Last night, the New York Knicks beat the Spurs in San Antonio, 104-100, to move to 6-0 on the season. It’s only the second time the Knicks have started a season 6-0 in their history, the other time being a 7-0 start to the 1993-94 season. Despite the win, Carmelo Anthony struggled, shooting just 3-for-12 from the field for only nine points. It’s his first time failing to crack double-figures this season, but he also grabbed 12 rebounds, five of them offensive, and dished for three assists. He didn’t just pout on the sidelines and jack up 25 shots to get to 20 points. The old Carmelo might have kept shooting, but not the one last night.
With an undefeated New York team and a rival across the East River, this Carmelo played hard and helped his team defeat the Borg-like Spurs in San Antonio even as his offensive bread and butter was faltering. It was a tough road victory, and it came on the same night his old team, the Denver Nuggets, lost to Miami at home for the first time since 2002. That also happens to be the last season before the Nuggets drafted Carmelo Anthony. So it begs the question: have we gone from overvaluing ‘Melo’s leadership qualities to then undervaluing them since he’s been placed under the stormy New York media microscope? What, if anything, is Anthony doing this year as opposed to season’s past?
The answer turns out to be not much. While it’s true his PER and aPER (adjusted PER) are higher this year – through only six games – then they’ve ever been according to Hoopdata, there isn’t much of a sample size to work with, and his shooting numbers are pretty consistent across the board. In fact, he’s shooting a little under his career averages both at the rim and on the perimeter. So how else to explain the sudden transformation of his team in New York?
People forgot about the Denver Carmelo after the last few years. When he was drafted into the league, the Nuggets made the playoffs in his rookie season. They also never missed the playoffs during the seven years he was in town. The year before he got to Denver, the Nuggets only won 17 games, and Juwan Howard was their leading scorer. True, the Nuggets only ever advanced past the first round once with ‘Melo as their ostensible leader (in 2009), but they were a playoff team every year battling in a tough Western Conference.
For the last year and a half of Anthony’s time in New York, he’s been castigated for holding the Nuggets hostage to get to New York, and was also shrouded in Mike D’Antoni‘s resignation (for which he was primarily blamed), the ascendency of Jeremy Lin and subsequent comments about his “ridiculous” poison pill contract offer from Houston (which New York failed to match), Amar’e Stoudemire injuries, a nagging groin injury himself, and consecutive playoff exits in the first round.
But last year, ‘Melo did help the Knicks get their first playoff win since 2001. Now they’re off to a 6-0 start this season, even when he’s struggling to find the bucket like last night. Maybe all those Heat loses in Denver mean something. Maybe Carmelo Anthony isn’t as petulant as we all thought. Maybe we forgot about some things.