Essay: How Carmelo and the Knicks Stopped Making Sense
As the value of “superstars” in this league continues to rise, a separate stock has emerged as equally valuable: the Hercules. The players who are so good, they can win games on their own. Their will-to-win terminates any sort of advantage opponents had over them.
This isn’t referring to players who can have really, really good games on occasion, like Kobe Bryant when his shots actually go in, or Rudy Gay when the Raptors face the Bobcats. It refers to players who every night have the aura of greatness, as if angels should blow horns, heralding their arrival to decimate your pathetic team. LeBron James is the obvious prime example of this, effortlessly putting up 26 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists every night. While many choose to focus on Kevin Durant’s scoring, he has an exceptionally well-rounded game as well, notching 28 points a night, eight rebounds, and four-and-a-half assists.
Credit can be given to the maturity of these two guys, as well as their ability to lead their teams and command respect. Throw in their unique physical figures (LeBron’s super ripped, tight end body, Kevin’s bizarre lanky-yet-muscular stature) and they’re two unbeatable players. They are Gods amongst men.
After the week Carmelo Anthony has had, if he isn’t a God, he’s damn sure got a great-looking robe and a long white beard.
Most of the media and fans have pretty much accepted Carmelo Anthony as one of “those” players. Y’know, the ones who are great, all-star caliber, deserve a max contract, lead the team in scoring, blah blah blah. He’s a superstar, sure, but he’s a human one. He has flaws, so therefore he’s only really great until someone brings up LeBron or Durant, or better yet, Melo’s playoff record (one round and out in eight out of nine appearances). After a very, very hot start to the season, the Knickerbockers had quite the cold January, February, and first half of March. Not all Carmelo’s fault, mind you. In fact, it was barely his fault. It was hard to believe that if Carmelo was on the same level as Durant and James, that the collapse they had would have happened.
Yet, the Knicks have bounced back and are playing the best basketball of the season, and they’re doing it the same way they got those 6- and 5-game win streaks earlier in the season. They’re playing tough defense, and the threes are going down smooth. It doesn’t hurt to have JR Smith absolutely gunning for that Sixth Man of the Year award, either. It’s been agreed that this has been Smith’s best season anyways, but in during this win streak, he’s averaged 24 points, six rebounds, a couple of assists and a steal in about 35 minutes of play per night.
Throw in four games of over 30 points, while putting up 49% shooting and 35% from downtown over 12 games, and it seems Smith has secured his place as a key factor on this Knicks team. It’s been Carmelo’s play over the past four games that has got people noticing these Knicks, though, and may very well change the playoff picture.
There’s been no shortage of praise for Anthony’s scoring abilities, both in his jump-shooting and ability to get to the line. Prior to these four games, he already had 23 games in which he scored 30 or more points. That’s over a third of the games he’s played this season. It’s also not the first time he’s been able to string together multiple games of scoring 30+, having scored like that in back-to-back games nine times already. It’s the sheer amount of points, and more notably, the timing of his personal streak that has potential playoff opponents nervous, including those at the top
Over the past four games, Melo has averaged 42 points per game on, get ready, 61% shooting and 56% from downtown. Tack on eight rebounds, and the numbers are nearly gobsmacking. So who has he been demolishing? Well, it all started when he dropped 50 on a LeBron-and-Wade-less Heat while shooting 69% on the road. The next night (yes, the next night, not just the next game) he went into Atlanta and casually put up 40. 90 points in two nights is the stuff of legend. But he one-upped himself, putting in 41 points against the Bucks, and throwing in 14 rebounds for good measure, in just 37 minutes of play. Certainly plenty could scoff at a great player like Melo running down teams that are generously described as “playoff-caliber”, but there’s no ignoring what he did against the Thunder in the fourth game.
In what was hyped, rightfully or not, as a head-to-head battle for the scoring title, Carmelo easily beat out Kevin Durant on KD’s home turf. Scoring 36 points to Durant’s 27 put Anthony in the insanely slim lead for the PPG title, but going deeper than that, he outright played better on every level. He shot 51% to KD’s 41%. Twelve rebounds to three rebounds. Zero turnovers to four. True, KD got more assists, but considering how Anthony usually plays, nobody’s quick to point that out.
After the down season he had last year, it seems Carmelo Anthony is finally putting this team on his back, but he’s had a lot of help, too. For all the clamor and hype about “superstars” and contracts and markets, Carmelo has emerged as a leader above all else, and these Knicks are prepared to follow him. Currently sitting at the number two seed, the Knicks are projected to take on the Boston Celtics in the first round, a team they’ve been able to handle this season. The Pacers could provide a real challenge in the second round, but of course, everybody’s looking at the potential of LeBron vs. Carmelo in the conference finals. Can Anthony will this team, and himself, to a victory over a god? To quote Hercules himself, “Whatever Thor canst do, Hercules canst accomplish more mightily!”
Of course, that’s Marvel Comics’ Hercules saying that, but hey, anything is possible.