Carmelo Anthony: 7 Ways He Can Make the New York Knicks a Contender in 2011-2012
After a roster-shaking move and subsequent sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics, it's obvious—the New York Knicks have work to do.
With the NBA Draft rapidly approaching, the attention is focused on who the Knicks should target, and whether or not they will be able to move up in the draft and/or acquire additional picks.
With the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire, questions abound as to whether there will be an extended work stoppage and what the rules of the new system will be.
One thing that most people aren't considering, however, is what steps Carmelo Anthony can personally take to try to help the New York Knicks.
Their success over the next four years will depend on him and his advancement. That's a fact.
Who the Knicks draft—and what the new collective bargaining agreement says—isn't likely to play a bigger role in the team's immediate success than Anthony and whether or not does these seven things.
7. Adapt Amar'e Stoudemire's Workout Regimen
It wasn't until about eight games into his tenure as a Knick that certain individuals in the press began whispering about Anthony's appearance.
The allegation? He looked a little "fluffier" than in years past.
Although it's normal for young men who come into the league at 18 and 19 years old to gain weight well into their mid-twenties, muscle definition and tone is a greater indicator of one's overall fitness.
Anthony looks a little heavier than he has in years past, and he's nowhere near as cut as Stoudemire. He doesn't need to be, though, right?
No, he doesn't.
However, carrying around an extra ten pounds or so can weigh on a player over the long run. In fact, when Shaquille O'Neal was retiring, he stated that one of his biggest regrets was that he didn't keep his weight down. He felt that if he did, he could have minimized the myriad of injuries that hampered him over the past five years.
And that's coming from an all-time great.
If Anthony came in to camp a little leaner, it would set a tone for a good season.
More importantly, though, carrying a little less weight would probably improve his stamina and durability and pay dividends come playoff time.
6. Recruit, Recruit, Recruit
After signing with the Miami Heat, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade immediately began calling and texting some of their old buddies in order to give them recruiting pitches.
Although the Heat ultimately fell short against the Dallas Mavericks, they were able to assemble a decent supporting cast to complement their trio of superstars.
J.R. Smith is an unrestricted free agent this summer and maintains a relationship with Anthony. While the Knicks do not have sufficient cap space to make him an acceptable offer, it takes two to tango.
Translation: Players have to want to come play for your team.
Anthony taking a minute out of his day to give a recruiting pitch to someone like Kenyon Martin, T.J. Ford or Kwame Brown might make all the difference. For example, LeBron James was instrumental in attracting Zydrunas Ilgauskus and Mike Miler to Miami.
Maybe Anthony should put in a few phone calls to some of his buddies.
At the very least, it couldn't hurt.
For his Knicks team, filling out the roster will be a challenge. Especially if the Knicks —as expected—are going to attempt to keep their cap space open to make a free agent offer to the likes of Chris Paul.
Recruiting players such as the aforementioned three could go a long way in helping the Knicks become a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.
5. Keep Attacking the Basket
One of the biggest critiques of Mike D'Antoni is he allows his players to play freely and take shots they think they can make.
This is a pro and a con.
Everyone noticed that Anthony seemed to fall in love with the three-pointer. Including the Knicks' first round matchup with the Boston Celtics, Anthony took a whopping 151 three-point attempts in 31 games. That's an average of 4.8 attempts per game.
With the Nuggets, in 50 games, he took a total of 126 attempts. That's good for an average of only 2.5 attempts per game.
That's a significant difference.
Although his three-point percentage from distance increased dramatically with the Knicks—42.4 percent versus 33.3 percent with the Nuggets—his free throw attempts were also down. With the Knicks, he averaged seven attempts, compared to 8.3 with the Nuggets.
For Anthony, sustained success for the Knicks requires him to stay true to the "bully ball" that he's known for playing. His unique combination of body control, size, strength and speed are a nightmare for opposing defenders.
In fact, in an interview, Anthony once said "If I had to defend me…I'd take the night off."
If he gets too comfortable standing behind the three-point arc and jacking up threes, opposing defenders won't have to.
4. Become a Better Leader
The reason why Amar'e Stoudemire was adored by fans from day one was because of his professionalism, his confidence and his leadership.
Good leaders lead by example.
