Even casual fans should have heard by now of Carmelo Anthony’s 62 point outing last Friday night at Madison Square Garden. The media went crazy, documenting what was the greatest scoring output in MSG history. Melo beat Kobe Bryant’s 61 point performance on February 2, 2009 and remarkably did so without committing a turnover.
And for once this season in NYC, everything seemed alright. The Knicks have been struggling mightily this season. Whether it’s been injuries, aging players, underperformance from new arrivals like Andrea Bargnani, JR Smith trying to untie peoples shoes, or just a lack of cohesiveness and “flow” to their game, New York has found itself out of playoff contention in a weak Eastern Conference.
And here is Carmelo Anthony, the superstar-scoring champion who was brought here to give the Knicks what their administration, their fans and their team itself would need to help get them to the next level and perhaps reach lofty championship aspirations. Yet, for all of the optimism Anthony once held, it seems as if this season, plans are starting to change.
For Carmelo, it is fairly obvious that winning is extremely important. He is one of the most talented basketball players in the league. He is now in the prime of his career and does not (as presumably all NBA players don’t) want to waste these years in a mediocre or losing effort. History shows that for all of his ability to score and produce, Carmelo Anthony’s postseason career has not been overly successful.
Ironically, Anthony has made the playoffs every season of his career. He clearly has talent and deserves to be a professional basketball player in the league today. Yet, he has the worst winning percentage of any player that has played in at least 50 playoff games and has only gotten out of the first round twice. Other than his 2009 Western Conference Finals appearance, Anthony has not been even a remote success as the star and leader of his teams.
When Carmelo joined the Knicks in 2011, the MSG speakers blasted “I’m Coming Home” over the loudspeakers as if to play up Anthony’s prodigal return to the city of his youth, although he did move to Baltimore when he was eight. Yet Anthony’s arrival in New York was seen as the start of brighter days for the Knicks.
Last year, the team got off to its best start since 1993 and finished second in the east with 54 wins. They capped off the season by winning their first playoff series since 2000 before bowing out against the Pacers in six games. Things seemed to be on the rise as Anthony was able to successfully lead his new team slowly into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. Then this season happened.
With the Knicks a mess, sources from everywhere have proclaimed that Anthony will opt to become a free agent at the end of this season. Despite claims that Anthony is a selfish scorer, it’s fairly obvious that he wants nothing more than to win. Although New York was where he wanted to be when he got himself out of Denver, it is safe to say that no destination is a preferred destination when your team is losing.
Anthony has been visibly frustrated on the court many times this season, shaking his head in disgust or loudly voicing his frustration with these losses. Possible destinations include anywhere from the Los Angeles to Houston, with Kobe Bryant even giving passive public advice in the sense that Anthony should not be happy with an organization that is not tirelessly working to shake a developing culture of losing. But then last Friday happened.
Suddenly, Carmelo Anthony was the hero again. Here he was, the talk of the NBA, somehow lifting the franchise, its fans and their faith in him with one great game. And to be fair, it was a historic performance. That’s the thing about the NBA: Certain games have the potential to alleviate the pain of a rough season, to float the stress away, if only temporarily. But let’s say the Knicks don’t begin to turn things around.
Let’s say they miss the playoffs. Heck, even if they made it this season, they’d most likely get ousted in the first round. Can the Knicks improve?
Can Carmelo Anthony wait? He’s impatient, and in an era where LeBron James can hold his own press conference on ESPN to change teams, there’s no reason why Melo shouldn’t feel as if he holds the power to change his team at any demand. No one is saying this is cool, but it’s become the culture of the NBA.
Stars, both present and aging, are seeking for their one shot, their last shot, their potential dynasty. Carmelo’s numbers certainly justify contracts and willing buyers. While his playoff history begs to differ, there are few teams in the league that won’t be willing to pick up a former NBA scoring champ in the prime of his career. I’m not saying Melo will leave the Knicks, but if he does… well, Denver seemed to have recovered nicely.