same way they’d started seasons the previous decade, losing perpetually. They started off 8-15 with losses to teams who were going nowhere including back to back home losses on January 2nd and January 4th to the TORONTO Raptors who finished the season 23-43 and the Charlotte Bobcats who only won 7 of 66 games that season setting the worse winning percentage in NBA history. After that they had a stretch from January 12th through February 3rd where they lost 11 of 13 games in which Anthony sat out showdown games against the two biggest rivals at his position to conveniently rest injuries, January 14th against Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City and January 27th against Lebron James and the Miami Heat. In between those two weeks they lost a home game on January 18th to a Phoenix Suns squad who were a non-playoff team in rebuilding mode. Anthony missed 17 of his 22 shots in a game they lost 91-88. The very next game on January 20th the Knicks were ran off the court losing 100-86 to a Milwaukee Bucks squad at Madison Square Garden who were 0-8 on the road that season before getting their first road victory that night.
The next night on January 21st Carmelo faced his former team the Denver Nuggets for the first time since the trade. It was also the first time back for the former Knicks who were traded away to Denver so the team could acquire Anthony. Anthony scored just 25 points on 30 shots in which he missed 20. His counterpart on the Denver side and the biggest piece of the trade package that went back to Denver the previous season, Danillo Galinari, outplayed Anthony considerably making 9 of 19 shots to finish with a game high 37 points in Denver’s 119-114 double overtime win at Madison Square Garden to give the Knicks six consecutive losses at the time. The final game of the Knicks 11 losses in 13 games came Friday February 3rd in Boston against the Celtics. What I remember most about this game in which the Knicks lost 91-89 was that Knicks coach Mike D’antoni brought little used and little known three point shooter Steve Novak off the bench to take a corner three in the final seconds of the game. It was his only action of the game. Novak missed the shot and I remember thinking how even though I cover the team if I had to pick his face out of a lineup I would not be able to do it, that is how little playing time and how much of a non-factor Steve Novak was to that point. Literally the next night that would all change for Novak and not too long after that he became a household name to all Knicks fans.
The following evening the Knicks played their 3rd game in 3 nights thanks to the lockout schedule which forced teams to play on three consecutive nights at least once. This was Saturday February 4th the night before the New York Giants won Super Bowl XLVI. The Knicks stood with a record of 8-15 and could not get out of their own way. Even with the Knicks frontcourt, that had been hailed as the best in the NBA before the season, being healthy and playing. One of the excuses being made for the team’s struggles was that with Mike D’antoni’s style of offense it was critical to have a good point guard in there running the show which they did not have. The Knicks hinged their hopes on veteran point guard Baron Davis whom they had signed a couple weeks before the season began but had yet to play in a game because of injuries that he had yet to recover from. So out of options and out of pure desperation coach Mike D’antoni went to the end of his bench and played Jeremy Lin against their cross river rival the New Jersey Nets and their point guard Deron Williams on this February 4th night. Carmelo had another atrocious shooting performance making just 3 of 15 shots finishing with 11 points. But Lin took over that night brining life to the team and into the Madison Square Garden crowd. In 36 minutes off the bench Lin scored a game high 25 points on 10-19 shooting to go along with 7 assists.
Carmelo Anthony then left the next game against the Utah Jazz in the first quarter with a groin injury and was out for the next seven games. From the New Jersey Nets game when Lin first came on the scene on February 4th to their game against Sacramento on February 15th the Knicks won 7 straight games behind his play and leadership which brought their record back to an even 15-15, getting them back in the playoff race and singlehandedly saving their season and a lot of people’s behind. He even saved his head coaches job for another few weeks. The highlight of the win streak occurred in the 4th win of the streak on February 10th in which Lin dropped 38 points and 8 assists against Kobe Bryant and a completely healthy L.A. Lakers team after Kobe claimed to the media the night before the game that he had never heard of Jeremy Lin before when asked to give his thoughts on the Asian Phenom..
Players in the Knicks locker room like Jared Jefferies and Tyson Chandler spoke about how there is no way you could watch what Jeremy Lin was doing and not be inspired by it. Lin inspired the Knicks and the entire city, made players around him better. Something that was not happening before he was inserted into the lineup. Steve Novak who had been a complete non-factor all season all of a sudden was getting open looks and knocking down three point shots like he was the best in the league from distance. The sight of Novak spotting up for a three point shot and getting the ball passed his way for the trifecta sent a rush of anticipation through the Garden crowd as it waited to erupt in celebration from another deadly three. Over the 7 game win streak known as Linsanity Novak was the 2nd leaguer scorer on the team behind Lin which should tell you a lot about Lin. Before and since Novak got his coming out party with Lin and then left the Knicks after the following season he is a player whom you’ve never heard from again.
After the Knicks winning streak was snapped at 7 games in a very disappointing home loss to the dreadful New Orleans Hornets the Knicks bounced back on a Sunday afternoon game against the NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks behind 28 points and 14 assists from Jeremy Lin at Madison Square Garden in what was the last game before Carmelo Anthony reentered the lineup from the injured list. The Knicks had won 8 of 9 games since inserting Lin into the lineup. All but the first game was played without Anthony when he shot 3-15 anyway. All of the talk while the Knicks were winning while Anthony was recovering from his injury was what will happen when Carmelo returns? Will the chemistry get messed up? Will the Knicks continue to win? Since the Knicks season had been righted by Linsanity the questions of whether the star Anthony would conform to the system and the style of play led by Lin upon his return were being asked. No lie as soon as Anthony came back they won just two of their next 10 games including losses in the last six games of that stretch. This time it was too much for the head coach to overcome. Instead of Carmelo Anthony receiving any blame Mike D’antoni was relieved of his duties as head coach of the New York Knicks.
The Knicks gave D’antoni’s assistant Mike Woodson the interim head coaching position for the rest of the season and he was the right man for the job at the time. There was talent on the roster and what the Knicks needed more than anything at that period was a head coach who was not afraid to stick his foot in a few players behinds and a coach who was not afraid to get in the faces of the team’s star players, something D’antoni did not do because he wasn’t fit to put his foot down with Carmelo and at the end of his tenure he was made out to look as if he refused to adjust his system for his star player. When in actuality that narrative was nonsense because D’antoni compromised his offense for Carmelo the minute he was acquired from Denver. It was only after Jeremy Lin came in and saved the season running D’antoni’s system the way it was supposed to be run while Carmelo was out with injury that the head coach was telling Carmelo he had to conform because the team had found the winning elixar. With nothing to lose for Mike Woodson he was able to get in players faces and give them that kick. that they needed. At the time there were media reports that Carmelo Anthony being the “Star” that he is was not receptive of having the offensive system not feature him, built around him or however you want to describe it. Not only was D’antoni on the outs with Carmelo but he began to lose credibility with other players inside the Knicks locker room who felt that at the end he did not put his foot down with Carmelo when he needed to.
