That, coupled with missing the playoffs for the first time in his 11-year NBA career, makes for a pretty lousy week, we think.
And no one feels worse about it than Knicks head coach Mike Woodson.
I’m not here to suggest Woodson isn’t being sincere. I’m sure he is. But forgive us if we aren’t entirely sure what he’s talking about.
Who played “well enough” to be in the playoffs? Melo and only Melo? Should the singularly explosive exploits of one small forward be enough to single-handedly propel a team into the postseason?
Insincere? No. A bit disingenuous? Perhaps.
This isn’t the first time the Knicks have taken to wringing their hands over a late-season injury. Just last year, as the Knicks were putting the finishing touches on a narrative-shifting 54-win season and a first-round exorcism of the Boston Celtics, Melo’s other shoulder—the left labrum—started giving him problems.
As was the case last season, New York has stated the injury won’t require surgery. At least for now.
Even if it does, Melo would most certainly be back and fully functional by the start of the 2014-15 season. The more pressing concern is what bearing, if any, Anthony’s recent setback will have on his impending free agency.
Here’s Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes from his Sunday column:
If it keeps Anthony, it'll face the prospect of spending max money on a guy who probably isn't a top-10 player now and might not be among the top 50 when his contract ends. If it lets him walk away, the original trade that brought Anthony to New York will become an unqualified failure. And no matter what happens, the Knicks won't have the draft picks or roster flexibility to do anything significant for another full year. In other words, the pressure's on.
One person who likely won’t be around long enough to bear the weight of said pressure: Mike Woodson.
With this kind of payroll in this kind of city, someone has to pay for the Knicks’ woeful performance. Fair or not, that’s going to be Woodson, whose questionable late-game calls and insistence on rotational shoe-horning (Remember Andrea Bargnani?) single-handedly cost the Knicks enough games to have, in another, alternate universe, made missing the playoffs a moot point.
Still, kudos to Woodson for having Melo’s back. Whatever you say about his coaching tact, there’s a certain selfless nobility in drawing attention to the innocent bystander—especially when you know they’ll have a job this time next year.
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