By John Schmeelk
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The circumstantial evidence is bad. The first night Carmelo Antony makes his return to play with Jeremy Lin, the Knicks lose a bad game to the lowly Nets at Madison Square Garden. Lin only shot 7-18 in the game, and the Knicks shot a woeful 40% from the field. Carmelo Anthony shot 4-11 and scored only eleven points to go along with six turnovers. The instinctual reaction from all Knicks fans will be to jump all over Carmelo Anthony and blame him for the loss. “He ruined the offense” will be the rally cry. The reaction would be wrong.
The fact of the matter is that Carmelo Anthony played within the flow of the offense last night. There were very few isolation plays, and he did his best to get his shots within the natural ball movement of the offense. Naturally, there was a lot of rust after missing so much basketball, but things like fumbling passes and missing layups will work themselves out. It wasn’t as if the Knicks offense turned back into the stagnant mess it was before Super Lintendo arrived. (this is by far, my favorite Lin pun, by the way)
The issues on offense had far more to do with a lot of missed open shots (mid range jumpers by Stoudemire, layups by Carmelo, and open threes by Novak) than some terrible disruption of ball movement. Sure there were some chemistry issues, but those should work themselves out as long as all the players are willing to work within the flow of the offense. It appeared everyone was more than willing to last night.
Jeremy Lin actually had one of his more efficient nights of the season. Despite shooting just 7-18 for his 21 points, he dished out nine assists to only three turnovers. Having a full repertoire of scorers will only help keep those turnover numbers down. He also fouled Deron Williams out, showing he did not lose any of his aggression.
It can’t be stressed enough that the Knicks still want Carmelo Anthony to get plenty of shots. He’s the team’s best scorer (if not the League’s) and his shots will go down. He scored on a nice pick and pop play with Lin in the 1st quarter and even got an easy layup after going back door on movement away from the ball. He also seemed to be making quicker decisions. Mike D’Antoni’s offense is predicated on the ball constantly moving, and the worst thing Anthony can do is simply hold it while deciding what to do. If he makes his decision quickly, even if it’s a shot, it fits in the system. He also had six assists. All of those things are positive signs.
Amar’e Stoudemire also looked a little sprier yesterday. He still managed to get blocked by Kris Humphries on one drive, but his throw down on Shelden Williams and quick feet were encouraging. It’s a long way from where he has to get, but it is progress. His midrange jumper continues to be inconsistent as well, something else that has to get better. Amar’e still doesn’t look like himself.
It’s also important to note that a big reason the Knicks lost last night was a special night by a special player. Deron Williams was simply unguardable, something that happens from time to time. It shows how much Iman Shumpert was missed, the Knicks best man on man defender. With his return and some more time and the court from JR Smith and Baron Davis, the Knicks are poised for a very successful second half of the season.
So Knicks fans need to take a breath and wait just a while before attacking and trying to dismantle Carmelo Anthony. It wasn’t his fault last night. I honestly think he hears the rumbles from fans about him being a selfish player that doesn’t care about winning and he’ll do everything he can to avoid becoming the villain in this Jeremy Lin story. He has to see it coming based on the questions from the media. Based on last night, he’s trying to fit in and that’s good news for the Knicks.
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