When Mike Woodson took over as Knicks head coach with 24 games remaining in the regular season the team played up to its talent winning 18 of 24 games and never losing back to back games. The only loss they suffered at home over that stretch was to the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat who they would play in the first round of the playoffs which was dubbed to be a competitive series between the two teams featuring Carmelo and his 2003 NBA draft buddy Lebron James. The highly anticipated first game on a Saturday afternoon saw Carmelo shoot a terrible 3-15 from the floor as the Knicks were dismissed rudely losing 100-67. The tone was set for the series. Anthony shot 12-26 from the floor scoring 30 points in a 104-94 loss in game 2 in which he scored 21 first half points and 9 points in money time in the 2nd half.
When the series shifted to New York for Games 3 & 4 of the series the result was as disheartnining as the year before in the playoffs. Despite Lebron playing an off game for his standards Carmelo and the Knicks could not capitalize. New York held a four point lead at halftime and when the second half began James reached early foul trouble and sat the final 7:30 of the 3rd quarter. With the best player in the world on the bench the time was now for Carmelo and the Knicks to seize control. Not only did that not happen but Carmelo’s Knicks were outscored 22-16 in the 3rd quarter and when James reentered the game at the start of the 4th quarter he scored 8 straight points and Miami would cruise from there to win 87-70 giving them a commanding 3-0 series lead. While Lebron finished the game with more fouls and turnovers (13) than shots made (9) Carmelo Anthony in the biggest game of the season on his home court with a chance to make it a series was as disappointing as he was the season before in Game 3 at home. He managed to make only 7 of 23 shots and did not take over the game and the moment the way real elite superstar players are supposed to. The series was all but over at that point as no team has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit to win in NBA history. For the 2nd time in the first three games of the series the Knicks with supposedly the “best scorer in the game” , “purest scorer in the game”, “top 5 offensive players of this generation”, failed to score more than 70 points in a game. The loss gave the Knicks seven straight in the playoffs since acquiring Anthony from Denver.
The fourth game of the series was typical Carmelo as he was great shooting 15-29 for 41 points in a meaningless game. The game for Anthony to perform like this was the previous one when James was off and sat out most of the 3rd quarter when the game was there for the taking with an opportunity of making it a 2-1 series with a chance of evening it up at a raucous Madison Square Garden in Game 4. For this game 4 however the Garden crowd was resigned to the fact that the series was over and were subdued until part way through the 2nd half sensing the team had a chance for a win and began making some noise. The Knicks won the game 89-87, the first in the Carmelo Anthony era and the franchise’s first playoff victory since the 2001 playoffs. Balloons were dropped from the rafters in a celebratory mode but the win and the performance was meaningless. The next game in Miami the Knicks would see their season end as they were taken out 106-94 losing the series in five games. Anthony shot 15-31 for 35 points. But where was this performance in games 1,2, and 3 of the series when it was still a series? The only time Carmelo played like the elite player that he is supposed to be is when the Knicks were down 3-0 in the series in an improbable position of winning the series
At this point of his career Carmelo had made the playoffs every season of his 9 year career but managed to make it out of the first round just once. The one time came during the 2008-2009 season when Carmelo’s Denver Nuggets team made it to the Western Conference Finals where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games after winning game 4 of that series to even up at 2 apiece. At the end of the five game playoff series against Miami Carmelo’s playoff record to that point was 16-36 and a report came out by ESPN Stats and Info that said Carmelo had the worse winning percentage (.308) in NBA playoff history of any player that had played at least 50 playoff games. \
I have to mention how he walked off the court in 12-13 against Cleveland and Denver. Mention how Tyson Chandler had god gone down earlier in the Denver game before Carmelo walked off.
The next season in New York was the most successful of his Knicks career and the only one that did not have a period of crisis and disaster at some point during the season. The 2012-2013 campaign saw the Knicks start the season 6-0 where they were the last team in the league to lose a game. They began the season 18-5 which was their best start in years and their 10-0 record at home to start the season was their best start at Madison Square Garden since Pat Riley’s first season coaching the club in the 1991-92 season. The team went on to win 54 games that season which was the most in franchise history since a 57 win season in 1997. They also won the Atlantic Division for the first time since 1994 which was the last time they were in the NBA Finals. After taking over head coaching duties the previous season and leading the Knicks to an 18-6 record to finish the regular season Mike Woodson has to be given a lot of credit for that. But two years after moving away from that season it became clear after each passing game how important Jason Kidd was to that team and locker room. Kidd who played the final two months of that season at the age of 40 was in the starting lineup for most of the season and his leadership on the court was immeasurable. It was not only Kidd who provided leadership in the locker room that season but it was also Rasheed Wallace who played productive quality minutes through the teams 18-5 stretch to start the campaign before he succumbed to a foot injury that all but cost him the rest of his season. Marcus Camby who was on the team the last time they were serious contenders for a championship in 1999 and 2000 came back to the organization that season after playing elsewhere for the previous ten seasons. Camby was also a teammate of Carmelo’s when Carrmelo was first drafted by the Denver Nuggets and played as a rookie in 2003. Camby’s late 90’s early 2000’s teammate with the Knicks Kurt Thomas was another longtime veteran on the team that season. All four men collectively brought a great deal of leadership to the locker room. They were men who commanded respect from every player in the locker room but most importantly Carmelo Anthony. Anthony had respect for all of those guys and with Kidd starting with him on the court all Carmelo had to do was go out and play. The leadership was left up to the guys who for that season we can dub the “Core Four.” Whenever things were going a bit haywire those guys would speak up and get everybody back on the same page, back on the plan.
Anthony led the league in scoring that season with a 28.7 scoring average finishing .6 of a point higher than Kevin Durant who had led the league in scoring the previous three seasons. For a guy who so often gets called the “best scorer in basketball” or the best “Pure scorer in basketball” this was the first scoring title of his 10 year career to that point. It was clear that the scoring title meant a lot to him and he tried hard to get it. Anthony’s 22.2 shots per game average was nearly five more shots taken per game than Durant who averaged 17.7 shots per game and Carmelo’s 44.9 shooting percentage was far less impressive than Durant’s 51.0 shooting percentage. Clearly if Durant wanted to win the scoring title he could have and even in his greatest individual season Carmelo Anthony clearly was not the best scorer in basketball. He just took a lot of shots, way more than anyone else that season which allowed him to score more points than anyone else in the league.
The only other player that season to even average 20 shot attempts was Kobe Bryant at 20.4 shots per game and Bryant was a wreckless low percentage shooter at that point in his career. Kobe’s 27.3 points per game placed him 3rd in the scoring race that season but his 46.3% shooting percentage was higher than Carmelo’s. In fact of all the players in the top 10 in scoring that season only James Harden and Russell Westbrook shot worse from the field as they both shot 43.8% from the field. Both of those guys however are guards and are not expected to have shooting percentages as high as ball players who are bigger in stature the way Carmelo is. They also both can pass and get guys involved and have vastly more all around games than Anthony, check the assist numbers.
