7 Reasons Carmelo Anthony Is Headed for Career Year
Polarizing, mercurial and inconsistent are all words that have been applied to one of the NBA's greatest stars. As the 2013 regular season rapidly approaches, however, Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks will have an opportunity to quiet all in doubt of his status among the game's elite.
An opportunity that Carmelo Anthony will make the most of.
'Melo has always struggled to remain in the good graces of the NBA's never pleased fans. He's been a threat for 30 on any given night since the beginning of his career, but has failed to live up to expectations since joining the media-driven New York Knicks. A change of pace is in store, however, as Anthony approaches a make-or-break season.
Prepare for the greatest season of Carmelo Anthony's nine-year career.
7. Linsanity Is Gone
Where else would we start?
We could debate whether or not Carmelo Anthony and Jeremy Lin can coexist in an offense until our hair turns gray. What we cannot do, however, is contest the results that have come with one man removed from the rotation.
And, yes, Lin haters, that's a two-sided coin.
The focus here, however, is not to praise either man but instead evaluate the facts. For instance, without Jeremy Lin in the lineup, Carmelo Anthony averaged 29.1 points per game. He thus returned to form and reclaimed the New York Knicks as his team, leading them to a 12-5 record to close out the season—a run that included victories over the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat.
Just imagine how 'Melo will play with Jeremy Lin gone for good.
Carmelo Anthony was brought to New York to be the star of the city. With Linsanity running rampant and stealing headlines, however, 'Melo rarely appeared comfortable with each player on the floor at the same time.
With Lin out of town, 'Melo will remind people why he's one of the top 10 players in the NBA.
6. Pass-First Point Guards
Jeremy Lin does not deserve the criticism he often receives. With that being said, it's fair to acknowledge that he is not of the pass-first nature.
A majority of his assists came off of drive-and-dish situations in which defenses closed out on Lin, thus resulting in spot-up jump shots and no true flow to the offense. With the introduction of Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton to the offense, however, that form of attack is certain to change in 2013.
While Carmelo Anthony can be a ball stopper in his own right, his role is as a scorer should not suggest otherwise. This is something that Felton, Kidd and Prigioni are all aware of and prepared for; if they weren't, the New York Knicks wouldn't have added all three of the free agents this offseason.
As a result, Carmelo Anthony will return to his role of primary scorer and be able to focus more on his defense. He will not have to focus on fighting for possession, but instead for position in the post or on the perimeter.
With a slew of elite passers, Anthony should find instant and consistent success in achieving just that.
5. Mike Woodson's Go-to-Guy
Carmelo Anthony and former head coach Mike D'Antoni infamously butted heads during the 2012-13 NBA season. Due to the bad blood between them, D'Antoni and 'Melo became engaged in a measuring match of who was more valuable to the franchise.
After just half a season, the offensive guru lost the battle and D'Antoni eventually stepped down.
In the coming days, Mike Woodson became the Knicks' head coach. With Woodson roaming the sidelines, Carmelo Anthony exhibited an effort that we had never seen before. 'Melo's level of defensive effort was tremendous, as he took on the opposing team's best scorers with pride and a grand effort.
He also tempered the wild ball handling and improved his shot selection in a major way.
Anthony was also thrust into both small and power forward. Unlike many players who are forced out of their natural position, Anthony displayed a will to adapt for the bettering of the team—something many would argue he'd never displayed before.
Due to this elevated level of effort and efficiency, Carmelo Anthony has officially emerged as head coach Mike Woodson's go-to guy. While Amar'e Stoudemire will be looked to for big points himself, it's 'Melo who will be handed the ball with the game on the line.
Something that his teammates are certainly comfortable with.
4. Trust of Teammates
This is especially important for Carmelo Anthony as he is a player whose style of play demands the trust of his teammates. His game flows primarily with the ball in his hands, which requires a certain level of understanding from the players around him.
He's going to attack off of the dribble. He's going to take jump shots. Most importantly, regardless of what the score is, he's always going to be in attack mode.
If the New York Knicks do not trust that 'Melo will improve their chances of victory by attacking often, chemistry will fall apart and the results will be unfavorable. Fortunately, the team has learned that Carmelo Anthony is a one-of-a-kind scorer who deserves his teammates' trust and belief.
As a result, Anthony's opportunities will come much more often than in 2013, as his teammates will know who they should look to in times of need.
3. Momentum Carries over
Before the New York Knicks fell to the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat, they were the hottest team in the NBA. The Knicks embarked on a 12-5 run to close out the regular season, including victories over the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers and two wins against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The team that was in direct competition with the Knicks for the final postseason spot.
At the heart of this turnaround was Carmelo Anthony, who had finally returned to All-NBA form. His averages of 29.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals offer indisputable evidence. Anthony's 49.5 percent shooting from the floor and 46.0 percent shooting from distance scream MVP.
While Carmelo Anthony's previous four months had offered no grounds for MVP talk, his final month should be encouraging as we enter the 2013 campaign. The Miami Heat ended up shutting the Knicks down in the postseason, but New York did win their first postseason game since 2001.
Momentum is on New York's side—something that Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks haven't been able to say in quite some time.
2. The Team USA Effect
Players who have spent time on Team USA's national basketball team have long experienced a history of elevated success during the following NBA season. From the elevated level of internal demand to the consistent surroundings of elite talents and minds, Team USA forces players to hold themselves to a greater level of expectation.
Don't expect Carmelo Anthony to be any different.
If we learned anything from Anthony's exhibition games, it's that he can be a bit of a slow starter. Upon evaluating his performances in the early stages of the 2012 London Olympics, however, it's clear that the butterflies are gone and the rust has been removed.
A key reason is that he's firmly discovered and developed his role within the unit.
The mercurial small forward put all the doubters to rest against Nigeria, scoring an Olympic record 37 points en route to an 83-point blowout. This all but solidified Anthony's status as a top tier player and proved that he can lead an elite team to victory.
It also proved that Kevin Durant will have a serious competitor for the scoring title in 2013.
1. First Offseason with Knicks
One of the most understated stories in all of basketball is how little experience the New York Knicks have actually had together. Although the beginning stages of their core began in 2011, Carmelo and company have never had an offseason to build the proper chemistry.
A trade midway through the 2011 season and the lockout during the following offseason all but assured that. Throw in a lockout-shortened season in 2012 and you have a team in shambles.
As a result, the New York Knicks have been learning each other's tendencies on the fly. Barring unforeseen circumstances, that will come to an end as we approach the 2013 season.
Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire will finally have an offseason to develop chemistry on the offensive end of the floor. Tyson Chandler will be able to work with Stoudemire on how they'll defend the paint, while Anthony and perimeter mates will begin to outline their formula for success.
Regardless of what the individuals do, it will all run through 'Melo.
With preparation comes a greater approach to perfection. Carmelo Anthony will prove that in 2013 as he makes a serious push toward his first career MVP award.