In the last week, the New York Knicks lost three games in a row in rather ugly fashion against average opposition before losing a tight game to a bad Sacramento Kings team. Carmelo Anthony was underwhelming at best in all three blowout losses, and although a big comeback buoyed by Anthony kept them in the mix against Sacramento, it wasn’t enough to stop the slide (and he missed a potential game-winner). During that time, he also complained to the media that he’s not being treated fairly by the officials when it comes to calling fouls that would send him to the free throw line.
Those three sentences are more-or-less statements of fact. They lost to the Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz, three teams that are a combined 33-34. The margins of victory in those games were 15, seven and 21 points, respectively, and the seven-point loss to the Mavericks was a blowout for most of the night. Anthony averaged less than 16 points during that stretch, failing to reach the 20-point threshold in three consecutive games. He shot 15-46, good for worse than 33 percent from the field. Even as he got to 23 points and 14 rebounds on Thursday night, it was on 8-21 shooting. Luckily the officials sent him to the line 11 times, even though he failed to capitalize by only sinking six of those attempts.
But before finally getting some calls against the Kings, Anthony made headlines with those aforementioned complaints about officiating, per ESPN.com.
“I always get fouled. That’s what’s frustrating me. You play so hard, work so hard and don’t benefit from that,” Anthony said. “You look at other guys — you touch them and look at them wrong and get fouls.”
It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to recognize what Anthony is trying to say. Those “other guys” like LeBron James and Russell Westbrook get the benefit of superstar treatment when it comes to officiating, and Melo is pointing out that those guys get to the free throw line two times more per game compared to him. James Harden is a different animal, actually doubling Melo’s foul shots on a per-game basis.
Those guys are superstars, and they get the benefit of some superstar calls. Anthony is 19th in free throw attempts per game, but he isn’t getting there as often as some of those big names. His point wasn’t that these guys get to the line too easy. Anthony’s motivation for addressing that in the media was to wonder aloud why he isn’t also benefiting from getting superstar calls.
Going back to those three sentences at the top, and from the scope of those comments they become interconnected. Looking at Melo’s box score numbers alone will tell you he isn’t playing like a superstar. His overall numbers still resemble that of an All-Star forward in the East, but he’s hit or miss on a nightly basis. Superstar Melo of the past was always able to will himself to 30 points within the flow of the game, even in a loss. Now he’s finding it much harder to get his own numbers without commandeering control of the team.
So again, Anthony isn’t playing like a superstar. That’s another sentence that’s an opinion, but can probably be agreed upon as a statement of fact. Because of the drop-off in play, there have been two very different but probably not mutually exclusive consequences. The first being the the Knicks as a team are struggling to keep up with teams. The second is that Anthony is have trouble getting to the charity stripe for easy points.
Kristaps Porzingis may seem like the biggest story in New York, but before those putback dunks started piling up, all the focus was on how all of the offseason moves would affect Anthony’s status with the Knicks. Clyde Frazier called him out. Nekias Duncan played mythbuster with some of the narratives surrounding his career. It wasn’t all roses, as the thought of a potential trade out of the city was raised, but even that contributed to how important he was and is to this franchise at this time.
That paragraph might seem like one big link dump, but it does show off the progression of the offseason before actual basketball started to be played and all anyone wanted to talk about was Three 6 Latvia with a sprinkle of Langston Galloway. What that paragraph led to was a pair of Anthony-centric columns on this site that have conflicting premises but are both very true. The first I wrote, and it’s titled, “Carmelo Anthony isn’t a franchise player anymore.” The second, by Joseph Nardone, is titled, “Carmelo Anthony is still the driving force behind the New York Knicks.”
I certainly agreed with Joseph at the time, and I still do now. I’d venture to guess vice-versa applies. Anthony isn’t a franchise player as a declining star with all the injuries. No one would build the future of their franchise around him. At the same time, he’s still the best player on the Knicks, and he’s the No. 1 reason why they win or lose on any given night. He didn’t play like a superstar in any of the four games this week, and the Knicks dropped all four. When the Jazz also shut down the Latvian Lurch in Utah, it only contributed to the embarrassing final score.
The future looks better with the emergence of the young players, and even the four-game slide hasn’t totally destroyed the aura of positivity the Knicks have developed to start the season. However, as bright as the future looks, the present isn’t going to get any better without Melo returning to form as a top 10 offensive player in the NBA.