If there was one moment that caused controversy that season where Carmelo showed his true colors during a time of adversity it came on March 4th and March 13th. Following a blown opportunity to beat the Miami Heat at home on Sunday March 3rd which would have given the Knicks wins in all three meetings against the defending champion Miami that season. They fell by the final score of 99-93. The fall out after the game surrounded the fact that Mike Woodson benched Amare Stoudamire down the stretch of the 4th quarter after he had played well in the game (5-7 from the floor) and had played well over recent games. Woodson who was questioned by the press about the benching immediately following the game admitted that he made a mistake by benching Amare for the final eight minutes of the 4th quarter. The very next night in Cleveland the Knicks were being blown out by the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers and were down by 22 points when Anthony tripped over his own feet running up the court and fell with about 7:00 minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter. At that put Anthony had 6 points on 1 of 5 shooting from the floor and it felt as if his pride was hurt more than anything at that point. Just the previous day the Knicks went from being in a great position to beat the World Champions for a third consecutive time and sending a major statement to getting ran out of the gym by a bad Cleveland Cavaliers team. Anthony literally got up after the fall and walked off the court never to return. It looked as if Anthony’s pride was hurt more than anything else. He stayed in the locker room for the final 31 minutes of the game. With Anthony out head coach Mike Woodson loosened the reins on Amare Stoudamire’s minutes as he was been restricted to a strict minutes limit because of his recent injury history. One day after admitting that he should have played Amare down the stretch against Miami Woodson allowed Stoudamire to play 31 minutes and behind his 22 points on 10-15 shooting the Knicks outscored Cleveland 72-45 without Carmelo the rest of the way to overcome a 22 point deficit to win the game 102-97. Anthony had discomfort in his knee and sat out the next 3 games in which the Knicks went 2-1 beating Detroit and Utah with a loss to Kevin Durant and OKC 95-94 sandwiched between the two wins.
Anthony returned to the lineup on March 11th against the Golden State Warriors in what turned out to be a 92-63 loss. Two days later on March 13th the Knicks visited Denver in what was Anthony’s first return to the city that drafted him where he played the first 7 & a half years of his career before forcing his way out and a trade to New York. The Denver fans felt like Anthony didn’t feel the city was good enough for him and ran out on them. It had been over two years since his departure and the fans had waited all that time to let their former star know how they felt. The crowd was hostile towards Carmelo and his team and they vociferously voiced their displeasure with Anthony every chance they got. Starting center Tyson Chandler got knocked out of the game in the 2nd quarter with a knee injury and did not return. Carmelo’s Knicks were getting ran out of the building at halftime trailing 62-44. Then after Denver point guard Ty Lawson hit a three to put the Knicks down 70-44 at the 9:50 mark of the 3rd quarter Knicks head coach Mike Woodson called a timeout. As the Knicks are forming the huddle for the timeout Carmelo walks off the court for the second time in 9 days, this time leaving his teammates behind to face the vitriol that was there for him. As Denver continued to pound the Knicks with Carmelo in the locker room no where in sight the crowd chanted “Where is Melo?” and “Who needs Melo?” In fact at that point the Denver Nuggets had a record of 100-57 since the trade. In the 157 games before Denver traded Anthony to the Knicks they had a record of 99-58 with him.
For a guy who led the league in scoring during the 2012-2013 season his play in the postseason left a lot to be desired. In the first round they played a Boston Celtics team who were coming to an end of an era and were already without their injured all-star guard Rajon Rondo due to injury and a remaining core group of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce who were closer to retirement than their primes. Anthony did not manage to make more shots than he missed in any of the games and had a stretch in the series in which he missed 19 consecutive three point shots. I can’t tell you another “great scorer” “best pure scorer” who has had a stretch where they missed 19 consecutive three point shots. The Knicks won the series in six games giving them their first playoff series victory since the spring of 2000. The joy of that feeling was short lived because the Knicks who won game 6 on a Friday night in Boston had a quick turnaround and a Sunday afternoon game 1 against the #3rd seed Indiana Pacers to start the second round of the playoffs. The series got off to a rocky start with the Knicks squandering homecourt advantage in a 102-95 loss at Madison Square where Anthony made just 10 of 28 shots. Just three games prior in game 4 of the Celtics series Anthony made just 10 of 35 shots. He bounced back to score 32 points on an efficient 13-26 shooting in game 2 but shot just 15-39 over games 3 and 4 when the Knicks fell down 3-1 in the series. He went 12-28 in a 85-75 Knicks win in game 5 at Madison Square Garden to stave off elimination and waited until it was too late to put forth his best performance of the playoffs and the only game in which he shot better than 50% when he went 15-29 from the floor in a 106-99 loss in game 6 which ended the series and their season. Anthony finished with a .406 shooting percentage for the 2012-2013 playoffs which went 12 games. It was slightly worse than his .419 shooting percentage in the 2011-2012 playoffs , and slightly better than the .375 shooting percentage in the 2010-2011 playoffs. The numbers speak for themselves and do not show a “great scorer”, “best pure scorer in the game”, or a “top five offensive player in this era.” The numbers show an inefficient player not capable of putting a team on his back and carrying them the least bit through the second season, the playoff season, the real NBA season. His game which primarily consist of a mid range jump shoot seemingly about 85% of the time is not the type of game that can be relied upon in the postseason. Maybe a game or two he can get hot but he has proven that he is not consistent enough to carry a team through a series or really keep a team in a series with his mid range jump shooting game. His jump is not as great as Larry Bird and Chris Mullin but he shoots jump shots as much as they did which is the problem.
Not only have the postseason performances been disappointing but the last two regular seasons are the biggest indictment on Carmelo Anthony’s game which has proven to not only be not good enough to carry a team through a playoff series but also not good enough to carry a team through a regular season which elite players are able to do in their sleep. I am just not talking about the inability to carry a team through a regular season but I’m talking about the failure to do so in two of the most historically worse Eastern Conference season’s of all-time the last two years. It’s one thing to get on a player for not winning a championship which is not what is going here. But lets be fair, if you are a player who is regarded as an elite player the way Carmelo Anthony is then aren’t you supposed to at the very least be able to get your team into the playoffs? Especially coming off a 54 win season which was good for 2nd in the Eastern Conference. So we know there was talent on the team. And this past season that saw the Knicks finish with a franchise worse 17-65 record they were not even in playoff contention which is unfathomable.
After the Knicks were upset by Indiana in the 2013 playoffs they opened a billion dollar renovated Madison Square Garden for the start of the 2013-14 season. After winning 54 games the previous season there was a lot of anticipation that maybe possibly the Knicks could take a step further in the franchise’s pursuit of its first championship since 1973. Out of the locker room however was that veteran core four: Kidd, Wallace, Camby and Thomas. The previous season was the final of each of their career’s. The four of them were practically the oldest players in the league at the end of the 2013 playoffs and were not giving much of anything on the court. Trying to improve the roster and their chances of taking another step in the playoff tournament their were four younger seemingly more talented bodies in their place. How could one predict that things would go so wrong? What we would find out as things played out is that all of the leadership left the locker room with their departure and when it was back to Carmelo Anthony being the leader of the team again it all fell apart.
