This Time, Carmelo Anthony Is Not to Blame for NY Knicks' Misfortunes

Ciaran Gowan@@CiaranGowanContributor IIIDecember 24, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 16:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks looks on during the second half against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden on December 16, 2013 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Wizards defeat the Knicks 102-101.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Carmelo Anthony has been a polarizing figure during his time with the New York Knicks, but this time it's pretty clear he's not to blame for their early-season misfortunes.

The season has been a disaster from the get-go, but the one constant has been Melo's production, which remains almost unchanged from last year despite the ineptitude surrounding him.

In fact, Anthony is even averaging career highs in rebounding and blocks, highlighting an increased effort to help make up for the rest of the team's lack of production. 

The Knicks have been over-reliant on inconsistent players, leaving Melo out to dry.
The Knicks have been over-reliant on inconsistent players, leaving Melo out to dry.Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

As hard as he's worked, however, he now risks missing the playoffs for the first time in his NBA career, and frankly, the blame should fall squarely on the front office, his teammates and head coach Mike Woodson.

The Knicks have put themselves in a situation where J.R. Smithone of the most inconsistent players in the leaguehas to be relied on as the second scoring option and, unsurprisingly, he hasn't delivered. The guard is shooting just 35 percent from the floor following his return from suspension, and this comes only months after the team rewarded him with a significant pay increase over the summer.

Of course, that wouldn't be too much of a problem if Tim Hardaway Jr. started taking Smith's minutes—the rookie is shooting 48 percent from the field and 41 percent from downtown—but the Knicks have made it clear that their relationship with the Creative Artists Agency(the agency that represents Smith) is much more important than winning.

Nothing could be done to stop Tyson Chandler's injury, which no doubt had a significant effect on the team's performance, but knowing his history, New York should have planned ahead and found a capable backup over the summer.

Instead, they gave a roster spot to an unprecedented fifth point guardChris Smithbecause he happens to be related to J.R.

Production at point guard has been lacking at the best of times, but multiple injuries to Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni have hurt the offense, leading the team to rely on Anthony in isolation far too often, just as they did in the playoffs.

Admittedly, Anthony is a superstar—or at the very least is being paid superstar money—and was always going to be the first to be blamed if things went wrong, but it's hard to see what he could have done differently to stop the Knicks from falling into this hole.

His offense has been efficient, his defense has been fine and, ultimately, he's been the exact same player that led the team to 54 wins last season. The difference is that the "team" behind him hasn't shown up.

Anthony has been visibly frustrated all season, and it's easy to see why.
Anthony has been visibly frustrated all season, and it's easy to see why.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Melo is now left with an extremely difficult decision to make over the summer; to stay with the team he grew up watching or to leave in free agency to a team that will give him a better shot at the title.

To this point, we haven't heard Anthony complain about his teammates or explicitly state a desire to leave, and he looks visibly frustrated that he can't make things work in the city he forced his way to almost three years ago.

It is still only December, and going into the new year with Chandler back in the lineup, there's still a good chance the Knicks could turn things around.

Melo's ankle injury he suffered against the Orlando Magic could have put an end to any chance of the season being salvaged. But by the sounds of it, he could even be ready for Christmas Day against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Just to be clear here, Anthony is not completely blameless. He has his flaws like any player and would have much more help had he signed with the Knicks in free agency instead of forcing them to give up key assets via trade to acquire his Bird rights.

Regardless, Melo has been a top five player this season, and after 10 years in the league, has proven to us that he can and will take a team to the postseason if given a capable supporting cast. To this point, they haven't provided that for him and, as a result, the season is on the line.