Anthony deserves help, much like Ewing did, to get over his personal postseason hump once and for all—and help the Knicks get over theirs as well.
There are differences, of course. Ewing was a Knicks institution for 15 years (1985-1999). If Anthony splits in 2014-15 (player option) or at the end of his contract, he risks being branded one of the more minor star performers in the franchise’s history.
That would doubly be the case if this roster—his roster—never makes it to the Eastern Conference Finals and at least puts up a fight. And that’s the low bar. Let’s not bring up the NBA Finals.
Anthony is in danger of becoming another New York footnote: “Remember that crazy trade that brought Melo to New York back in the day? We had Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. Oh, the potential. Then J.R. Smith started coming on. Yeah, those were an exciting three/four years when we could have done something. Too bad.”
Ewing took New York to two Eastern and two NBA Finals and a whole bunch of other playoff rounds for a whole bunch of wins. Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls were impossible to get by (for everybody), and Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers got in the way a couple of times as well.
In three postseason appearances on the Knicks, Anthony is 7-14 with two first-round exits and a lay-down semifinals defeat against an up-and-comer without a household name.
But New York has a regular-season record of 90-59 (.604) since Anthony came to town. That’s the best Knicks record that can be attributed to a single player since Ewing.
Anthony won the 2013 NBA scoring title, averaging 28.7 points per game. He scored 30 or more 31 times, including seven games over 40 and a career-best 50.
He was far and away the best player the Knicks had on the floor in the 2013 playoffs, with a bum shoulder to boot.
All throughout the postseason, he almost never passed the ball. Then again, whom is he going to pass to? Tyson Chandler? Not exactly the best option. Anthony has no other consistent, score-first option.
He’s a black hole on offense? Really, he’s all the Knicks had day-in and day-out.
One wouldn’t complain about Ewing being a black hole, but this is Anthony’s perpetual cross to bear.
Some of it has to do with position. Ewing was a post-up center who doubled as one of the finer shooting big men in the game’s history. He kicked it out rarely, often to get it right back.
Anthony is a mobile shooter who rides the elbow and occasionally takes it to the hole.
By definition, the difference in their shooting percentages and shot difficulties requires Anthony to move the ball more, but he doesn’t do it enough to satisfy the masses.
He plays virtually no defense, either. Ewing provided some serious D, which is a major gap on Anthony’s resume.
These factors, and the ups-and-downs of the past few regular seasons, have led a contingent of fans to claim that the Knicks are a better team when Anthony is not playing.
Not the case.
If Ewing was all that on the stat sheet, in the win column, in the postseason, in the paint and in the eyes of fans—and he needed a second superstar to get that elusive title—you have to say the same thing for Carmelo Anthony. The guy deserves some help and probably needs it more than Ewing did.
With luck, Tyson Chandler, an additional young, big man and Iman Shumpert will cover the defense.
But if J.R. Smith is the only offensive help Anthony is going to get over the next few seasons, the Knicks are in serious and continued trouble—unless Smith develops into a lethal, consistent threat.
Would you hold your breath for that?
And what kind of help is Smith? Dubbed the Knicks’ second scoring option, is he a gift to replace the Anthony-Stoudemire flop?
How about a second scoring option on the first line?
That’s how it’s done. NBA title winners do it with a minimum of two (super)stars in the starting lineup. Smith isn't that. He's fun and all, but he isn't that. No one else on the roster is, either. It's just a fact.
Maybe Smith will have his day (or season), but then who's scoring off the bench?
And this roster is going to be mostly intact through 2013-14 thanks to a weight of salary cap restrictions. You’ll have to hold your breath until at least 2014-15.
The only hope of getting Anthony the star-power help he needs—in the form of a real roster addition (not mid-level tax exemptions or veteran’s minimums) will come then, when the last year of Stoudemire’s contract becomes trade bait for teams trying to clear space.
Unless? Depending on how next year goes, the trade deadline could see a major shakeup to the team if things are going really badly, which is unlikely.
Be careful what you wish for, though. The only pieces worth anything (other than Anthony) are Chandler and Shumpert.