The new season opened up the night before Halloween, the same night the Boston Red Sox won the 2013 World Series. The Knicks hosted the lowly Milwaukee Bucks and were up 25 points on them before they gave it all back and found themselves trailing with three minutes remaining in the game before they pulled it out with a 90-83 win. The previous season they blew out the defending champion Miami Heat by 20 points on opening night which gave them tremendous confidence and set the tone for a 54 win season. This season opening night win against Milwaukee was so less awe-inspiring against a team that would finish the season with the worse record in the NBA. There was not a moment during opening night for a Knicks fan base with championship aspirations to really get excited about it. That’s the way the rest of the season went, not one moment to really get excited about.
The Knicks would follow up their near disastrous opening night home performance by losing their next seven home games including all six in the month of November. For a team coming off a season where they won 54 games and finished second in the Eastern Conference to lose seven straight home games at the start of the season is all that you need to know about how disappointing the season was. Futhermore they finished the month on a 9 game losing streak with the 9th game coming December 1st at home against New Orleans. The next game on December 5th the Knicks played in Brooklyn against a Brooklyn Nets team that had pretty much began their season just as bad even though they would eventually turn things around under head coach Jason Kidd and win a round in the playoffs. This night however the Knicks blew Brooklyn out by 30 points in the Barclays center to end a nine game losing streak and the next night they beat the Orlando Magic by 38 points at home in Madison Square Garden to end their 7 game home losing streak. Then two days later on a Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden the Knicks played the Boston Celtics who had been stripped and devoid of their Big 3 core and Rajon Rondo that led the Celtics to Eastern Conference supremacy for years. Just months after ending that era in the new Boston Garden and winning their first playoff series in 13 years the Knicks were ran off the court and embarrassed against a Celtics team that was in year one of complete tear it down and rebuild mode, losing by 41 points 114-73. How is a team that has Carmelo Anthony who is supposed to be by far and away the best player on the court get beat by 41 at home? How does a team that is supposed to have a real superstar have this kind of start to their season? Especially in a terrible Eastern Conference?
Five nights later with a chance to redeem themselves in Boston and a record of 6-15 still just 2.5 games behind the Celtics for first place of the division the defending Atlantic division champions held an 11 point lead with 10:32 left in the fourth quarter and wound up scoring just seven points the rest of the quarter and lost the game 90-86. In the midst of that 4th quarter Carmelo Anthony made just one of eight shots and finished with six points for the entire 2nd half. That was the point in the season where despite all the other teams in the division being down and still only 3.5 games out of the division lead, even with their 6-16 record after the loss, you knew that this team who won 54 games the previous season was just not going to be able to get it together.
When the calendar turned to the new year they had their best stretch of the season going 6-1 giving themselves some hope in the poor Eastern Conference but things came crashing back to reality quickly as they would lose their next five games before the Knicks won again on a night where Carmelo Anthony set a Madison Square Garden and Knicks franchise record by scoring 62 points against the Charlotte Bobcats on January 24th. However here was the problem. The previous five games when the Knicks lost each and needed Anthony to desperately take over a game he was not able to do it. In fact before scoring 62points, against a Charlotte Bobcats team that has been arguably the worst team in the sport since its inception, Carmelo went eight straight games without scoring 30 points when the team desperately needed it from him. In fact the five game losing streak before Carmelo’s 62 point performance began with Carmelo shooting 9-22 for 20 points in Charlotte on January 14th. On the third game of the losing streak on January 17th Carmelo had a matchup against Blake Griffin with whom he had been involved in trade rumors with at the time. The rumors had a possibility of the two being swapped for each other in a Bi-Coastal deal. The thought of such a trade is as laughable as Carmelo’s supposed elite basketball status even though many in the media acted as if the Clippers would have been better off making the trade. Players know what is going on and they have pride. When the Knicks and Clippers played at the Garden it was the first game of a stretch where the Knicks played eight consecutive games at home, a franchise record. The Knicks opened it up with a blowout 109-95 loss to a Clippers team who were without Chris Paul. Carmelo made just 4 of 23 shots while Griffin finished 12-20 for 30 points. The next game they were run off the court by the Brooklyn Nets in a matchup that is always taken seriously by both sides, but Anthony was unable to make a difference and do anything to stop the momentum scoring 26 points on 8-19 shooting in a game that Brooklyn won by 23 points. The next game against Philadelphia, which was the final game of the five game losing streak, Carmelo was outplayed by Evan Turner who had arguably the greatest game of his career finishing with 34 points on 13-22 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds. Carmelo finished with 28 points on 10-23 shooting against a Sixers team that won just one other game over their next 30 after that night. So when Carmelo went off for 62 points on 23 of 35 shooting how impressed could you be when it he was not able to score half this much in the previous eight games if his life depended on it and it was a time when his team desperately needed it.
The Knicks would go on to win their next three games against terrible teams who had miserable seasons the Lakers, Celtics, and Cavaliers where Anthony shot 30-63 to give the Knicks a four game win streak. The night before Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in the New York/New Jersey area the Knicks played their 8th and final game of their franchise record home stand against Lebron James and the Miami Heat. Carmelo had a solid game shooting 8-17 for 26 points but it certainly wasn’t a big enough performance to hang with Lebron James and the Miami Heat. In front of the star studded Super Bowl eve crowd James shot 30 points on 13-22 shooting to go along with 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and 6 steals in a game Miami won easily 106-91.
The very next game the Knicks were on the road to face their opening night opponents the Milwaukee Bucks who were the worse team in the league that season. Carmelo scored 36 points on 13-25 shooting which would be great but it wasn’t enough to prevent his team from suffering an embarrassing 101-98 loss. If you are an elite player you can’t allow your team to lose to the worse team in the league no matter the circumstances. If you can’t then what are we here for?
After a 117-90 win at home over Carmelo’s former team the Denver Nuggets the Knicks had Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder next on the schedule. Inside the Knicks post game locker room Anthony spoke about the upcoming showdown with Durant and acknowledged that it was a big deal. Durant’s co-star on the Thunder Russell Westbrook missed the game with an injury which left Carmelo by all objective measures with the better supporting cast that day. But it didn’t matter. In front of a nationally televised Sunday afternoon audience Durant completely undressed him scoring 41 points on 12-22 shooting to Carmelo’s 15 points on 5-19 shooting where he made just one shot from the field over the final 21 minutes of the game in a contest the Knicks lost 112-100. The Knicks star was completely exposed in the game in which Durant also finished with 10 rebounds, and 9 assists, one shy of a triple double. Many Knicks fans would like to tell you that Carmelo is on the same level as Durant but it was clear for anyone who was watching exactly how far the gap was between the two players and it was also clear what a true elite player and great scorer looked like. The Knicks very next game was the game before the all-star break where they lost back at home to the Sacramento Kings 106-101 in a game in which Jimmer Fredette came off the bench and had the only big night of his career scoring 24 points on 9-14 shooting including 6-8 from three point range. With the game tied in the final seconds of regulation Anthony missed the final shot before not scoring a point in overtime. After the game a stat came out that over the prior two seasons in the final 10 seconds of a game with the team either down by one or tied Carmelo Anthony was 0-12.
