Before March 26, Carmelo Anthony was enduring the worst season of his NBA career. It appeared things would only get worse as Amare Stoudemire was sidelined as a result of another lingering back issue. Since then, the Knicks forward has been scorching hot and the Knicks are surging at a blistering pace.
In his last three games, Anthony has scored 42 against the Miami Heatles, contributed a 35/12/10 triple double against the Boston Celtics vaunted defense and scored 33 points in 34 minutes on Wednesday night against the New Jersey Nets.
Three weeks ago, it appeared the basketball gods were poised to pummel the Knicks into submission once again. However, it appears the deity of defense has shown favor upon them.
One of the most famous stories in Greek mythology tells the tale of how the titan Prometheus brought fire to humans. You can’t start a fire without wood and Mike Woodson is New York’s Prometheus. Watching Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks catch fire on both sides of the floor with Woodson’s coaching has been remarkable.
Anthony is displaying more commitment to defense than he has in his entire career and has repeatedly discussed how Woodson holds players accountable. Somehow, Woodson has had the complete opposite effect on Anthony than he had on superstarJosh Smith, who helped force Woodson out from Atlanta. Anthony’s team first attitude can never be questioned.
The last time New York marched into the postseason during a lockout shortened season they forced out the No. 1-seeded Heat in the first round. If this were an 82-game season, the Knicks would still have 20 games to make up the four game distance between themselves and the fourth seeded Celtics. However, they don’t have time on their side and because of that they’ll have to begin the first round playing their basketball of the season against Miami.
The Knicks current run is also reminiscent of Dallas’ sprint to the title last May. TheMavericks also stitched together a makeshift roster just as a number of their stars approached free agency. They rode Dirk Nowitzki’s redemption tour.
Likewise, Anthony’s redemptive play has transformed his alter ego, Cameo Anthony, who would make quick appearances on the box score before disappearing for much of the night and returned into full-fledged Carmelo status.
Both are prolific scorers from the post and the wing and in similar fashion, Anthony rediscovered his game right before the Knicks doomsday clock struck midnight.
Over time, this team has blossomed. Feb. 4 was the first time the vast majority of Knicks fans had heard of Jeremy Lin or Steve Novak and J.R. Smith was still in China. Since then, Novak has displayed the hottest trigger finger in the NBA from behind the arc. J.R. Smith signed with the Knicks in February and has been Jekyll and Hyde from the field.
J.J. Barea was a welcome surprise in the Mavericks rotation during the post season. The Knicks would be fortunate for Jeremy Lin to make a surprise return before the Knicks season is over.
While Anthony is the legend whom New Yorkers will recount tales about, Chandler, who was also signed in the off-season along with Woodson, is his on-court emissary.
Since Chandler departed from Dallas in free agency, the Mavericks defense has not been the same. However, Dallas’ loss has been New York’s gain on both sides of the floor. This season is simply Year 1, T.C.
Last season, the Knicks allowed the 27th fewest points per game. According toBasketball-Reference.com they’ve allowed the 11th fewest and the second fewest since Woodson and Chandler delivered defense to The Garden.
Another stat that speaks to Chandler’s importance involves the Knicks interior defense. The Knicks ranked 26th in points-allowed in the post pre-Chandler. Post Chandler, they are ninth, which is a major reason why Chandler is considered a favorite for the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
The scary truth is that the 2012 Knicks are more talented individually than the 2011 Mavericks. Jeremy Lin will miss the entire first round but Stoudemire and his achy breaky back will reportedly return this week. What role he’ll play remains to be seen. For the Knicks, it has just been a matter of finding the right glue to piece together their roster but they don’t have long for it to dry.
The real work begins soon. The gift of sound defense was nice but if Mike Woodson and Carmelo Anthony can deliver a Mavs-like run through the postseason to Knicks fan, they can forget the hyperbole. Woodson will literally be treated like a sports god to New Yorkers and management will reward him with the long-term contract he deserves.