A Major Misstep for Carmelo Anthony?
NBA players are an extremely prideful bunch. New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is no exception. Part of what has made him a superstar and superlative scorer is that overabundance of pride.
Thus, it is not surprising that Anthony was extremely motivated to return to Denver, the city where he has spent the first seven years of his NBA career, despite the knee pain he was experiencing.
However, did he put himself before the team in making the decision to play against the Nuggets?
The Knicks got blown out Wednesday night in Denver, their second straight humiliating defeat, with three more road games left on this daunting West Coast road trip. Worse, Anthony is flying back to New York in order to get his knee drained, which means he will miss at least one game – against the Blazers on Thursday night.
Will he be back in time for the Knicks afternoon tilt in Los Angeles to take on the Clippers? Did he damage the knee more by playing through pain last night? These questions remain unanswered. This much we do know: It never should have gotten to this point.
Anyone who watched Anthony on Monday night against Golden State could see immediately that he was nowhere near 100 percent. He was more than step slow, sluggish, and lacked any semblance of quickness or explosiveness in and around the hoop. His defense was putrid. His shot was flat. He seemed detached and clearly not himself.
Still, there he was in the opening lineup on Wednesday night.
Per the New York Times, Anthony explained his actions: “I was just kind of being naive to myself, just trying to psyche myself out and say, ‘I can do it, I can do it.’ But you just come to a point where you just got to figure it out and get to the bottom of it and move on.”
But why wait until after his Denver reunion to finally feel motivated to “get to the bottom” of a knee injury.
The sole focus for the Knicks should be achieving success in the postseason; and they will only go as far as Anthony takes them. Accordingly, any procedure done to the team’s superstar should take place as early in the regular season as possible, giving him the maximum amount of time to heal, rest, and recuperate. Keep in mind, the NBA playoffs will begin less than five weeks from today.
Some will argue Anthony can’t be faulted for attempting to play through the pain. But that’s misguided. Playing in Denver was not courageous; it was short-sighted.
He will have plenty of opportunities to prove his mettle and toughness in important games come late April and into May.
The Knicks will definitely make the playoffs this season; and at that time they will desperately need a fully-healed Anthony. That should be his primary goal. Helping New York win their first postseason series in a decade; not settling old scores in Colorado.
Of course, Anthony is not the only one culpable here. The organization from the top down, including the head coach, should also shoulder some blame for enabling him and allowing him to make a poor decision. Again, it’s completely understandable that he would be motivated to go above and beyond in order to suit up against the Nuggets. However, it’s Mike Woodson and Glen Grunwald’s job to force him to sit down, fly back to New York, and get much-needed treatment on the knee.
Woodson was lavished with praise (and rightfully so) when the Knicks jumped out to an 18-5 start this season. His mantra, from the very start of training camp, was preaching “accountability.” The terrific defense and fluid ball movement that powered New York to their best start to a season since the early 1970’s, is now a distant memory. If Woodson was credited for helping to implement the culture changes that gave rise to that success, he has to receive criticism for its disappearance.
Anthony’s short-sightedness, while not excusable, is at least understandable. Woodson had no such emotional entanglements and needed to put his foot down.
This season is far from over. And the “real” season doesn’t begin for another month. Looking back, will this week be but a minor bump in the road or a turning point? Only time will tell.