The loss to OKC and Sacramento was the start of a stretch where the Knicks lost 10 of 11 games including the final seven of that stretch. In a season that had many low points the boiling point was a stretch of three games from February 27th through March 2nd in which the Knicks played against the Miami Heat, Golden State Warriors, and Chicago Bulls all on National television and were embarrassed in all three games losing by totals of 26, 23, and 19 points with the broadcast crews ridiculing their professionalism and questioning whether or not they had quit as a team in front of a nationally televised audience. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back and within the week there were reports that Knicks ownership had made a trip to Los Angeles to gauge Phil Jackson’s interest in taking over the franchise.
The rumors of Phil Jackson soon taking over basketball operations of the franchise coincided with the Knicks best basketball of the season as they ended a seven game losing streak, where their record feel to 21-40, and began an 8 game winning streak with the official announcement of Phil’s arrival coming in the middle of it. With the Knicks getting themselves back into the playoff race thanks to the poor eastern conference the eight game win streak ended in a game against the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers at home in which Carmelo Anthony had a typical performance scoring 32 points through the first three quarters before missing all five of his 4th quarter shots and not scoring a point in that final period while Jarret Jack took over the game for Cleveland scoring 13 fourth quarter points. With the Knicks traveling to the west coast after the game for a five game west coast road trip the loss was devastating to their slim playoff hopes. After the game I rode down on the press elevator with ESPN’s Chris Broussard who I had seen countless times on television praising the talents of Carmelo Anthony. I told him my position that Carmelo Anthony is the most overrated player in the NBA and he disagreed. In the course of our debate on the subject as we walked up 8th avenue on a cold late March night Broussard proceeded to tell me that Carmelo is a great shooter and will be a hall of famer. Both of which could not be further from the truth.
After holding it down more than most thought they would going 3-2 on the West coast road trip the Knicks came back home and saw the death nail to their season come on April 4th against the Washington Wizards in which the Knicks lost 90-89 in a game that Anthony made just 5 of 14 shots and turned the ball over 9 times including on the game’s final possession with the Knicks having the chance to win the game. The loss dropped them out of a tie with Atlanta for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The next game the Knicks lost in Miami 102-91 in a game that saw J.R. Smith make 10 of 22 3 pointers. Anthony finished the game 4-17 for 13 points while his counterpart Lebron James finished with 38 points on 13 of 22 shooting. With Atlanta winning again that night the Knicks slim playoff chances were dashed. After winning 54 games their most since 1997, finishing as the second best team in the Eastern Conference, and winning their first playoff series in 13 years the previous season with hopes of taking another step towards the franchise’s first championship since 1973 the Knicks all of a sudden regressed to 37 wins and out of the playoffs entirely in a season that could only be summed up as the most disappointing in franchise history. The worse season in franchise history would come the very next season. One thing that was clear was that with the departure of Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby, and Kurt Thomas from the locker room due to retirement with the leadership role following back on Carmelo everything just fell apart. Mike Woodson had to be removed as head coach and that is the first move Phil Jackson made.
After such a disappointing season the mood surrounding the team from fans and media in New York at the time was basically that Phil Jackson had to rebuild the team as most had grown sick of the cast of characters that had produced this disastrous season. The mood was let Phil do what he wants and whomever he feels has to go is fine. Most however felt that Carmelo should stay because the perception is that he is among the game’s elite. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, arguably the biggest basketball voice in all of media, said on his daily nationally televised show First Take that the triangle offense that Phil Jackson was going to implement no matter who he chose as head coach was going to help Anthony. Smith said that there is nothing offensively that Kobe Bryant can do that Carmelo cannot do. Saying then that Carmelo Anthony is one of the five greatest scorers in the modern era. The calls to keep Carmelo in New York were loud. Carmelo had the decision to play the final year of his contract or to opt out, become a free agent and put himself on the market for other teams to bid on. Jackson met with Carmelo before he made his decision to try and persuade him to play out the final year of his contract and instead become a free agent this summer of 2015 because it would give the Knicks even more flexibility and more money under the salary cap. It also would have given Phil a full season to watch Anthony and decide whether he was worth keeping around for the 5 years $125 million that he eventually ended up getting.
The Knicks were in a situation where practically every big contract they had on their books would expire at the end of the 2014-2015 season which just passed. Therefore they would have virtually the entire salary cap to build a new team and spend on top free agent talent. Just the previous season the Knicks had a great year in winning 54 games So Phil was in a position where he could have left things the way they were and let virtually the entire roster come back with the chance to make up for their poor season where they digressed to 37 games. It would have been a motivated team that had talent. Despite their miserable season there was a lot of talent on the team and everyone was in agreement that they had way more talent than their record and that they should have made the playoffs. When you look at how dismal the Eastern Conference was in 2013-2014 If Carmelo Anthony is supposed to be an elite player then there is no excuse for why the Knicks should not have been amongst the top eight playoff teams in the Eastern Conference and really closer to the #2 seed they were the previous season. Of the eight teams who made the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2014: Indiana, Miami, Toronto, Chicago, Washington, Brooklyn, Charlotte and Atlanta outside of Lebron James on Miami most people would tell you that Carmelo Anthony is the next best player in the East among all of those teams. So how did his team not make the playoffs? Surely we know more than any other sport one player in basketball can make a big difference if he is truly great. Was the rest of his teammates that bad? That is the excuse that most people would like for you to believe for why the Knicks have been bad because Carmelo is so great right? It can’t be his fault? Just look at how he is on the all-star team every season and how he scores all these points. But there is no substance to any of this. Carmelo never takes serious blame for the Knicks woes while every other player gets blame.
Phil Jackson reasoned that he had one bigtime player, how could he not when practically every other person in the city of New York and NBA world anoints Carmelo Anthony as one the NBA’s elite? Lord knows it is not easy to get your hands on one of those type of players right? When you just won 54 games the previous season and have some good veteran players who are still on the roster you have to try and make a run at being at least a decent team the next season for a year and then go out and spend money on a big time player or two the following season when all of the contracts expire in an effort to build a team that can challenge for a championship. You want your team to be somewhat appealing to a star free agent, no one wants to come to a team that is completely in the dumps. Carmelo opted out of his contract because he was thinking of himself and not what was best for the franchise moving forward because if he did he would have played out the last year of his contract as Phil asked him to do. Phil resigns Carmelo because despite his flaws if you are a player on the Olympic team every four seasons, which is reserved for the elite of the elite, and starting in the all-star game every season then surely most would feel that the Knicks were closer to winning a championship with him than without him even if they were a few pieces away. My point is that he is vastly overrated and this past season proves that. Because under no circumstances if Carmelo is the player that he is built to be should the New York Knicks have turned around the next season which was this past season of 2014-2015 and have been the worse team in the terrible Eastern Conference and one loss removed from being the worse team in the league behind Minnesota who beat the Knicks both times they played including a 115-99 loss on November 19th when the Knicks were ran off the court in a game where their roster was completely healthy before any trades and Minnesota’s Kevin Martin scored 37 points and Carmelo was far from being the best player on the court even though he is supposed to be.
