Following a 101-79 win over Detroit on Saturday, Carmelo Anthony had to answer the question that many struggling superstars have to answer when they are, well, struggling. Yes, the team is winning and things seem to be trending upward, but why aren't you producing more?
Anthony has been a focal point of criticism for the Knicks ever since the blockbuster trade last February sent him from Denver to New York. Exepctations were through the roof as the Knicks made their first Playoff berth in seven years. This year was supposed to be the Knicks' big breakout from nearly a decade of mismanagement and embarrassment for a proud franchise in the world's most demanding sports market.
So Anthony's career-low 20.2 points per game and 39.9 percent field goal percentage is not sitting well. And the fact the Knicks are holding on to the final Playoff spot for this year. This was not the season the Knicks dreamed.
Already down a coach and sweating the loss of one of those star players, Carmelo Anthony is even further in the spotlight. So his average of 14.0 points per game and his 39.4 percent shooting in the last seven games entering Monday's contest with the Bucks, were aggravating and frustrating for the All Star.
"I wish I had an answer to that question,” Anthony said after that win over the Pistons to Howie Kussoy of the New York Post (h/t RealGM). "I’'e been around this game for a long time. It happens. I'm not too concerned about it at this point. As far as my offensive game, I'm telling you, I promise you, I'm not concerned about that."
New York had to figure out what could break anthony out of this little spell. This is not the Anthony the Knicks signed up for.
But the one that played well in Monday's win over Milwaukee certainly was. Anthony scored 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Knicks' win over the Bucks. And, in doing so, he looked like his old self.
It certainly may have helped that he was given full reign of the offense with Amar'e Stoudemire out of the game and Jeremy Lin nursing an injury. Israel Guttierez of ESPN.com does a good job describing it in this morning's Daily Dime:
"He was spinning in the post. He was working the baseline. He was pulling up from 15 feet. He was running hard on the break. He was himself, not that slumping, frustrated, lost version of Anthony we've seen over the past several weeks.
And if the Knicks want to hold on to that more comfortable 2 1/2-game lead over the Bucks for the final playoff spot, Anthony has to stay in that familiar residence.
And not to suggest he enjoys his primary scoring partner being hampered with a serious injury, but Anthony doesn't mind one bit living in this happy place for a long while if his team needs it."
That sounds like the free-wheeling scoring machine that Anthony normally is, not the frustrated, struggling scorer with few other skills that has developed in New York. This is the Anthony that earned a spot on the All-Star team from the fans this year. He was finally freed to do what he does best: dominate the ball.
The task now for Mike Woodson, as he did at the end of the game against Detroit and against Milwaukee, is to design plays for Anthony to succeed like he did Monday night. There is still a lot of balancing that the Knicks have to do.
Of course, Anthony has one other problem. He was nusring a sore groin after the game Monday and is questionable for Wednesday's tilt with the Magic. Anthony's freedom could be short lived.
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