On March 3, New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony hyper-extended his right arm during a loss to the Miami Heat. On March 4, Anthony suffered an injured right knee which forced him out of a comeback win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For the sake of the fragile Knicks, 'Melo must proceed with caution.
Anthony has been a relatively durable player throughout his career, but he's never played for a team quite like the 2012-13 Knicks. Not only do they possess an elite roster, but they're one of the oldest and most injury-prone teams in the league.
Frank Isola @FisolaNYDN
Mike Woodson says there is a small build up of "fluid" on Carmelo's right knee.2013-3-6 16:06:05
That's more than two months of absence before the final word came down.
This is not to say that the Knicks are withholding information about Anthony, but just a single example of a season plagued by injuries. Just as the team appears to be reaching full health, 'Melo can't risk being the player to exit the rotation.
Even if Amar'e Stoudemire is capable of leading this team.
Can't Afford Another Reboot
If Carmelo Anthony is out of the rotation, the New York Knicks are far from doomed. They're filled with depth and could potentially experience the same quality results as Stoudemire led them to in 2010-11.
With that being said, the Knicks cannot afford yet another reboot.
Regardless of how talented they may be, the Knicks have been nothing short of a mess this season. Even as they secure victories, we've rarely seen the Knicks take the court with their full roster.
Amar'e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert and Marcus Camby began the year battling injuries. Jason Kidd, Wallace and Anthony are just three players who are doing so now.
In order to sustain their championship contention, the Knicks must remain healthy for the postseason—not rush back from injuries.
Stoudemire continues to perform at a high level, Raymond Felton is having an excellent year and J.R. Smith is a Sixth Man of the Year award contender. What all three of those players lack, however, is what Anthony possesses.
A superstar presence.
Whether 'Melo is blazing hot or ice cold, his mere presence on the floor commands defensive attention. This helps to create openings for players such as Steve Novak, who is a lethal three-point shooter with limited ability as a shot creator.
With Anthony drawing double-teams, however, Novak can overcome his dribbling weaknesses and spot-up for open looks.
Felton will help with his drive-and-dish abilities and Stoudemire can collapse a defense with his interior scoring. Neither of those players are as versatile as the league's second-leading score, however, which makes Anthony far from expendable.
Matched up against elite teams such as the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, Anthony's presence is key—that's why he can't risk further injury.
Check the Numbers
When Anthony went down against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the world collectively wondered if New York would survive. The team responded by overcoming a 22-point deficit to win 102-97 at the Cavs.
ESPN Stats & Info provided a number which set the Twittersphere ablaze.
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Knicks outscored Cavaliers 72-45 after Carmelo Anthony left game with an injury2013-3-5 02:42:17
The instant reaction was the irrational belief that the Knicks are better without 'Melo.
According to NBA.com, the Knicks are averaging 101.3 points scored and 95.7 points allowed per 48 minutes that Anthony is on the floor. Those numbers dip to 96.8 points for and 97.4 against per 48 when Anthony is on the bench.
So which numbers do you value—one game or three-quarters of a season?
If you go with the former, Anthony's injury is a non-factor. If you appreciate the latter, however, you know what is a proven fact.
If Anthony's doesn't properly recover from this injury, the Knicks' dreams of chasing a title will be dashed.