Carmelo Anthony's season ended last year just like it always has—another above par year statistically, another crushing playoff loss, and another ring-less season.
For the New York Knicks though, their season ended in some unfamiliar territory. For two straight years now, the Knicks have finally started to look like a team that's capable of competing, even as James Dolan continues to do everything he can to stop that from happening (or so I suspect).
But still, no matter what, the NBA has finally started to take notice. All eyes are on the Knicks this season, and that means all eyes are also on their franchise player and team leader.
Melo is arguably going into the biggest season of his excellent career, but he still has several hurdles to overcome. This season certainly won't be easy, and with a plethora of offseason moves, there's almost no telling what this Knicks team will look like until they actually step onto the court.
But you know what? Maybe I'm in the minority. But I don't doubt Melo, not even for a second.
I don't doubt his skill. I don't doubt his drive, and I don't doubt his "winnability." You can still win with Melo as your core, and I firmly believe that.
Anthony's time is now, and I have a feeling he'll do anything it takes to cement his legacy in New York this season and beyond.
Here's five reasons why:
You've probably heard it on Sportscenter more times than you can count, but I'll say it again just in case it got lost in all the Jets Minicamp coverage.
No one has ever had a year quite like LeBron James.
Why am I mentioning Bron Bron in a Knicks article? It's because, truthfully, the same could be said about Carmelo Anthony, just not in the same positive light.
In one year, Melo has gone from hero to goat more times than anyone can keep track off. His highs and lows were definitely on both extremes for most of the season. Even when Melo was at his best, you just knew that a tailspin was right around the corner.
Injuries slowed him down at times even though Melo was still able to gather enough of a season to start the All-Star game. Like some horrible nightmare, he was then forced to watch his team win without him during a brief period simply known as Linsanity. This was one of the greatest moments for Knicks fans in years, but it only brought up questions about Melo's overall importance to this team and it's chemistry, especially after he returned and the Knicks lost all momentum.
He had a spat with his coach and the front office to the point where trade rumors started swirling, and then just like that, he found his swagger again after Mike Woodson took over the head coaching chair. This ended up creating more questions and concerns. Only this time they were about Melo's attitude towards the game. Was he slumping intentionally just to get his way and force the Knicks to dump Mike D'Antoni.
Then the playoffs rolled around, and Knicks fans watched their team get their first playoff win in over a decade, which apparently deserved about 10 tons of confetti. At the same time, fans were also witnessing a complete and utter decimation at the hands of James and the Heat. Is it possible for a team to lose five games in a series? Because I'm going to be honest, it really felt like that at times when watching those games.
Then came the offseason, and the New York media still didn't miss a beat. In only a few short months, Melo has seen himself viciously get blamed for Jeremy Lin leaving New York, then winning the ultimate prize by bringing home a Gold Medal for Team USA in dominating fashion. I hope Anthony finds at least a couple months of relaxation before this next season kicks off. Lord knows he's earned it.
Because what's around the corner for Melo? How about only the biggest season of his entire career? The chips are down, and it's time for Melo to finally prove that he can bring home more then just a single playoff win to The Big Apple. Two won't cut it either. Maybe four will, but I seriously doubt it.
It won't be easy. The press won't just forget about him, and I'm sure most fans already have their fingers ready to point at him as soon as this team starts to even look like they're slipping.
But even with all the problems last year, Melo remained professional most of the time, and he'll do it again this year. There's just too much riding on him for failure.
If anything, Melo has shown that when the pressure's on, that's when his star shines the brightest.
Well, the pressure is definitely on full blast this season, so it's time for Melo to do what he does best, and do it better than he's ever done before.
Gold Medal victory aside, Carmelo Anthony accomplished something this summer that may have completely changed his outlook on the game.
Anthony proved, once and for all, that he can shine on the biggest stage even next to the biggest names. Despite all the talk about Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul all summer long, it was Melo who cashed in with big games, clutch shots and notable coverages.
Even with all the megastars surrounding him, Melo didn't get lost in the shuffle. Instead, he thrived on it, proved he too is a megastar and showed that his game is just as good as anyone else's in the league, or for that matter, the world.
Hopefully, Melo brings home his new found confidence and incorporates his learning experience into his game this upcoming season. If he can do that successfully, then he just might end up making every team look like Tunisia day in and day out.
Also, history may be on the Knicks' side as well, which I've heard sometimes repeats itself.
The last time Melo came home with a gold medal around his neck in 2008, he subsequently went on to have arguably the best seasons of his stellar career, posting a career high in three-point percentage and tying the league record for most points in a quarter.
Granted, that Nuggets team weren't a bunch of scrubs by any stretch of the imagination. You had a reliable Chauncey Billups and pre-China Kenyon Martin, a 6.2 RPG Birdman, a Nene who was coming into his own, and the always exciting J.R. Smith.
