Yesterday, Carmelo Anthony had his jersey retired by Syracuse University. It’s been ten years since ‘Melo has been a champion, and if he wants to taste that kind of victory again, then he needs to look within himself to right the Knicks’ sinking ship.
Earlier this season, ‘Melo was being praised for his fresh approach to the game by his teammates and coaches. People were saying the biggest difference about him is that he wants to win, and that he realizes leading by example on both defense and offense is key to the team’s success. All of this praise coincided with one of the hottest starts to a season the Knicks have ever had.
‘Melo was being called an MVP candidate. He was briefly leading the league in scoring (he’s second now). Most importantly, he was playing sound defense with increased effort, as well as sharing the ball and making smart decisions on offense. He was given the credit for the Knicks stellar play, and for that exact reason, he needs to take the blame for the recent skid.
The Knicks have lost four in a row, and are in jeopardy of losing their spot at the top of the Atlantic Division, as well as their place as number two in the East. Their offensive execution has been flat out awful, and that has to partially reflect their best offensive weapon. Anthony has not been as hot lately as he was in the beginning of the season, but more than that is his decision making. He is not scoring in the same dominant way, and more and more often he looks like he is forcing his shots up, or that his effort is not where it needs to be.
On the defensive end he has also slackened slightly. He’s still playing some of the better defense of his career, and is trying to hard to shake the bad defender label, but the effort and hustle is not at all what we saw at the beginning of the season. He’s not getting on the floor and battling it out. We don’t want him injuring himself again, but if he could do something–anything–to remind us of the player who dived into the fans, then it will go a long way in proving that he is giving it his all.
He is the best player on the team, and he is playing like it. This isn’t about how his individual stats look, but instead about how his teammates are playing. They are watching. ‘Melo needs to get on players, make sure they are involved, and make it clear that nothing less than 100% effort will be accepted. He needs to show them that even the star player will play defense for the entire game. If he doesn’t force the offense and takes smart shots, then the team will follow.
Leading by example. It’s what all of the great basketball players have done and continue to do. There is no one who can doubt Kobe Bryant’s or Michael Jordan’s effort when they stepped out onto the court. They showed their teammates that every game counts, and that every game they are going to go out there and try to play the best basketball they can play. Carmelo Anthony doesn’t have to be Bryant or Jordan, but he needs to rally the troops, and prepare them, hopefully, for a long playoff run. It all can start tonight, when the Knicks play the 76ers. A big game from ‘Melo could lead to a momentum switch that will make this mismatch of senior citizens morph back into the team of veteran winners that we saw at the start of the season.