Winning streaks, losing streaks, injuries, Linsanity, Woodsanity, awards, fire extinguishers. This New York Knicks season has encountered just about everything possible. What appears ready to finally put the Knicks down for good and close the book on this tumultuous season is LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat. Up two games to none in this first round best-of-seven series, the Heat will look to stomp on the Knicks' throat on Thursday night and shut the door on any sliver hope the Knicks still have left of making things interesting. While the Knicks are battered and bruised, cut up and bloody, the one man in Madison Square Garden on Thursday that will have the most eyes on him is the guy who finagled his way to New York because he wanted to be The Guy: Carmelo Anthony.
In sports we tend to overvalue singular events, and it sort of seems like years ago that Anthony put the Knicks on his back and led them to a big home court win over the Chicago Bulls. Anthony's two late, clutch three pointers that day sent a message that he could be the main superstar, that a team could win in bug situations with him. But if the Knicks get swept later this week, who will remember that Easter Sunday performance? Has it already been forgotten? After the win over the Bulls, many people - this writer included - penned it as Anthony's signature moment as a Knick. It's safe to say that the Carmelo Anthony Era will be a colossal disappointment if it remains so.
That's not to say that Anthony's legacy as a Knick has been written, or will be written on Thursday. But Anthony has a chance to give the Knicks and their fans a real Garden moment, a big playoff performance like the ones that Walt Frazier and Patrick Ewing and, heck, even Larry Johnson have provided in the past. The Knicks aren't coming back from a 3-0 deficit, so Thursday is essentially a do-or-die game. Frankly, New York isn't likely to come back from this 2-0 hole - that would require them beating the best team in the East, one with two of the three or four best players on the planet four games out of five. It just isn't very likely.
But it doesn't mean that Anthony can't go out and prove something on Thursday. If Anthony can lead the Knicks to a win - and with Iman Shumpert out and Amare Stoudemire watching from the sideline after his frustration-driven, self-inflicted injury, he'll have to indeed lead them - he can put the belief in the Knick fan base that the future will be brighter, that the playoff success is coming. It may ultimately have to wait another year or so, but the futility will stop. If the victory over the Bulls in April made Knicks fans believe Anthony could be the guy, breaking the Knicks' playoff jinx on Thursday would go ever farther. It won't make believers of everyone, and it certainly won't prove that a championship is in tow, but the overall atmosphere around the franchise will be altered in a positive way.
And if the Knicks fall short on Thursday, and if Anthony doesn't play a great game, there are going to be many who rise up and shout that he's too selfish, too isolation happy, in the end not good enough. Regardless of the outcome, whether Anthony goes bonkers and leads the Knicks to a great win, or if he plays terribly and the Knicks lose and get swept, the real truth will fall somewhere in the middle. But again, in sports we like to have a quick answer.
On Thursday, Anthony has an opportunity to give us a good one.