Still, is that Nuggets team in any way better than this current Knicks team? With the team he has around him, Melo is going to spearhead his team into an Olympic-sized onslaught of the NBA season this year.
Which also leads me to my next point...
Yup, even with one too many geezers on the team now, there's not much about this offseason that can be chalked up as a failure.
Sure, losing Jeremy Lin could end up costing this team but probably more from a financial perspective than a talent one. Other than this, there's really nothing that makes this Knicks roster seem completely incapable of a deep playoff run.
If it all goes according to plan, veteran PG Raymond Felton's return to Madison Square Garden will help in the rejuvenation of Amar'e Stoudemire. Tyson Chandler is going to be the same defensive centerpiece that he established himself as last season. Additionally, new bench guys like Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby will provide solid back up minutes and put up effective numbers.
You also have tons of talented young guys like Ronnie Brewer for instant D, JR Smith for instant O and Iman Shumpert for instant O and D. These young guns will be huge spark plugs to this Knicks team. Altogether you have a team worth getting excited about, and maybe even worth paying the $125 for nosebleed seats at the Garden.
Now throw a motivated Anthony into this whole equation, and the sky is truly the limit. As long as other guys on this team can establish themselves as offensive threats, it will give Melo some room to breathe and ultimately flourish.
Again, this is if everything all goes according to plan. There are certainly no guarantees. Kidd and Camby could look every bit of their age or older this season. Melo's stats may just continue to slip into obscurity. Injuries could once again run rampant on this team, and Melo could once again be stuck having to carry this team on his back probably with minimal success.
But no worries because my next slide will tell you why I don't think this will happen.
Even with all the hype last year, it still is safe to say that the Knicks did underachieve pretty substantially in 2011-2012.
It still leaves many fans with a few doubts and more than enough questions, but there's always one thing that Knicks fans including myself can fall back on when looking at last year's team.
They simply didn't have time to develop any sort of chemistry thanks to the lockout last year. The merit of that statement is arbitrary, but it does help many Knicks fans go to sleep at night.
And believe me, when it comes to a lack of chemistry, the Knicks couldn't have been more inept at certain times last season.
Even with a talent like Melo on the floor, you can't expect to win games without any hint of a game plan. For most of the season, it looked like the Knicks decided to go with a strategy that only rec league coaches really instill in their teams these days.
That strategy is a simple one: give the ball to your best player, and hope for the best. Seriously, that's it. No screens. No diversions, not even much of an isolation play. The whole Knicks team would just stop and watch Melo play.
This is a game plan that really hasn't been successful since the days of Wilt Chamberlain. You can bring up the Jordan argument, but he didn't really win anything until Chicago actually surrounded him with a competitive supporting crew. Since Melo is neither anywhere near 7'1 nor playing in 1962, you can guess that this offensive adjustment won't lead to much success.
Well Mike D'Antoni, the mastermind behind that idea, is gone, and now Mike Woodson has an actual offseason to tweak, adjust and strengthen every aspect of this Knicks team. If his early stint as coach is any indication, this team may be on the right track to huge regular season success.
For Melo? This is only going to work wonders for his game. Having time to finally learn a game plan is what's going to make Anthony into a very prevalent threat this season. He needs to develop a relationship with this fellow Big Three-mates, and most importantly, he has to follow Woodson's guidance.
Because, for Melo, Woodson is doing everything he can to finally turn this Knicks team into the bona fide Melo Show.
Which brings me to my last slide...
This is the single biggest reason why I think Carmelo Anthony is primed to have himself one hell of a year. It's all set up for him.
Finally, after a year and a half of adjustments, the New York Knicks are officially going all in on Melo. Sure he's got plenty of talent around him, but this isn't like Jordan's time in the 80's.
Melo's star is going to shine the brightest despite having very capable teammates.
Whether or not Melo had anything to do with Lin's departure, the front office's decision says a lot about the kind of faith that they have in Anthony and his ability to lead.
Could Lin and Melo co-exist? It's debatable, but at the end of the day, Lin is now a Rocket, and Melo is still the Knicks' main man. Woodson made that abundantly clear early in stint as the interim head coach, and I don't expect things to change too much going into the 2012-2013 season.
So finally Melo's got the green light to shoot. He has a familiar team to actually fall back on and an offseason to put the pieces together properly.
If Melo can't ball this season then the Knicks are definitely in for a long couple of years.
Having covered why Melo would likely have a big season this 2012-13 campaign, do you think his success will be able to generate more wins for the Knickerbockers? I sure hope so. No matter what happens Melo is slated to have himself quite a season. Of course basketball is far from a one man show, but if the rest of this team can execute Woodson's strategy effectively, recognize their strengths and maybe get a little lucky, then I expect a huge improvement from this team.
Thanks for the read guys, and don't forget to comment.
(P.S. Take a moment and look at Steve Novak in this photo. If someone can explain to me what he's doing, please leave a comment. Better yet, make a thought bubble for him and put in what you think he's thinking.)