Do you see the photo up above? Does it seem like a man alone in the face of the enemy?
There’s been a lot of piling on lately when it comes to the New York Knicks, and Monday night’s game in Portland won’t change that narrative—once again, Carmelo Anthony couldn’t save his hapless team.
It’s not that the Knicks didn’t have their chances. There were moments when they came within striking distance, when they began to find a little momentum. And each time, they’d come to another hill and start to sputter.
After the game, Melo summed things up succinctly. Per Frank Isola for the New York Daily News:
When you’re losing it’s not fun, Anthony said. Are we having fun on the basketball court? No. The game is not fun right now. When you start pressing, pressing, pressing it makes everything that much worse. So no we’re not having fun playing basketball.
There was about two minutes left in the third quarter, and the Knicks were knocking on the door once again—looking to get it under ten. Portland's Wesley Matthews nailed a three-point shot, Anthony missed on a jumper and LeMarcus Aldridge grabbed a missed Lopez putback and hooked it in. It seemed like a microcosm of the night on whole.
It wasn’t even that Anthony was throwing everything against the wall and hoping for something to stick. Sure, he scored 34 points, and the Knicks are 0-4 this season when he scores 30 or more. That in itself is worthy of discussion.
Only player to lead his team in scoring every single game this season is…Carmelo Anthony. At 3-10, that method has not exactly worked.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) November 26, 2013
Still, other Knicks did in fact score the ball—if you’re simply evaluating off a box score. Five Knicks were in double figures compared to four Trail Blazers. And regardless, the Blazers still won it 102-91.
Sometimes, it’s not the numbers. Sometimes, it’s just about a losing habit—about a season heading down the wrong way on a one-way street. The Knicks are a pretty old team, and lately, they look even older. Granted, the injuries to Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler hurt. The injuries just add fuel to a fire that feels hotter off-court than on.
Lauren Moranor for Sports World Report recently relayed J.R. Smith’s feelings on the matter:
Lack of intensity, Smith said. I hate to say it, but our defense's backbone is on Tyson and Tyson's not here right now and we know that and he's not going to be available for a few weeks now, so we've gotta step it up individually. It's a team game but individually we've got to take pride in guarding the ball, guarding our man. We have to enjoy stopping the other team.
The problem lies in reverse momentum—the Knicks have lost six in a row now, and by the time Chandler and Felton get back, it could be too late. It seems early in the season to make that statement, but that’s how losing seasons are.
Can Anthony do anything about it? He had 15 boards, three assists, a blocked shot and a steal to go along with his 34 points. He didn’t play a perfect game by all means, but the Knicks problems run deeper than that. And once things start to snowball in New York, it gets downright nasty.
FWIW, Carmelo Anthony is playing his butt off during this skid. But for the good of the offense, tm has to find way to get him easier shots— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) November 26, 2013
We’ve seen this story before. There have been seven different head coaches for the Knicks in the past ten years. The carousel doesn't always seem like the best solution, but we know its music all too well and it's getting louder by the game.
Melo is in a contract year. That adds to the talk in a real and tangible way—is he just trying to get his numbers? Maybe not, he’s averaging a double-double for the first time in his career, and that has to say something for effort.
Maybe he can’t save the hapless Knicks. But credit him for trying. If only they'd match his effort, maybe they'd turn around their season.