It’s still early in the NBA season for anyone to really break away from the pack in the MVP race, but Carmelo Anthony seems to be the popular choice at the moment, keeping the New York Knicks perfect at home and playing at a much higher level on offense and defense than anyone expected.
It can’t all be attributed to Anthony, who led the Knicks in scoring with 29 points (10-18 from the field, 4-5 from beyond the arc) in their win over the Detroit Pistons, always the best pill to take when you’re facing some sort of losing streak. The Pistons aren’t the Wizards, but they’re pretty much as bad as you can get when it comes to a basketball team outside the capital city these days.
While Anthony’s numbers are impressive (25.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 47% from the field), it’s what doesn’t show up on the stat sheets that is impressive. Playing as the power forward has transformed him into something that everyone kept saying was keeping him at some distance from the rest of his 2003 Draft class, especially LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Defense, and seriousness. For the first time in his career, he’s getting praises from his teammates on more than his scoring ability.
Still, scoring seems to be the main thing. He’s on fire during first quarters; 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting in the 1st. It’s only the 4th time in Anthony’s career that he’s scored at least 15 points in back-to-back 1st quarters and the 1st time since November 17 and 20 of 2009 against the Raptors and Clippers. He finished with 32 and 37 respectively in those games.
The Knicks were going wild from beyond the arc once again, hitting 17-33. Anthony, Kidd, Rasheed and Steve Novak all finished with multiple tres. The Knicks are leading the NBA with 12.2 three point field goals made each game, 3.1 more than the next; They’re attempting 29.1 per game, also a league-high, hitting 41.8%, second to only the Miami Heat. It’s this inside-outside ball movement and basketball that has them so good so early, with the kind of ball movement very few teams have been able to handle thus far, thanks to some great play from Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton, doing a great job in sharing the point guard spot so far.
And then there’s the defense. They’re allowing 95.4 points per game, but not because they’re forcing bad percentage on their opponents, ranked in the middle of the pack in that category. Quick hands make the Knicks 4th in the NBA in steals, 9.3 per game, helping get so many open looks on fast breaks, opting for more threes than impressive finishes with dunks. Why not, with so many great shooters?
Beyond the numbers, once again, it’s the seriousness. Not just Anthony, but also someone like J.R. Smith, who has admitted in the past that the nightlife of New York has held him back. Anthony serves as an inspiration to an achievable and going on turnaround, speaking about actually wanting to play defense for the first time in his career. Thanks to who? Mike Woodson, who isn’t Mike D’Antony when it comes to offensive “genius”. He simply gets more out of his players, more than anyone thought they had.