The return of Carmelo Anthony after missing two straight games went swimmingly. Two games out of action, Anthony didn’t miss a beat. The New York Knicks are still perfect at home, Anthony is still very much in the MVP discussions, and his team look like as good as any in the Eastern Conference.
Playing against the Denver Nuggets brings back the years of Anthony in Colorado, which always ended up in the postseason, but almost always out after 4-7 games in the first round. That trend continued on his first two postseasons with the Knicks, but there’s a good chance that the 15-5 start, 8-0 at the Madison Square Garden, is somewhat of a prophecy that means it won’t be such an early summer start for the Knicks and Anthony this season.
According to George Karl, he always felt like Anthony was going to end up with the NBA title one day. It was only a matter of time and shifting the focus from his success to the team’s. He’s going to figure out that scoreboard numbers and stat sheets aren’t important. It’s the team scoreboard and intangibles of the game that make winners champions. They wanted to get back to the top of the mountain and they took a chance on going out and getting one of the top 10 players in basketball. It didn’t work for a while but it looks like it’s working now.
So, Anthony scoring 34 points is him focusing on the team? Averaging 26.8 points and 2 assists per game is him focusing on the team? It might be that Anthony is doing much better on defense this season, which means he’s actually trying instead of playing tic tac toe on whether to put an effort in this possession or not. Maybe Mike Woodson touched something within him that has made him want to play for more than himself.
The Knicks aren’t the first to build a team around him, and the Nuggets have had seasons when their regular season record and start showed a lot of promise, but things changed later on. Only in the 2008-2009 season did things look a bit differently, as the Nuggets reached the conference finals before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers. The two 20 point wins against the Miami Heat suggest that this Knicks team, built around Tyson Chandler and four guys putting in an effort on defense while working to create open shots from beyond the arc on offense, suggest that this year might be Melo’s first visit to a conference semifinal after four years.
It’s not a complicated offense the Knicks have. Three players can create shots for themselves: Carmelo Anthony, usually getting the ball in a post up, close or far away from the basket; Raymond Felton, sharing the point guard position with Jason Kidd and J.R. Smith, who needed 19 field goal attempts to finish with 15 points. Still, somehow, people are considering his game to be much more responsible this season. Maybe its the results that are blinding all the critics, or maybe Smith’s effort, while still quite egotistical, is what makes the Knicks’ bench such a dangerous unit.
Right now in the East, while the Heat struggle to find their defensive bearings, the Knicks are as good as anyone else. So are the Nets, who seem to be a team with quite a good fit on both ends of the floor to handle their city rivals. The Hawks? A nice surprise early on, but probably nothing more.