As fast as the New York Knicks seemed to rise when Jeremy Lin took over the team’s point guard duties, they’re falling even that much quicker since the All-Star break, and the return of Carmelo Anthony to the lineup from injury. New York is just 2-5 since Anthony rejoined the fray, including losing its last three games overall. The Knicks (18-21) will try and snap that streak on Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks, a team the Knicks generally struggle against.
Despite the Knicks’ poor record since he returned to the lineup, that isn’t to say that Anthony is solely to blame. The absence of difference-making Tyson Chandler on Tuesday against the Spurs was visible, and it showed that the Knicks simply aren’t the same defensive team without their starting center. Lin’s play has been more erratic (some will say that’s because Anthony is back) while Amare Stoudemire continues to find his way out of a shooting funk. The Knicks’ second unit, which looked so dangerous in the team’s last win — a blowout victory over the Cavaliers last week — has leveled off a bit.
Everything seems to start and end with Anthony, and that’s to be expected of the best player on every NBA team. While he isn’t totally at fault for the Knicks’ recent losses, there’s no doubt that the team’s record with and without him this season is one he probably isn’t too proud of. As dynamic an offensive player in the league when he want to be, Anthony simply hasn’t gotten going all season and is shooting a career-low from the field. The popular opinion is that Anthony and Lin don’t mesh, and that Anthony is a shoot-first player who doesn’t keep the ball moving. Those observations are fairly lazy at best, but when your team struggles with you and thrives without you, you’re going to hear some unfair and off-base criticisms. Simply, Anthony needs to be more efficient and start making more of the shots he does take. When that happens, the Knicks will all of a sudden look like a complete basketball team.
The Bucks (15-24) are currently three games behind the Knicks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee has won 11 of the past 13 meetings between the two teams. Point guard Brandon Jennings is averaging 20.1 points a game against New York and is 7-1 in his career against them. Many though the Knicks were wrong to draft Jordan Hill over Jennings in the 2008 NBA Draft, when they could have used a young talented point guard. Jennings doesn’t seem to have forgotten, and usually makes the Knicks pay.