Carmelo Anthony’s Defense Leads to Wins
The New York Knicks’ leading scorer at 20 points per game is Carmelo Anthony, but Anthony has looked nothing like a leading scorer since new head coach Mike Woodson took over seven games ago. His team reeled off six impressive wins, and is clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Anthony’s offensive game is a pedestrian 14 points on 39 percent shooting under Woodson and no one is complaining.
“I don’t have a rhythm right now,” said Anthony. “I guess that’s got to come. The team knows what I am doing off the court with treatment and extra shots in the gym early. As far as a rhythm goes, that comes and goes. I am not too concerned about that, it will come back shortly. I am looking for it so if anyone finds it, tell me.
“This year has been a year of adjustments for myself and the team, picking my spots out there on the court trying to figure it out, but right now, I just don’t have a rhythm offensively. I never thought I’d be saying it, but my defense is ahead of my offense right now.”
The Knicks had put themselves in a place where the team felt a coaching change was necessary and every game had become crucial. The possibility of actually missing the playoffs did have an effect on this star laden team.
“I just think that we are playing extremely hard,” said Amar’e Stoudemire. “Our back is against the wall. We are in the eighth seed right now and we feel we are a much better team than that. So we are playing with a sense of urgency. We just have to keep playing that way for the rest of the year.
“(Anthony) He is just focused. He’s in tune and that’s something that we need from every person. He is one of our star players so the way he is focused right now is very helpful for us and if that keeps going, we are going to be a pretty good team.”
It’s obvious the Knicks are playing hard. They have outscored their opponents by an average of 14 points a game since Woodson took over, holding teams to under 80 points three times and only surrendering 100 points once. Credit for much of this improvement can go to the coach.
“It’s the same team, preaching the same things,” said Bill Walker. “It’s the same atmosphere. We’ve always had a great chemistry on the team and try to be upbeat. I guess guys are just responding to him differently.
“He’s not a screamer, but you can tell he’s an aggressive personality. He is going to get in your face, he’s going to talk to you, he’s going to tell you exactly what he wants you to do and I think some guys probably respond better to that.”
“It is really pretty much the same (defense), now it’s just the emphasis, said Landry Fields. “Now when we go out there, that’s what we are doing and the offense will come. Mike Woodson expects you to go out there and give it your all, especially on defense.”
This is a virtual 180 degree turn from the Knicks under Mike D’Antoni. A team that thrived on up-tempo offense is asking those same players to buy into a defense first approach and it’s obviously working.
“Togetherness on the defensive end,” said Woodson describing his team. “They are really holding each other accountable and depending on each other when there are breakdowns and coming up with key stops when they need to get them and when you do that you win basketball games and it’s been nice to watch.
“Energy and effort is defense and if you mentally approach it that way, you can be a pretty good defensive team and I think guys are starting to buy in.
“Not just Melo, they are all playing harder and Melo is a part of that system where he is bringing more energy and the guys around him are bringing more energy from a defensive standpoint and it’s my job and my staff’s job to continue to push them in that area because that’s the only way I know and I think that’s the only way we can win games.”
The impact on the offensive-minded Anthony has been immediate and obvious and perhaps it should not have been so unexpected.
“I think (it‘s been) just effort, focus, just coming out with a different mentally trying to give the team something different other than scoring,” explained Anthony. “In the last five games that was something I just wanted to take upon myself to do something different.”
“When everybody is giving that intensive effort, everybody has to buy in because if you don’t, you look like you are standing out there on an island and everyone knows it,” said Fields. If everyone is doing it, it pushes everyone else to do it as well. It’s like a virus, it spreads.”
The New York Knicks are proving they can be an effective and dangerous team without leaning heavily on the offensive talents of Anthony and Anthony is showing he can contribute at both ends of the court. The roller-coaster season that has been the Knicks may have finally found some consistency under the defensive boot of Coach Woodson and a more defensive-minded Anthony has been a big part of this success.