Exactly what impact does he have on the team? The NBA salary cap this past season was about 63.2 million dollars so for a guy to make $22,458,401 which is more than a third of the salary cap and the team be practically the worse team in the league is unacceptable. The Knicks could have been the worse team in the league without him, saved all that money and really took their time to rebuild. The only reason why this past season was such a disaster in year one of the Phil Jackson era is not because they were 17-65 but because they were 17-65 with one man’s salary taking up more than a third of the salary cap. When you bring Carmelo back and give him the deal they gave him that brings some kind of expectations. Certainly higher expectations than being the worse team in the East. If they had not brought him back there would have been no expectations. Knicks did not think they would be the worse team in the league if they brought Carmelo back and gave him this contract. They thought they would be the worse team in the league if they let him go. This is why Carmelo Anthony has to take the most blame of anybody else in the Knicks franchise. If you want the accolades and the praise then you have to pay the cost. Conversly even if Phil had let Carmelo go and they were the worse team in the league and Carmelo was on a playoff team riding their coattails Carmelo would be perceived as an elite player who helped that new team while criticis still would have crashed on Phil blaming him for letting such a “star” walkaway. Phil Jackson is in a tough spot and often gets unfairly critize when the blame and focus should be on the court where there was more than enough talent than what the team ended up playing to.
In the 2013-2014 season point guard Raymond Felton was the whipping boy for Knicks fans who placed a lot of the blame for the Knicks bad play at his feet because as the point guard he plays a big role in setting the tone on offense and he was criticized for not being able to stay in front of the opposing point guards who too many times penetrated, got into the paint breaking down the Knicks defense thus setting a bad tone for the Knicks defensively. Center Tyson Chandler underachieved and disappointed since he was outplayed in the 2013 playoffs the year before by Indiana center Roy Hibbert who looked like the next coming of the next big time NBA center at Chandler’s expense only to have looked like a disaster on the court ever since then with the Indiana Pacers. Yes, Phil could have brought both of these players back for the 2014-2015 season and let their contracts expire at the end of the season. But the problem was that the Knicks had disappointed so much in the 2013-2014 season after being the second best team in the East the previous season culminating into the most disappointing in Knicks history the public was demanding that the team be broken up. That was the public outcry at the time so no one was sheding tears over the fact that guys on the roster could be shipped out of town, except for Carmelo of course who everybody loves. Also when you go from 54 wins to out of the playoffs there are perceived chemistry issues with the team and there were reports during that 2013-2014 season that Chandler had issues with the defensive system that was being run by the head coach which centered around players switching and not switching on defense were guarding defenders. Some viewed Chandler as a guy whose play not only dropped off but a bit divisive in the locker room.
So in Phil Jackson’s only major move in his first off-season as president of the Knicks in the summer of 2014 he traded Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to the Dallas Mavericks for point guards Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin, journeyman center Samuel Dalembert and two second round draft picks in the 2014 draft which turned out to be Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Calderon had a contract past the 2014-2015 season so Jackson chose to sacrifice a little bit of salary cap space for the summer of 2015 to secure the point guard position and a couple other role players and young draft picks in hopes of making the team better for the next season. Phil’s biggest mistake here was having too much confidence in Carmelo Anthony because Jackson figured if he had an elite player on his roster that elite player could still hold things down for a season even if they made this one deal where the best player in the trade was Tyson Chandler who even though he was underachieving was still a productive player at times. As the season played out this trade was a source for Knicks fans to place a lot of their blame for the season. With J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Amare Stoudamire, Pablo Prigioni, (all of whom ended up playing major roles with playoff teams in these playoffs) and Tim Hardway J.r. around Carmelo the Knicks had enough talent to have at least been decent and respectable this season. No one expected them to be great after such a disappointing season and no one expected them to be lock playoff team but you can’t be the worse team in the league which is what ended up happening. Teams that finish 17-65 and start the season 5-31 before anyone was traded away don’t have elite players. Jackson and everyone in the franchise would have been able to save face if they were just half way decent because the big moves to really improve things were coming this summer. But led by Carmelo Anthony the Knicks were not able to do that.
After being blown out at home on opening night against Derick Rose and the Chicago Bulls the Knicks had the most shocking win that I’ve witnessed in all my years watching them. They went into Cleveland and beat the Cavaliers in what was Lebron James first game back in Cleveland since returning after spending four seasons in Miami. The final score was 95-90 and Anthony had 25 points on 8-17 shooting including a key jump shot over Lebron James with 25 seconds left which gave the Knicks a five point lead. The Lebron James cannot guard Carmelo Anthony rhetoric was sky high after that night. The Knicks then went on to beat the Charlotte Hornets the next game 96-93 in a game in which Anthony scored 28 points making 12 of 22 shots. The Knicks were off to a 2-1 start and did something that took them until their 18th game to do the previous season and that is win back to back games. The Knicks looked like they were off to a very positive start especially with the stunning win against Lebron and the Cavaliers which seemed like a great way to begin the season. This however would be the high mark of the season as everything went down hill from this point. The Knicks would go on to win just 3 of their next 38 games.
Over the next three games against the Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons, and Brooklyn Nets Carmelo Anthony would miss a total of 46 shots while making just 18 and the Knicks lost all three. This was the turning point of the season in which they would never recover. In the Wizards game Carmelo was outplayed by a past his prime Paul Pierce who Carmelo should be able to abuse up and down the court at this point in their careers. Pierce finished 5-10 for 17 points including a number of clutch 4th quarter baskets while Anthony made 8 of 23 shots for 18 points. The next night Anthony failed to make a shot in the first half of their game against a Detroit Pistons team that had yet to win a game until the Knicks came to town. Anthony finished 5-21 from the field for 13 points. Then a game later in Brooklyn in a contest that is always serious against the crosstown Nets Anthony managed to make just 5 of 20 shots for 19 points in a game that was never close with the Knicks falling 110-99. The next night in Atlanta Anthony recovered in the first quarter by making 6 of 10 shots for a quick 14 points. But he would only make two more shots the rest of the game finishing 8-20 from the field to finish with 20 points as the Knicks lost 103-96 for their 4th straight loss.
Before the Knicks next game which was a home game at Madison Square Garden against the same Atlanta Hawks team Phil Jackson had a meeting with Anthony about his and the team’s play. If Jackson was concerned then after seven games with the Knicks record at 2-5 then he has to be concerned now in a season where Anthony’s performance never really improved and the Knicks finished 17-65 with the worse record in franchise history. After the talk Anthony played a little better but he shot 11-25 for 25 points in a 91-85 loss again to Atlanta in the 2nd game of the home and home series between the two teams. He would go for 28 points the next game on 10-17 against a bad Orlando Magic team but he was not the best player on the floor that night. That distinction went to Orlando journeyman guard Evan Fournier who scored 28 points on 8-14 shooting in a 97-95 Orlando victory. Carmelo would tally his season high point total the next game where he was amazing scoring 46 points on 16-26 shooting with the likes of Gordon Hayward and Joe Ingles guarding him. The Knicks lost the game 102-100. Certainly a loss here can not be blamed on Carmelo. What was maddening about the performance however is why he could only do it against one of the worse teams in the league, showing post moves, abusing inferior defenders on the post when he was unable to do that against a legit good team and quality defenders. If these kind of performances were typical of his play then no one could blame Carmelo for the Knicks shortcomings. The problem however was 46 points on 16-26 shooting or anything close to that was not the norm for Carmelo Anthony.
