Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Knicks continued struggles shouldn't surprise

(photo courtesy of msg.com)

When the Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony, many thought their chances of making noise in the playoffs this season were improved. A month later, I'm not sure many still feel that way. I hate to say I told you so, so I'll just stop this sentence right here.

Ray Allen said it best after the Celtics outscored the Knicks 59-35 in the second half in a comeback win last night. Allen was quoted after the game as saying the Knicks have very good one-on-one players. It was a definite slight on Allen's part that the Knicks are a far cry from the TEAM the Celtics are, but he's also right on the money.

The Knicks were 28-26 before the trade with Denver and what they lacked in superstar talent beyond Amar'e Stoudemire, they made up for with solid role players who fit coach Mike D'Antoni's system. Most importantly, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton were devoid of one thing: Ego.

That team wasn't a championship contender but they had chemistry. They enjoyed playing with each other and sharing the basketball and none of them cared how many shots they got on offense. They weren't defensive stalwarts but they competed, especially Gallinari who improved every time he stepped on the court (and still is in Denver where he will be an All-Star someday, mark my words).

Yes, I'm implying exactly what you think I am (and what I said in the weeks leading up to the trade): Carmelo Anthony is a selfish player with a big ego who feels he is entitled to take as many shots as he wants, whether they fit in the flow of the offense or not. And he is killing this team's offensive chemistry, the one thing that was keeping them competitive all season.

After Friday's late-game collapse against the Pistons where Anthony scored just six points, Stoudemire said that some players still needed to buy into D'Antoni's system. While he didn't mention anybody by name, the whole world could tell he was referring to Anthony. And he was right.

Before the trade, this team was all about run, gun and fun. That's not championship basketball, but neither is what they're playing right now. If fans thought this team was bad defensively before the trade, try trading three starters and a seven-footer for two players known as defensive liabilities. See what happens.

Stoudemire is a star, but his offensive possessions don't slow down the offense quite like Anthony's eight-second isolations. Stoudemire fits in the offense because he shoots quickly or drives to the basket. Anthony holds the ball way too long while the rest of the team stands and watches. The other Knicks love playing with Stoudemire; I'm not so sure they love playing with Anthony.

This was Stoudemire's team before the trade and still is, but Anthony seems to want it to be his rather than working to co-exist with Stoudemire. As long as that discord lasts, so will the Knicks struggles.

Anybody who reads my work knows how I felt about this trade, so I don't need to repeat myself here. It's become obvious to those who didn't already know that the Knicks are still not making it out of the first round this season, and probably not next season either.

This trade was made with eyes towards the 2012-13 season and we won't be able to fully evaluate its success until we see what kind of team the Knicks build around Stoudemire and Anthony. With only those two players, Toney Douglas and Renaldo Balkman on payroll for 2012-13, this team will likely look much different in two years. But will it be better?

If Anthony doesn't learn to co-exist with Stoudemire on the court and play within the offense it won't be, D'Antoni or no D'Antoni. Anthony claims he wants to win, but it's hard to believe that when his play on the court says "I want to shoot too much to get my 25 points per game and not play defense." Sorry Carmelo, but I'll believe it when I see it. And I haven't seen a thing yet.

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