There is finally a reason for their postseason struggles after all.
An MRI on Wednesday revealed that Anthony had a partially torn labrum in his left shoulder, which he played through in the New York Knicks' 12 playoff games. Surgery might be needed, which would likely keep him out for five months, but team doctors have prescribed three to four weeks of rest and light physical therapy for the star forward. Then they will re-evaluate him in about a month, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.
Anthony had been dealing with the injury since April 14 when the Knicks took on the Indiana Pacers, which eventually bounced New York in the conference semifinals, but then re-aggravated it against the Boston Celtics in the first round. Even with the bad shoulder, the NBA's scoring champion scored 28.8 points per game during the playoffs.
Smith, the 2012-13 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, was also hobbled during the postseason. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Smith had been playing with fluid buildup in his left knee—the same problem Anthony encountered in March. He will need it to be drained in the coming weeks.
Remember how bad 'Melo was for that stretch before he had his knee drained? When he came back, he played like his old self again.
I can’t fault Smith for playing through pain (which could be the reason for his abysmal 28.9 shooting percentage against the Pacers) when his team needed him most, but I can fault coach Mike Woodson for playing him 31.8 minutes per game in the conference semifinals. I understand that a team has to ride the horse that got it there, but at some point Woodson should have looked at other options, such as Chris Copeland or Steve Novak.
A league source told the Post, "[Smith’s] been playing hurt...He probably should’ve sat out a couple of games. It’s what Melo had. That’s why he wasn’t driving the ball like he was. That’s why his jump shot wasn’t right, not having the lift."
Now coming to light after the Knicks were eliminated, these injuries aren’t an excuse for Anthony and Smith's poor postseason play. But they do show a different side of two players who can come off as soft and selfish at times. After all, Anthony does drink Fiji water on the bench, but that’s irrelevant now.
Anthony told the Daily News, “It was bothering me since it happened...To be able to play with that and get through the pain, it just came to a point where you just try not to think about it. That’s where I was at mentally.”
The Knicks need to commend their two best players for carrying the team as far as they could while dealing with serious injuries. But they need Anthony and Smith to get healthy as soon as possible, because the goal will not change in the coming season—New York wants a title in 2014.