One of the most oft-discussed questions of the season is whether the New york Knicks have enough leadership to be contenders. With Carmelo Anthony as your star player, anything is possible. He has shown a new and improved attitude and approach for the upcoming season that is a very good sign as we wind down to the start of the regular season, now just over two weeks away.
Oct 11, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) controls the ball against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Knicks 100-91. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Entering his third full season in New York, ‘Melo will be under more pressure than ever before. The Knicks have built their entire team around him and have surrounded him with plenty of talent to make him the leader of this team. At one point in time, the 29-year-old Anthony rivaled LeBron James and Kobe Bryant when people debated who the best player in the NBA was. Due to Anthony’s postseason failures, those days are long gone. However, ‘Melo and the Knicks are both hoping he can reinsert his name into that conversation with a long, successful season.
Many people knock on Anthony for his defensive abilities and proclaim that is why he will never be a champion and/or leader. However, he has shown much improvement on the defensive end especially with his awareness. His on-ball defense may not be very good, but he does make do with what he has in his ability.
Keep in mind when pondering about Melo’s leadership skills that at age 28 he indeed had the best season in his decade-long career so he is in the prime of his career. As the leader he takes all of the beating down low and still scores at will even though the defense knows the ball will eventually end up in his hands a majority of the time.
It may sound unfair to put all of the pressure to win on Anthony’s shoulders instead of the Knicks as a whole. Then again, the Knicks are clearly Anthony’s team and he is supposed to be their leader. He gets all of the glory when they win and all of the blame when they lose. There are a lot of concerns regarding ‘Melo being the leader of this team. Those concerns span beyond the abstract idea of leadership, and they challenge his style of play and the viability of placing his skill set at the core of a championship contender. Anthony may not like to hear it, but 2014 is a championship or bust year for the Knicks.
If not Melo, Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton could step up and help contribute to the leadership role. With Chandler’s energy and aggressiveness, along with Felton’s poise and patience, the leadership role is filled by three players instead of one, which is just as good for the Knicks if not better. Felton officially stepped up as one of the team’s leaders in an interview prior to Training Camp:
"“I have a bitter taste in my mouth. I think we all have that same taste in our mouth for the way the season ended last year. So the chip is still there. If anything, it’s another chip, and it’s on the other shoulder now. But whatever, I’m still coming out and still got the same attitude, and still have a lot to prove.”"
According to the NY Daily News, Mike Woodson expects to see Felton take on more of a leadership role. Woodson stated in an interview with the Daily news: “Without a doubt, Ray and I have had this conversation before we started camp. He’s got to be more of a leader. Point guards catch a lot of crap on everybody’s team because we expect so much from them, and Ray’s no different.”
Felton seems willing to make that step into becoming a team leader, and that is a very good sign for great things to come this season.
Things are on the up-and-up for this year’s Knicks team. With a ton of new faces, it will interesting to see who all steps up in the leadership role. So far, Melo and Felton have both stepped up and that is quite impressive. A lot of respect was gained for Melo when he said that “All the pressure is on him”. For a player to take pressure off of all of the other players on the team, and put the pressure all on himself is quite admirable. As long as more people step up to help lead this talented team they can do great things.