It's Time for Carmelo Anthony to Deliver What the Knicks Brought Him to NY for

Ciaran GowanContributor IIIApril 23, 2013

Carmelo Anthony has had an unbelievable campaign for the New York Knicks.

The hometown star has led his franchise to its best season in over a decade, and has done so en route to the first scoring title of his 10-year NBA career.

Anthony has stepped up and become the leader the Knicks wanted him to be when they traded for him back in 2011, and it has been a joy to watch for the fans that have craved a player like this for so long.

But, as good as Melo's regular season was, it will mean nothing if he can't carry that success into the playoffs.

Melo was brought here to contend for a title, and after two straight first-round exits, it's about time his Knicks made good on those expectations.

The past two years have been tough for Melo. Injuries hit the team at the wrong time in the playoffs, and without a strong supporting cast, it was impossible for them to compete.

In 2011, the Knicks took on the Boston Celtics with Amar'e Stoudemire in and out of the lineup. Anthony was left to take on one of the league's best defenses single handedly, and unsurprisingly New York was swept.

With a starting five at one point including Toney Douglas, Landry Fields and Ronny Turiaf, New York was never a serious threat.

It was a similar story for the team last year. Injuries were once again an issue, with Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Baron Davis, Jeremy Lin and Iman Shumpert all missing significant time. The Knicks only won one game in their series against the Miami Heat, and it took a gargantuan 41-point effort from Melo just to get that done.

Considering all the health, coaching and chemistry issues, Melo and the Knicks can be excused for their disappointing postseason displays over the last two years.

In 2013, however, there are no excuses.

General manager Glen Grunwald has given Melo a veteran supporting cast that he can trust, and after earning the second seed in the Eastern Conference, this team has the talent to go all the way.

After such an exciting regular season, New York is expecting big things from Melo in the postseason, and this could well be a career-defining few months for him.

Expectations are certainly high, and it's not going to be easy to live up for them, but Melo has given us reason to believe that he's capable of getting the job done.

Anthony's play this season has been unlike anything we've ever seen from him before. He's more willing to pass out of double-teams, is much more efficient (he just posted a career-high PER of 24.8) and has made significant defensive improvements.

In Game 1 against the Celtics, we saw what Anthony was capable of doing. He got off to a hot start—as he often does—and that was enough to carry the Knicks through some cold stretches later in the game.

It definitely wasn't his most efficient game of the season, but Melo made plays when it counted, which is exactly what postseason basketball is all about.

His assist to Kenyon Martin on the most important play of the game was a sign of how far he's come, and further proof that he trusts his teammates, even in the clutch.

Whether his playoff history tells you or not, Melo is a winner. He led Syracuse to a national championship in college and has two gold medals to his name with Team USA.

NBA success has been the only thing to elude Melo at this point in the career, but if he keeps up this level of play, that should become a thing of the past.

The bottom line is that Melo is playing the best basketball of his career on the best team he has ever been on and is primed to make a deep run.

This is a team that can go toe-to-toe with the Heat, and if Melo earns the opportunity, it would be wise not to count him out in that matchup.

How far the Knicks go this season will go a long way toward Melo's public perception. People still see him as a selfish player who can't win in the playoffs, and they will until he proves them wrong.

Regardless of the doubters, Melo has given New York reason to believe. As long as he's in the lineup, this is a title-contending team, and the playoffs are going to prove just that.