Anthony's Knicks tenure got off to a rocky start when the team only won seven of his first 19 games. During that stretch, Anthony blew off a press conference, chewed out a teammate on the floor, and shook his head and laughed during some games when he called for the ball and didn't get it.
In other words, for that stretch, he was the anti-Amar'e.
Amar'e, on the other hand, stayed positive and upbeat when the going got tough, challenged his teammates tastefully, and backed everything up with his play on the court. He was consistent in his belief that as the captain of the team, he should be the first at every shoot around and the first to finish every drill in practice.
Once practice was over, Amar'e would be the last to leave, refusing to retreat to his West Village penthouse before getting up 500 jumpers.
Anthony would be wise to stick close to Stat over the summer and take some of his good habits. Your best players set the tone for the entire ball club and if both Anthony and Stoudemire lead by example, the rest of their soldiers will follow suit.
3. Stay Hungry
What Knicks fans have been led to believe is that for Anthony, coming home to play in Madison Square Garden is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
Now, after he and his wife have both inked multimillion dollar deals with the Knicks and VH1, respectively, we will find out if Anthony's motivation was to return to the comfort of New York City—or if he truly wants to deliver a championship to Knicks fans.
Showing up healthy, in shape and with a few new moves in his arsenal would go a long way in proving that to Knicks fans. And his hunger would go a long way toward trying to bring them a championship.
The story goes that part of the allure of New York City was that Anthony was in search of the respect and recognition that others such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and even Derrick Rose have gotten.
Time reveals all, and whether or not Anthony intends on putting the New York Knicks on his back and earning the respect of NBA fans across the world remains to be seen.
And Knicks fans' hopes—especially with a more restrictive salary cap system coming—are squarely on Anthony's shoulders, for better or worse.
Hopefully, for them, he won't disappoint.
2. Master the Pick and Roll
It's difficult to argue that Anthony isn't one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the game today. But his playmaking ability leaves something to be desired.
One of Stoudemire's major strengths is his ability to play pick and roll basketball. Mainly, a big man playing the pick and roll needs to be able to set a good screen, read the defense's coverage and react appropriately.
If the defense fights over the pick, the screener should roll out and take the midrange jumper
If the defense switches, there will be a lane—for a split second—in which the passer should thread the needle to the rolling screener. Or, if you're playing with Amar'e, look to throw him an alley-oop.
And if the defense goes under the screen, the passer should have an opportunity to take an unchallenged jumper. The screener should recognize this and roll to the hoop for an offensive rebound.
Again, anyone that has watched Stoudemire knows that he mastered playing pick and roll ball.
Anthony has the speed, passing ability, and shooting range to literally form an unstoppable offensive duo with Stoudemire if he master the nuances of the pick and roll as a passer.
However, true mastery can only come if he also learns to play the role of the screener. At 6'8" and 230 pounds, Anthony has the size to play pick and roll ball with Chauncey Billups or Toney Douglas as the passer.
Although Anthony is a genius playing one-on-one, the strength of the Knicks team, with players like Stoudemire, Landry Fields and Douglas, would be well-served by playing a more open, motion-based system.
Doing so would give the Knicks' offense—which has looked stagnant at times—some versatility.
1. Play Consistent Defense
At various times during his relatively short tenure as a Knick, we saw Anthony engaged and giving great effort on the defensive end.
Carmelo really needs a coach to teach him how to conserve energy on the defensive end. He's a bit jittery and could learn some good defensive principles by watching the likes of Paul Pierce. Pierce isn't the fastest player in the world, but he uses his strength and his lateral movement to stay in front of his man. He also rarely—if ever—takes wild swipes at the ball.
Those techniques and know-how are a part of being a good defender. And as of right now, Anthony needs to be more consistent.
Again, better defensive coaching will help here. But even without it, Knicks fans can only hope Anthony stays as dialed in on the defensive end as he was on February 27, when the Knicks traveled to Miami and upset Heat in the third game of his Knick career.
Anthony looked motivated to try to stop LeBron James and ultimately led the Knicks to victory.
The positive here is that he has shown a willingness to put forth effort on the defensive end. And when he sets his mind to it, he is very capable.
It is almost impossible to be regarded as a truly great player if you don't play both ends of the floor. For Anthony, the respect he craves will likely be a byproduct of him buckling down and taking the challenge to lock down opposing perimeter players.
But better yet, for him, doing so can help make his Knicks a serious contender in the East.
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