Trade deadline time and even when the New York Knicks are not involved in trade talk, they’re in the news. Of course they are.
The latest drama involves the return of Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks lineup and the struggles the team has had since he’s been back. After the team went 7-1 in his absence, they have lost eight of 10 games since he has returned.
This is what we expected to happen, right? This is why we enjoyed the Jeremy Lin run so much and why we couldn’t really figure out how things were going to work out when Anthony returned.
The Knicks were in trouble before Anthony was sidelined with the groin injury that would cause him to miss those eight games. Mike D’Antoni’s job had been in trouble before the emergence of Lin because things in New York were not working out like the Knicks front office had expected a year after gutting the roster to bring Anthony into the fold.
So now, Anthony’s back, things revert back to how they were pre-Linsanity and we’re angry with him for not knowing how to defer to his teammates and give up the ball in crunch time? That’s like being angry with a baby for crying on a plane or a dog for barking while you’re trying to sleep. Frustrating, sure, but this is the scoring star that Anthony has always been.
The player that the Knicks traded for is the same player that they have now; he’s just the same player in a different system and his game isn’t working anymore.
Anthony wants the Knicks to play through him, as every team has throughout his career. He is, by is own admission, uncomfortable in an offense in which he is not the primary ball-handler. That role is now capably filled by Jeremy Lin and Baron Davis.
“He wants 20 shots a game,” a person with ties to another Knicks player said of Anthony. “He has had a scorer’s mentality his whole life.”
That quote pretty much sums up the situation in New York. The Knicks traded for a player who is a scorer. That’s what he does. He isn’t a particularly good defender; he doesn’t make plays for other people; he scores the ball. He does this brilliantly when he is on and when the shots aren’t falling, he’ll shoot you out of the game.
An even bigger concern than having a player shoot you into the loss column every so often is how that kind of star on your roster affects the team chemistry and pecking order as a whole.
The Knicks are learning why George Karl would often get frustrated with his star. The Denver Nuggets are proving how important it is to have players that know and accept their roles.
The thing with Anthony is: If he is a star because he’s a scorer and his role isn’t to score anymore, where does he fit?
The simple solution is for Anthony to evolve as a basketball player. To learn to make the right plays, to recognize when teammates are open, to recognize when he is not. Logic tells us that this is probably not going to happen.
In his ninth season with a career scoring average of 24.7 points per game, Anthony has never learned how to defer. He doesn't need to be the villain in this story, but his role as the hero no longer fits this storyline.
The Knicks are 12-20 with Anthony in the lineup this season, and 25-34 since he put on the uniform.
Carmelo Anthony wanted the Knicks. He demanded the trade that cost them four starters and multiple draft picks, and the $65 million extension that came with it. Anthony wanted the New York spotlight. Now he must accept the glare.
The truth can be tough, sometimes. While it’s easy for people to say that Anthony demanded the trade to be brought to New York, that trade wouldn’t have been possible without a franchise wiling to cater to him without weighing future consequences.
While Anthony bears some responsibility here, the crushing weight of another collapsing Knicks season falls squarely, familiarly, on the collective shoulders of New York’s front office.