Before last season Carmelo Anthony said he was done dominating the ball for the New York Knicks. Even with Amare Stoudemire sidelined, Anthony planned to be more of a team player. He preached ball movement as compared to him firing shots from all over the court. That lasted most of the season but down the stretch and into the playoffs the ball dominant Anthony reared his selfish head. Can Anthony live up to his words and stop dominating the ball?
In the regular season, the ball movement was greatly improved. Everyone was getting opportunities and believe it or not Carmelo Anthony thrived. However, in the post-season the ball stopped moving. The New York Knicks' offense became stagnant and predictable. Most of all, Anthony began playing isolation ball and stopped sharing the offensive load. As a result, the defense locked in on him and the Knicks were knocked out of the playoffs by the Indiana Pacers. Can Anthony live up to his vow to stop dominating the basketball and help keep the Knicks' offense thriving?
Anthony is one of the NBA’s premier scorers. There's no question about it. He's extremely difficult to defend. He's too strong for small forwards to stop and to fast and agile for power forwards to defend. That being said, taking a back seat helped Anthony and the team. Playing as a team caused the offense to thrive and run like a well oiled machine.
Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News reports Anthony bought into the offensive team concept.
“Nobody has the load to go out there and feel like they have to score points,” Anthony said after practice Saturday in Greenburgh. “We’ve been doing it as a team and we’ll continue doing it. We’ve got to find it from other places.”
Last pre-season Anthony insisted he didn’t want to dominate the ball anymore or carry the scoring load for the Knicks. He didn't want the entire offense to run through him and J.R. Smith and he didn't want it to change once an injured Amare Stoudemire returned either.
“We just can’t rely on myself and J.R. (Smith) to do all of the scoring,” Anthony said. “I think now we have guys, the way we’ve been playing in preseason, with scoring coming from everywhere. Guys have been contributing. We’re definitely a deep team. As far as scoring goes, I don’t think we’ll have a problem with that.”
The strategy was sound. Getting everyone involved kept everyone engaged and made defenses were forced to cover everyone instead of locking in on just a few dominant players.
However, his plans of being just one of the guys went out the window last season when his teammates started to struggle. What Anthony seemed to forget is how both he and the team thrived by sharing the ball. Perhaps finding another scorer like Anthony requested this off-season is more important for Anthony's mentality than it is for the actually scoring punch it would provide.
It is true that the Knicks were dealing with unique problems when the playoffs came along. First of all, Smith who had played well enough to win Sixth Man of the Year went into the biggest slump of the year after being suspended during the first round matchup. Then the team had to deal with the fact Stoudemire was returning from his second knee surgery and needed touches to fight through the rust built up from sitting on the sidelines.
There's little doubt how big of a piece of the Knicks' puzzle Stoudemire is. He's a maximum salary player and he's an explosive offensive presence. However, relying on him to be that dominant player after only playing 29 games all season probably wasn't a wise choice.
That being said, it really isn't fair to put the Knicks failures solely on Stoudemire. Him not playing and being a maximum salary player is a huge problem. That holds the Knicks back from making roster moves. However, this is about playing with who you have on your roster not making roster moves.
Quite frankly, the Knicks are just a better team when they get everyone involved. They are better to watch, it keeps every player involved and it actually makes it easier for big time scorers like Anthony, Smith and Stoudemire to dominate because they're now facing one-on-one matchups and it's harder for the defense to help one another because they have to respect their man as a viable scoring option.
It seems simple. The ball can move faster than a person. An open man shoots a higher percentage than a covered man. Why is it so difficult to understand and run?
Mentality. Anthony has always been asked to dominate the ball. He's been asked to be the number one scoring option on every team he's ever played on. He was even the leading scorer on Team USA. The fact is, scoring is what Anthony does best.
That being said, the more he plays within a team concept the better he and the team is and will do. This past season Anthony played his butt off. He hustled, he stepped up his defensive effort and he looked to get his teammates involved. He did all of that and he still won the Scoring Title.
Moving forward, the Knicks need Anthony to stop dominating the ball. He's clearly still the number one scoring option on their team. That won't change. That being said, not only Anthony but also Smith and Stoudemire need to buy in so the ball keeps moving and whoever is open gets the shot that possession.
That's the recipe for success. Anthony is a main ingredient but he can't be the entire meal. New York doesn't want to see Anthony dominate they want to see the Knicks dominate. In order for that to happen they need to play as a team.