By Sean Hartnett
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Last night, Daniel Day-Lewis took center stage at the 85th Academy Awards by winning a record third career Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.
As for the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony has undoubtedly been the “Best Knick in a Leading Role” all season. Anthony is yet to win his first NBA MVP Award, and the odds are against him winning it this year as he’s fallen behind leading candidates LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and possibly even the late-surging Tony Parker.
Anthony is the Eastern Conference’s leading scorer at 28.4 points per game, second only in the NBA to Durant (28.8).
He’s not doing it alone, as four Knicks scored in double figures in their 99-93 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night, finally snapping New York’s four-game skid.
Best Knick in a Supporting Role: J.R. Smith. The madness and infuriating inconsistency of the old J.R. Smith recently resurfaced in a couple of no-show performances against the Clippers and Pacers. His behavior has irked Knicks coaches, and assistant Herb Williams confronted Smith before the Knicks’ sixth man was ejected against Indiana and gestured at Lance Stephenson.
Yet underneath all the controversy and complications that come with Smith, he’s the frontrunner to win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award. Smith has given the Knicks an impressive 16.0 points per game and close to 5.0 rebounds per game.
Best Director: Raymond Felton. Returning to Madison Square Garden was the perfect tonic to rejuvenate Felton’s career after unenjoyable spells with the Nuggests and Blazers. Felton has been a vital component, organizing and orchestrating the Knicks’ offense.
His value to the Knicks became clearer while he was recovering from a broken right pinkie. Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni have shown their age and having a healthy Felton is crucial to the Knicks’ cause.
More than just his abilities as a floor general, Felton’s spirited play can rally teammates. One moment that sticks out is when Felton suffered an ugly collision with Amar’e Stoudemire and Lamar Odom earlier this month. In his next possession, Felton attacked the basket with ferocity. That’s the kind of toughness and leadership that can inspire teammates.
Best Original Score: J.R. Smith vs. Phoenix. There are quite a few contenders here, but Smith’s turning game-winning shot against the Phoenix Suns stands out as the most memorable highlight of the Knicks’ season.
Even though his game-winner in Charlotte was the original and left Michael Jordan looking down from his box in disbelief, the degree of difficulty on his Phoenix buzzer-beater gets the edge. Smith not only had to regain himself after bumping into P.J. Tucker, but had to then to catch-and-shoot while spinning from the corner.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: This goes to the Knicks’ training staff for improvising after Indiana’s Lance Stephenson accidentally caught Jason Kidd’s dome with his teeth. Kidd came back wearing an unusual-looking crooked headband and bandage covering the right side of his head, where he received seven stitches.
Sure, it looked funny — but it did the job and the Knicks won 88-76.
Best Costume Design: Going back to the old-school style uniforms was a big hit among Knicks fans. The Knicks swapped the V-neck for the classic rounded neckline and ditched the unnecessary side stripes, while adding a throwback colored waistband. With the Brooklyn Nets in town, it also made financial sense for the Knicks to modify their uniforms to ensure casual fans would opt to buy the retro-themed Knicks jerseys instead of the Jay-Z-fronted Nets uniforms.
In November, it was revealed that the Knicks led the team jersey sales category for the first time since December 2004.
It’s one thing to wear uniforms reminiscent of the Ewing-Starks days, but it’s another to actually emulate what the mid-1990s Knicks were able to accomplish. It’s clear that this team has a bit of an edge to them that sometimes works in their favor — and at other times is their undoing.
We’ll find out how determined and focused this group is over the final two months of the regular season. By then, we’ll have a clearer idea on whether the Knickerbockers can make a legitimate run in the playoffs.
The time is now for this team to shape their character — and finish strong.