Is Carmelo Anthony a Lightweight or Just Being Cautious?

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 8, 2013

Feb. 27, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) on the court against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

In the New York Knicks' attempt to fend off the Indiana Pacers for the second seed in the Eastern Conference, things won't always be easy.

Roles may change, minutes may be cut and undoubtedly players have will have to fight their way through 59 games worth of ailments.

And no player may feel that need to play through the pain more than the team's MVP candidate, Carmelo Anthony. One of the premier scorers in today's game (28.2 points per game), he's one of the few players coach Mike Woodson can count on to create something out of nothing.

If Anthony is feeling that underlying responsibility to play, he's having a hard time showing it.

Anthony missed the Knicks' Thursday night battle with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the second game he's missed since taking an awkward tumble near half court during Monday night's game with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The play held potential at least toward becoming a serious injury. No-contact spills often spell disaster for the players involved.

Anthony has since been listed as "day-to-day" and the initial prognosis tells not of a tragic misstep, but rather the culmination of some lingering, knee soreness. Woodson has since said that his star player asked to be removed from action after his stumble (via Rob Mahoney of

Throughout the season, Anthony has battled various ailments that have kept him out of action during some of the team's biggest games. After he cut his finger during the closing minutes of the team's 100-98 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Dec. 5, he was held out of road games with the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls.

Just one week later, he took an awkward fall during a game with the Los Angeles Lakers when his driving attempt was met at the rim by Dwight Howard.

He missed two games again, including a 109-96 loss to the Houston Rockets on Dec. 17 that marked Jeremy Lin's return to Madison Square Garden.

He suffered another injury two weeks later, hyperextending his knee after getting tangled up with teammate Marcus Camby during practice. Again, he missed the following two games.

His absences haven't brought the anticipated catastrophic results (the Knicks are 4-5 without him), but his vacated spot in the rotation has still been felt.

With a 16-12 record away from the Garden, the Knicks may not appear to need homecourt advantage as desperately as most clubs do. But that doesn't mean they wouldn't enjoy opening a few playoff series in front of their home fans, something that only grows more difficult to achieve with each game Anthony misses.

Still, it's hard to see any positives from Anthony playing outweighing the potential risk of aggravating his injuries.

Between Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert the Knicks have enough knee injuries to worry about. Even if Anthony's most recent ailment is nothing more than soreness, why not let him get the rest now that Woodson won't be able find in the postseason?

At this point, even the most ardent Knicks supporter knows there are only marginal gains to be had over the final month-plus of the regular season. There's simply too much ground (eight games) to make up for them to catch the defending champion Miami Heat.

At the same time, even the biggest Knicks hater knows there's only so far that the team can fall. There haven't been any signs that the fourth through seventh seeds (Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics) will be threatening for a top-three seed before the season's over.

So the only reward coming out of this risky situation is having a single additional homecourt game in the Knicks' potential second-round matchup with the Pacers.

Not quite worth risking the franchise's best chance to move beyond the first round in more than decade, I'd say.