During the New York Knicks' 2013 NBA playoff run, we saw Carmelo Anthony do two things on a frequent basis: shoot and grimace. Anthony has always been big on the former, but now we know why he did so much of the latter.
According to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, Anthony had been playing with a pretty significant shoulder injury:
Frank Isola @FisolaNYDN
An MRI reveals that Carmelo Anthony is suffering from a small left shoulder tear, Daily News has learned. Knicks hopeful no surgery needed2013-5-23 00:35:51
The injury had been a source of concern for Anthony since April 14, when he initially suffered it against the Indiana Pacers. He aggravated it a handful of times throughout the postseason, with each new tweak bringing a familiar grab for the joint and an uncomfortable wince.
In Game 5 of the Knicks' opening-round series against the Boston Celtics, things looked particularly bad for 'Melo.
He continued to suit up throughout the playoffs, but he clearly paid for it whenever there was any significant contact with that bad shoulder.
It's hard to know whether the injury, which was to Anthony's non-shooting arm, affected his play. He certainly continued to log major minutes throughout the postseason and had no qualms about firing off plenty of difficult shots. If he truly had been hampered by the injury, you'd think coach Mike Woodson would have devised some way to run an offense that didn't involve such a heavy reliance on Anthony.
No other player came close to matching Anthony's 25.8 field-goal attempts per game in the postseason. So we know that his confidence, at least, remained healthy.
Still, it's interesting to note that after hitting 38 percent of his three-point attempts during the season, his long-range accuracy dropped to under 30 percent in the playoffs. The efficiency dip was the same from everywhere else on the floor, as well:
It might be a little reductive to point to the shoulder injury and assume that it led to 'Melo's reduced accuracy. It's certainly possible, but there's also a case to be made for the defenses of the Celtics and Indiana Pacers, which forced Anthony to take tougher shots.
Plus, Anthony's career shooting percentages in the playoffs (42 percent from the field and 32 percent from beyond the arc) actually aren't all that far off from what he did in this year's postseason.
Looking ahead, Anthony's prognosis is good. According to Isola, the Knicks are going to give 'Melo's shoulder some time to heal on its own. If that works out, he'll avoid surgery and be ready to go in a few weeks. On the other hand, if the shoulder doesn't improve, surgery and a three-to-four-month recovery period would be in the cards.
Either way, he figures to be ready for the 2013-14 season with plenty of time to spare.
The Knicks are coming off their first postseason series win in over a decade. If they hope to make it two in a row next season, they'll definitely need a healthy Anthony to do it.
Credit Anthony for fighting through the pain and giving his team what he could during the playoffs. If the injury indeed hurt his productivity, it's reasonable to give him a pass for his low-percentage performance.
If only there were a similar excuse for J.R. Smith.
*All stats via NBA.com and ESPN.com unless otherwise indicated.