At the height of New York’s Lin-sanity, Knicks fans were anxious about the possibility that Carmelo Anthony’s return to the lineup would interrupt their newfound cohesiveness and winning formula. However, D’Antoni’s firing proved that as welcome of a surprise as Lin’s emergence was, ultimately Anthony and Amare Stoudemire were the pillars of the team. Success and failure rested on their shoulders. However, events of the last two weeks have proven half of that equation. The Knicks go as Anthony goes.
Despite last night’s loss to the Chicago Bulls, Anthony had another superior scoring performance. However, his 29-point performance was wasted in a losing performance in which the Chicago Bulls grabbed 13 more offensive boards than the Knicks.
Since shifting Anthony to the power forward position, Anthony is averaging an NBA-best 29.8 points per game. However, it doesn’t have as much to do with his increased shot attempts as it does with his rising shooting percentage. Before March 26, Anthony was shooting 35.9 percent from 10 to 19 feet. Since then he is shooting 44.4 percent.
Before March 26, when Stoudemire was last active, Anthony was averaging 20.0 points, 5.0 free throws and 5.8 rebounds per game. Anthony’s most obscene statistic was his 40 percent shooting from the field. Since March 26, Anthony is shooting 50 percent.
Anthony may be listed at a lean 230 pounds but he’s better suited as a combo forward and plays best when Stoudemire is on the bench or out of the lineup. Completely. Guarding Anthony at power forward is a conundrum of its own for opposing defenses. Putting a small forward on Anthony means creating a defensive advantage elsewhere on the court and allows Anthony to post up in the lane. On the other side of the coin, Anthony is too skilled off the dribble to be consistently be defended by power forwards.
One problem resides in Anthony’s lack of rebounding ability and the smaller three-guard lineup that the Knicks incorporated recently to accommodate Anthon’s position change. Unfortunately, to make a playoff statement, the Knicks still need Stoudemire’s rebounding on the low post.
The Knicks may have to address their dilemma in the off-season. Amare Stoudemire is an above average power forward with great scoring prowess. However, his defensive awareness makes him a liability. Anthony’s increased production in Stoudemire’s absence has proved he is unquestionably more valuable to the Knicks scheme than Stoudemire. Conversely, in Anthony’s absence Stoudemire still took a back seat to Lin in terms of value and production.
In Mike D’Antoni’s scheme, which was predicated on ball movement and point guard play, Anthony’s ball-stopping habits negatively affected the offense. Woodson was adamant after becoming the interim head coach that the Knicks fate was tied to Anthony and Stoudemire. Since then, Anthony has thrived getting the ball in isolation and making plays from the wing and the post.
Of course, Anthony would benefit offensively from having Jeremy Lin available at point guard rather than the ghost of Baron Davis. Ideally, the Knicks would benefit from Stoudemire returning before the playoffs in a sixth man role. However, that’s not a viable long-term option. It’s become obvious that Stoudemire and Anthony cannot co-exist at their maximum potential in New York as they are currently constituted any better than Jay-Z and Dame Dash could at the pinnacle of Roca-A-Fella Records.
Woodson has proclaimed that when he’s finally healthy enough to play Stoudemire will return to the starting lineup. Ultimately, that will mean shifting Anthony back to the small forward.
The timetable for Stoudemire’s return was two to four weeks. Thursday will be two weeks since Stoudemire received an epidural to alleviate his back pain.
Although, Stoudemire is not expectedto be available from tonight’s do-or-die battle for the eight seed against Milwaukee, however, the Knicks are 10-4 without Stoudemire this season.
It will be vital for the Knicks to assimilate Stoudemire back into the lineup and observe how well he and Carmelo operate within one another before the playoffs. If Anthony’s production dips, Woodson should experiment with Stoudemire on the second unit as a substitute for Chandler or Anthony.
Bringing a $100 million dollar power forward off the bench may seem like a drastic measure but it wouldn’t be any more insane than watching their season get saved by a second-year, Asian-American, Harvard educated reserve point guard who was days from being cut. It’s been that type of season for the Knicks. Mike Woodson should do whatever it takes to extend it as long as possible.