New York Knicks: Is Mike Woodson Playing Carmelo Anthony Too Many Minutes?

Tamer Chamma@TamerC_BRContributor IIFebruary 17, 2013

Carmelo Anthony may not be too friendly with Mike Woodson if his coach runs him into the ground come playoff time.
Carmelo Anthony may not be too friendly with Mike Woodson if his coach runs him into the ground come playoff time.Elsa/Getty Images

Carmelo Anthony is widely considered the most important player on the Knicks roster.

The only other player that even gets consideration for this distinction is Tyson Chandler, due to his leadership qualities and defensive ability on a team lacking great defensive players.

Anthony is the team's leading scorer by a staggering 12.4 points over second place J.R. Smith. He is also the unquestioned go-to-guy on offense down the stretch of close games.

With that said, it is obviously imperative for Anthony to be healthy and rested heading into the playoffs if the Knicks want to have any chance of winning an NBA championship.

Mike Woodson, however, is putting his superstar in harm's way with the amount of minutes he is playing him.

Anthony is averaging 38.1 minutes per game this season, which is only six seconds off his career-high of 38.2 minutes per game – set in 2006-07 and repeated three years later. He has a good chance though to eclipse this mark given his playing time since the start of 2013.

Melo is averaging a ridiculous 40.4 minutes per game since January 1. He has only played less than 40 minutes in six of the 19 games during this stretch.

It is understandable to some degree why Woodson relies on Anthony so much.

The Knicks are desperately trying to avoid dropping to the fourth seed because a second round playoff matchup with the defending champion Miami Heat is a near certainty in that spot. Also, as the fourth seed, their opponent in the first round would likely be either the Chicago Bulls or Brooklyn Nets, two teams that have given New York trouble this season.

Why Anthony's minutes have increased over the last few months is a mystery, though. The Knicks roster has gotten deeper in 2013, adding Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert to the lineup after both players missed the beginning of the season due to injury. Also, Raymond Felton returned in late January after missing a month with a fractured right pinkie.

Woodson has had the ability to rest Anthony more with a wider variety of weapons at his disposal. This is especially true in the case of Stoudemire, who the Knicks can run the offense through when Melo is on the bench.

Also, the Knicks have actually played less close games in January and February, and therefore Woodson has had more opportunities to rest Anthony, compared to the beginning of the season.

New York played 30 games in November and December. Fifty percent of those games were decided by 10 points or more. So far in 2013, the Knicks have 19 games under their belt and 10 of those contests, or 52.6 percent, have been decided by at least double digit points.

To be more specific, why did Anthony play 40 minutes in a 13-point Knicks win against the New Orleans Hornets on January 13 and then follow that up with another 40-minute effort in a 15-point victory against the Detroit Pistons four days later? Both of these teams are terrible, and the Knicks were in control of each game from start to finish, especially in the Pistons win.

Anthony is firmly in his prime but he can't be considered young anymore. He is in his 10th NBA season and will turn 29 in late May. He also has had a knack for getting dinged up in his career. Melo has missed at least 10 games in four of his first nine seasons and has sat out due to injury in six games this season.

Finally, don't forget that Anthony participated in the Olympics last summer. All of these factors make him a risk to wear out or get injured just in time for the playoffs.

Holding on to the second or third seed is important to the Knicks chances for postseason success. It won't matter much though if their best player is worn out or, even worse, injured.

Woodson would be wise to cap Melo's minutes at 36 per game, starting on Wednesday night when the Knicks begin the post All-Star break portion of their schedule in Indiana against the Pacers.