When Carmelo Anthony was traded to the New York Knicks in February 2011, fans thought that the Knicks were going to reach new heights. They had signed key free agents in the 2010 off-season such as Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton. Stoudemire himself emphatically exclaimed at a press conference that “the Knicks are back.”
Anthony never won a championship in New York, and even after being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder…he never will. Is it totally his fault, though? Was he to blame for the problems that plagued the Knicks over the years? How will Anthony be remembered, and was his time in New York a waste? Most people focus on the negatives, rather than the positives that he brought to New York. A ton of problems in the organization were out of Anthony’s control.
Post-Trade Aftermath: What Will Be Carmelo Anthony’s Legacy?
The Denver-New York Trade
On Feb. 22, 2011, the Knicks sent a package including Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, and a 2014 first-round pick to the Denver Nuggets for Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. It was an exciting time to be a Knicks fan. Melo was one of the biggest stars to wear a Knicks uniform since Patrick Ewing.
Anthony didn’t disappoint in his first game in New York. He scored 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his debut, as the Knicks beat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-108. The Knicks had some chemistry issues, just as any team with new players would have. They went 14-14 in the final month and a half of the season. Billups suffered a knee injury four games into his Knicks tenure and missed six regular-season contests because of it. Through it all, Melo continued his spectacular play. But because the Knicks didn’t have much depth at the point guard position, Billups’ injury was a major setback for them, as they finished just 7-11 in the month of March.
First Playoff Appearance
After six straight seasons of missing the playoffs, New York locked down the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference and faced its long-time rival, the Boston Celtics, in the first round. The Knicks lost their first game in heartbreaking fashion, falling two points short and watching Billups go down with an injury. Billups remained out for the rest of the series, and New York went on to get swept, losing the series 0-4.
How did Anthony fare in his playoff series as a Knick? In Game 1, he tied for the most assists in the contest. In Game 2, Anthony led the Knicks in scoring, rebounds, and assists. In Game 3, he led the team in rebounds and assists. Finally, in Game 4, he led the team in scoring. With the Knicks lacking a true playmaker in the playoffs, Melo immediately made his presence felt in New York. In his first season with the team, Anthony averaged 26.3 points in the regular season and 26.0 points in the playoffs, solidifying himself as New York’s biggest star.
Ending the Playoff Win Drought
The 2011-12 season was shortened by the NBA lockout. The season didn’t begin until Dec. 25, 2011. Despite struggling throughout the season, New York secured the seventh seed in the East, facing off against the Miami Heat in the post-season. The Knicks lost that series to the eventual champions, but not before securing their first playoff victory since the 2000-01 season. The Knicks had lost 13 straight playoff games up until that point, which was an NBA record. Anthony led the way in their lone win, scoring 41 points. Although the results weren’t what the fans wanted, they were an improvement from the previous season. Things looked bright as Anthony entered his second full season with the team.
Atlantic Division Champions
For the first time in almost 20 years, the Knicks won the Atlantic Division in the 2012-13 season. In a league that has 16 playoff spots, that may not seem like a big accomplishment. But in a competitive Eastern Conference, the Knicks showed their resilience and everything came together to earn them the second seed in the East. That season, New York went on to earn its first playoff series victory in over a decade, defeating the Celtics in six games. Things didn’t end the way they wanted to, but the Knicks showed their ambition and hunger for longer playoff runs. Anthony kept improving, averaging 28.8 points in the playoffs that year, his second highest playoff average ever. Unfortunately, this would be New York’s last playoff run for a while.
On Jan. 24, 2014, Carmelo Anthony scored 62 points in a home game against the Charlotte Bobcats. Anthony shot 23-for-35 from the field and 6-for-11 from three-point range. Along with the 62 points, Anthony also grabbed 13 rebounds and had zero turnovers. He set the franchise record for points in a single game, breaking Bernard King‘s mark of 60. Anthony also broke the record for points in a game at Madison Square Garden, which Kobe Bryant set with 61 in 2009.
This wasn’t the only offensive explosion that Anthony had in a Knicks uniform, as he was notorious for erupting for 40 points and, on occasion, even 50. That’s what made Anthony such a pleasure to watch during his time in New York. He was always capable of exploding for a huge point total on any given night. That’s the type of player he was for the Knicks: he took pressure off of all the other players on the court. Opposing teams knew how explosive he could be, and they had to account for his presence in New York.
The Phil Jackson Years
In March 2014, Phil Jackson signed a five-year contract to become President of the Knicks. During the next couple of years, New York started spiraling down the standings. Head coach Mike Woodson was fired just one year after winning 54 games. He was replaced by Derek Fisher, a rookie head coach who was only hired to push the triangle offense that Jackson loved. Melo was forced to learn and play in an offense that did not suit the Knicks at all.
Throughout Jackson’s tenure, there was a revolving door of players who came in and out of the organization. Andrea Bargnani, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jose Calderon, Robin Lopez, Derrick Williams – the list goes on. Anthony never had an established core supporting cast for more than two seasons. The closest was in the 2012-13 season, when the Knicks won 54 games. However, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, who were two key pieces in those playoff runs, were traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015. The only player of value that New York received in that three-team trade was Lance Thomas from the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Knicks reached rock bottom at the end of the 2014-15 campaign, only winning 17 games. Jackson, an all-time great coach, proved that he is strongly inept to run an NBA organization’s front office.
During the later stages with the Knicks, Jackson reiterated his dislike of Anthony on the team. He wanted to trade Anthony and re-build with a younger core. The only problem was that Anthony had a no-trade clause in his contract. Questions about Anthony’s desire to win were raised because he did not want to leave New York. Despite multiple public jabs by Jackson, including his infamous “leopard” tweet, Anthony held his ground and remained a Knick.
Carmelo Anthony’s Legacy
Looking back on his time in New York, Carmelo Anthony brought about an exciting change in Knicks culture. Their short-lived playoff runs brought multiple firsts for newer fans who didn’t get a chance to watch the team in the early 2000s. Anthony’s Knicks career is one shrouded in many questions. Some wonder why he stayed so long after their 17-win season, when the Knicks clearly weren’t headed anywhere. Anthony definitely wasn’t the reason for the team’s dysfunction. Unfortunately, the franchise suffered from a weak owner and front office that didn’t put the proper pieces in place.
One major problem with Anthony’s tenure with the Knicks was the lack of consistent point guard play. While Melo was a Knick, he played with more than a dozen different starting point guards in seven years. Many people blame Anthony for his selfishness on the floor. That may be true for certain games, but when you look at his career as a whole, it’s hard for any team to accomplish much without a true ball handler. Melo’s job wasn’t to pass the ball, it was to shoot it. The Knicks failed him in that major aspect of the game, and it’s a shame that Anthony is penalized more than he should be for it.
Lance Thomas wrote in his Players’ Tribune article how much he respected Anthony and how Anthony’s leadership impacted the players around him. Anthony was more than just a good player for the team. As a native New Yorker, he basked in the glory of playing for his hometown. You could tell how much he enjoyed being a Knick, even when the times got tough. Carmelo Anthony’s career isn’t over, but when it’s all said and done, fans should appreciate what he accomplished with this franchise.
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