Knicks would win the very next game against Carmelo’s former team the Denver Nuggets before losing to the Jason Kidd coached Milwaukee Bucks, who were the NBA’s worse team the season before, and the Minnesota Timberwolves who were the worse team in the NBA this past season. The Knicks won the next game against the lowly Philadelphia 76’ers who openly tanked the season before it began trying to get a top draft pick in this June’s draft but still finished with a better record than the Knicks. After the Philadelphia win the Knicks would go on to lose their next 10 straight games before beating the Boston Celtics in Boston and then losing another 16 straight games. All in all the Knicks lost 26 of 27 games during that stretch and the Knicks were on their way to their worse record in franchise history where the record at one point on January 15th was 5-36. At some point during this streak Knicks president Phil Jackson decided that the Knicks who had been trying to win with the talent that was on the floor but couldn’t could change course and lose without trying, shed payroll and plan for the draft in an effort of trying to attain the highest draft position possible in June’s 2015 draft. So on January 5th with the Knicks chances of making anything of the season in an effort to secure more salary cap space this summer Phil Jackson traded J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cleveland Cavaliers in what was strictly a salary dump. As J.R. and Shump have proven in the playoffs they are more than adequate players who can produce for a winning team.
At the all-star break this season the Knicks released Amare Stoudamire and Pablo Prigioni who were also picked up by playoff teams and made significant contributions off the bench with Dallas and Houston respectively.
Following the final game that J.R. Smith and Shumpert played with the Knicks on January 4th against Jason Kidd’s Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden I asked J.R. after the game how much of a leader Kidd was for the team two seasons prior and how much did they lean on his leadership and wisdom. J.R. answered the question by saying “He was our leader.” After the Knicks got off to a 5-36 start and began stripping the roster of its best players in full surrender mode Carmelo did not play much longer either due to a balky knee that he would have surgery on right after the all-star break. Everything leading up to the All-star break was more source of criticism. The All-star game was in New York City and it was obviously important for Carmelo to play in his home arena for the game. Even with the Knicks holding the worse record in the NBA Carmelo still felt it important to play in the game. That is a reason to explain why he just did not go ahead and get surgery on his knee at the time the organization waved the white flag in early January . After a loss in Los Angeles to the Clippers on New Year’s eve Carmelo sat out 9 games from that point until the All-star game which was played on February 14th. So question is why did he wait around an extra month to shut it down? Its because he wanted to play in the all-star game because those are the kind of things he seems to care most about.
Two Sunday’s before the All-star game in a game that he did play in Carmelo shot 13-25 for 31 points against a no-name Los Angeles Lakers team who were without Kobe Bryant due to a season ending injury. Great shooting performance against a lousy opponent, fine. The very next game against another opponent struggling for talent, the Boston Celtics, where Carmelo Anthony who is supposed to be by far and away the best player on the court, because lord knows no one on the Celtics was anywhere close to making an all-star team let-alone start the game, Carmelo shoots a poor 9-23 from the floor for 21 points in a 108-97 Boston win. Carmelo was not the best player on the court that night as Boston guard Avery Bradley had a game high 26 points on 11-14 shooting. The next game the Knicks were in Brooklyn to face the rival Nets on February 6th and Anthony made just 6 of 21 shots including just one in the 4th quarter in a game the Knicks lost by four points. The next night against the best team in the league the Golden State Warriors Anthony sat out the game but was there for an in-game ceremony at midcourt with Walt Clyde Fraizer, Alan Houston, and John Starks where he was presented with his 2015 all-star jersey.
With all-star weekend the following week in New York City the fact that Carmelo was on the team and starting with his New York Knicks holding the worse record in the NBA goes a long way in proving the point that he is the most overrated player in the league. Under what circumstances has a player not only made an all-star game but started an all-star game from a team with the League’s worse record? It was a joke and a slap in the face to his teammates because all of them were taking blame and getting traded out of town because of course the narrative in New York City is always “Carmelo is a superstar and the reason why they can’t win a game is because Carmelo has no help.” Everyone from ownership, to management, to the players catch all the blame for everything, getting crucified by media and fans while Carmelo is on the Olympic team every four years (which is only reserved for the league’s elite) and taking bows at the all-star game getting a complete pass from the public. This is a large reason why his presence in the franchise is the biggest problem with the Knicks. You have a guy who should be held more accountable by the public, i.e. fans and media, but gets a pass even though he is being paid like a superstar, talked up as if he is a superstar, and takes the most shots on the team every game, at an inefficient percentage, and gets the end game shots whether he is ice cold or not. Basketball more than any other sport is a sport where one player can have a huge impact on the game. Carmelo is supposed to be that guy but he could not even prevent his team from being the worse team in the NBA. So how can he be considered among the game’s elite players? How much value does he have if he cannot prevent his team from being the League’s worse? Oh I get it. It is his teammates fault right? Because he has no help around him. It should be pointed out that before the Knicks got rid of one player last season and before Carmelo shut it down to have surgery the Knicks started the season 5-31 with a bunch of competent NBA players on the roster. There was more than enough talent to win games. With Anthony on the court the Knicks won 10 games and without him they won 7 games. If the public held Anthony more accountable and showed more outrage over the team’s failure and inability to be anything but a disappointment under Anthony’s leadership then the organization would probably not still be building around him the way they continue to do.
The NBA All-star starters are voted on by the fans and the reserves are voted on by the league’s coaches which is how Anthony ended up making the team and starting because it becomes a popularity contest. Even though the fact that he was on the all-star game despite being the leader of the worse team in the NBA was never questioned by the New York or national media they did however question why he was going ahead to play in the game despite the situation with his hurt knee which was awaiting the surgery table as soon as he called it a season and had the procedure. The earlier the better so he could be ready for the start of this upcoming 2015-2016 season. Anthony said he wanted to play in the all-star game because it was at his home arena of Madison Square Garden and that it meant a lot to him. He was quoted as saying that he probably would not play a whole lot in the game because of his knee but that he wanted to be introduced with the starters and start the game because he wanted to do it for the fans. As things played out in the game that turned out to be nonsense. Anthony played the 2nd most minutes of the 24 all-stars playing just a minute and a half less than Lebron James.
Since the excuse from Carmelo supporters on why his team was the worse team in the league at the all-star break was because he didn’t have any talent around him surely he had adequate talent around him at the All-Star game. Anthony ended up not only playing the 2nd most minutes in the game but he took 20 shots and made just six, missing many in the 4th quarter, what else is new? In a game his East team lost by 5 points. Everything was set up for him to be the hero and he still was not able to do it. He finished with 14 points which was the fewest any player has scored in all-star game history when taking at least 20 shots. This is a game also where everyone knows the defense is being played at half effort he still manged to make just six shots. After telling reporters how great of a night it was for him following the game and how he would never forget it he shut it down for the rest of the season and had his surgery. Which then made him the first player to play in an all-star game and not play in a single game the rest of the season. With the exception of Magic Johnson of course who did not play in the 91-92 season because of his H.I.V. infection but did play in that season’s all-star game after being voted in by the fans.
