In the past, we couldn’t blame Carmelo Anthony for shooting 4-for-19 in a very winnable game against a pesky Oklahoma Thunder squad. You’d figure that 21.1 field goal percentage had a lot to do with the fact that he was clearly the Knicks’ best player and the offensive burden he carried demanded that he keep shooting through what was obviously an off night.
In the past, there wasn't a hardwood-wacking soul other than Anthony to take the big shot or create offense in the clutch for NY.
That was then.
For all of his sustained offensive grace and mid-range jump shooting mastery, it's been a while since you've seen Melo go baseline and yam on a dude.
Now the Knicks have a young stud in Kristaps Porzingis who is quickly becoming one of the NBA’s electrifying stars and is already the best player on the team despite the fact that Melo averages more points.
After last night’s game in which the Knicks had a chance to move a game above .500 with their new squad and Melo missed 15 shots, including some clutch ones down the stretch, I am a bit confused.
As the team began to gel, Derrick Rose became an offensive factor again and Porzingis began to blossom before our eyes. It seemed as if Anthony was understanding his new role as a second option, veteran leader and much-needed defensive presence.
After Monday night’s abysmal shooting performance against Triple-Double Westbrook, it’s clear that Anthony is struggling to fully embrace his new identity. We know that he ran Jeremy Lin out of town when his shine was being stolen and it was suggested that he defer to the international sensation who crashed the league on a scoring binge as Melo nursed an injury in that 2011-2012 season.
We have seen his game, his leadership, his approach and personality grow since then. I'd like to think he's totally committed to winning at this point in his career.
However, there are crucial times in the games when Melo obviously doesn't want to face the reality of the situation. There are times in games when everyone in the world knows Porzingis -- or even Derrick Rose for that matter -- should be getting the rock and Melo should be setting a pick, acting as a decoy because he can still filler up and boxing out while preparing to rebound should his teammate miss.
Taking one less shot than Porzingis and Rose, who both took just 20 and hit at a significantly higher percentage shows either a lack of basketball acumen on Melo’s part or just straight selfishness.
On a night like that, when Rose drops 30 and Porz’s three-ball is popping’, Melo has to get in where he fits in and fill in the blanks to lead his troops to victory. Instead he kind of shot the Knicks (8-9) into a 112-103 loss in a game in which they were up by double-digits early and then got crushed by The Oscar Robertson of the game.
To his credit, Melo has been deferring to The Latvian Leviathon in many instances this season, especially during the Knicks' recent rise into the Eastern Conference playoff mix.
However, Melo still has that “Take over the game” gene and "hero ball" mentality.
It’s not needed every night anymore.
Porzingis is that dude and Melo has to use it to his advantage because time is running out for the aging superstar as far as making a legitimate run deep into the playoffs, or even getting to an NBA Finals for the first time.
If he doesn’t soon fully grasp how to totally immerse himself in a team concept and accept the fact that he doesn't jump as high, he’s not as deadly on the court and his one-man wrecking crew days are long gone, then Melo's career with the Knicks will end unfavorably.
Melo doesn’t have to be another A.I. as far as how his legacy as player will be remembered, but if he doesn’t start accepting the truth now, the Knicks fans who are intelligent, thirsty for success and not about the BS will help him pack his bags on his way out of the door.
This Knicks team is moving in a positive direction.
They are still working out the kinks, but they look like a potential 5 or 6 seed at the least when it’s all said and done. That's a long way from that dreadful 17-65 throwaway season in 2014-15 that triggered Porzingis falling from the basketball heavens into the hands and eventually the hearts of an emotionally-depleted Knicks fanbase.
He arrived to a barrage of resounding boos on a night that everybody thought Phil Jackson was the biggest loser, but now we see that getting the third pick turned out to be the equivalent of getting the first pick and taking Patrick Ewing in 1985.
With Porz at the helm, these guys look good together, a mix of crossroads veterans with a lot left in the tank, some young guns and one potentially legendary player. Melo has to find a way to help the Knicks win by doing less, not more.
By inspiring D Rose's remarkable comeback and urging the young Porzingis to take the reigns and dominate the way Shaq did for Dwyane Wade back in 06’.
The way LeBron did Kyrie Irving in Games 5, 6 and 7 for the c’hip. The way The Admiral did Duncan and then Duncan did for Ginobili and Parker and eventually Kawhi Leonard. All of those smooth transitions of power resulted in a championship.
That’s the kind of leadership Knicks fans need from Carmelo Anthony at this point.