It has been said many times that the NBA is a players league. With that being the case the “Superstar” is going to always have a lot of power in an organization because it’s about winning and you need good players to win. If a franchise believes in a player enough where they believe they are much worse off without the player then the franchise will placate to that player and do everything they can to keep that player happy. That is what the Knicks do with Carmelo Anthony but the problem is that he is not good enough to warrant the treatment. Since he came into the NBA he has been on teams whose recent history’s had been so bleak that they were just so thrilled to have him that they gave him the keys to the franchise and the offense and let him do whatever he wanted, taking whatever shot he’s wanted to take with no repercussion. He is the only player on the New York Knicks who can take any shot he wants without reproach from the head coach. His supporters always want to point to his scoring average which is always in the 20 point per game mark every season but if you are taking the amount of shots that he takes, which some seasons has been the most in the league, then you will wind up running up a scoring average. But where is the substance that comes with Carmelo’s scoring numbers? I believe there are a lot of players in the NBA who if given the same free reign as Carmelo and able to take any shot they want without repercussion would do it much more efficiently. Many would also be able to make others around them better, which Carmelo does not do, and it would lead to much more wins for the Knicks.
Since coming to the Knicks he has not had a head coach with enough cache and stability who could put their foot down with him without worrying about their job status because Carmelo doesn’t like them. Which is a large reason why I believe there is only so much blame you can give Derek Fisher for last season’s 17-65 season. Yes, it is always a mistake to have a head coach who the “superstar” does not fear as a real authority figure but in the same vein Fisher in his first season as a head coach right off the basketball court as a player was going to give Carmelo the respect that a “superstar” gets because he can’t win a power struggle with the team’s “star” player when the player is on the first year of a five year $125 million dollar contract. As a guy who played against Carmelo Fisher was not going to step on his toes and he gave Carmelo the respect and the chance to be the man that Carmelo wants to be and that he is signed up for. The triangle offense was built around him and he was not able to deliver. There were a lot of close games early in the season that were winnable and Anthony’s poor shooting lines and inability to make shots in the second half and 4th quarter’s cost them those games. As much as everyone wants to criticize the triangle offense right now the offense would have looked better if they had just salvaged a few more wins and weren’t completely the worse team in a dreadful eastern conference. No one was expecting big things from the Knicks this past season but when you have a man making what Carmelo makes with his reputation then you can’t be the worse team in the league. That is the problem. That is why this past season is such a disaster and that’s why everyone in the organization is catchiung hell. Except for Carmelo of course who many like ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who is one of the more influential members of the National basketball media, is hollering that Phil Jackson “Hoodwinked” and “bamboozled” Carmelo by lying to him because they told him they were going to put players around him to compete. As if Carmelo should take no blame in the Knicks dismal season like he isn’t the one in the middle of everything, often times as I’ve illustrated not being productive. The truth of the matter is that Carmelo should take as much blame as anyone in the organization and instead of the narrative being one of “Phil Bambozaling Carmelo it should be how Carmelo has let Phil down because Carmelo has not proven to be the player that Phil thought he was and has really let Phil down. Does anyone think had Phil known the Knicks would finish with an Eastern conference worse 17-65 record that Phil would have re signed Carmelo and given him that $25 million per year contract over five years? Of course not. This is the same Stephen A. Smith who has said Carmelo Anthony is one of the top five offense players in the modern era and that he can do everything offensively that Kobe Bryant can do. Both ridiculous arguments.
If the Knicks were just a decent team last season it would have bought everybody in the organization time. Everyone in the city knew that Phil Jackson had a rebuilding job in front of him when he took over the team in March of 2014. The only problem is Phil hitched his wagon to Carmelo like every other head coach has since Carmelo has been here and they’ve all ended up ran out of town. Phil will have the same fate if he does not figure out a way to not have everything in the Knicks universe revolve around Anthony. The sharks have already begun circulating the waters in New York criticizing Jackson like he is doing a bad job, already scapegoating him.
Anthony is the only player over the last decade plus who has not been ran out of town. When Isiah Thomas was running the Knicks and had talented players like Zach Randolph, Nate Robinson, Jamal Crawford, David Lee, Stephon Marbury Knicks fans and media swore that none of them could play and that none of them were winners. They all had that perception blanketed over them simply because the Knicks win total those days never approached the .500 mark. Fans didn’t want to hear anything else and didn’t want to hear that any of the Knicks players were good. They were all sent packing eventually. The same way the Knicks cast of the past couple of seasons were all ran out of town except for one man of course, Carmelo Anthony. Of the members who were on the Knicks 54 win team a couple of years ago Anthony is the only player that still remains on the team. Everybody else has taken blame for the past two seasons.
For all of the talk that Anthony is one of the game’s elite and one of the most respected players in the game why is it that none of the top flight free agents in this summer’s free agent class wanted to come to the Knicks. If Carmelo is such a big time player then wouldn’t one of the NBA’s top free agents this summer want to come to the Knicks and team up with him? Most of the NBA players already love playing in Madison Square Garden and in New York City because it’s the best arena in the world with the electricity and celebrities in attendance who are there just so they can cheer you on. There is also no better place to win than in New York, especially with the Knicks who haven’t won since 1973. The next Knicks team to win a championship will be canonized for life. Yet none of the big free agents wanted to come to the Knicks this summer. It didn’t even seem like any of them came close to signing with the Knicks. Lastly one of the things that Carmelo defenders point to for why he has only won a total of 3 playoff series in his entire career is that he has never had a supporting cast in his career. Before he came to the Knicks he spent the first 7 & half seasons of his career with the Denver Nuggets where he made the playoffs all seven years of his time there and failed to get out of the first round 6 of those 7 years. The truth actually is that when he was in Denver he did have a talented group of teammates with him and had more than enough help to make more noise in the Western Conference playoffs. In Denver he played with Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin who were both on the top of their game defensively at the time. Also on the Denver roster was Chris “Birdman” Anderson, another rugged big man in Nene Hillario, J.R. Smith off the bench whose 6th man of the year award two seasons ago with the Knicks helped Carmelo get out of the playoffs for just the 2nd time in his career. Also in Denver Anthony had Allen Iverson who at that time was still playing at a hall of fame level and if you need a reminder go google his numbers from Iverson’s time in Denver. Then Anthony got Chanucey Billups to play point guard when Denver traded Iverson to Detroit in exchange for Mr. Big Shot. So lets stop the Carmelo had no help argument and for those who say Anthony’s Nuggets always lost to a better team in the first round of the playoffs then that is just an indictment on the fact that Anthony was never able to get his team in a position where they were one of the top seeded playoff teams rather than kbeing seeded in the bottom half of the eight team field. But even in Denver with a talented cast around him he was not able to lift the Nuggets to heights much past above average.
Since the Carmelo trade the Knicks have a record of 158 wins and 182 losses. For anyone still believing that the Knicks can win a championship building around Anthony just consider the fact that in order to win a championship a team must win four consecutive series in the playoffs. Carmelo Anthony has won just a total of 3 playoff series in his 12 year career, 10 seasons of which he was in the playoffs. So why would anyone believe that he could lead them to where they want to get.