Anthony is having a sensational season. He’s averaging 25.3 points and seven rebounds per game, posting a 22.49 PER in the process–the highest of his career. To say he’s one of the major reasons New York has won nine games thus far would be in an understatement.
The problem, though? He’s also one of the major reasons they have had to suffer what seem like a paltry three losses.
Make no mistake, this is a different ‘Melo than we’re used to seeing. No, he hasn’t become a distributional guru, but he’s not forcing the action as much; he’s happy to allow J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton or even Steve Novak to carry the offensive burden when defenses double- or triple-team him. His defense has been respectable thus far as well.
The transformation hasn’t stopped there either. Anthony is also more involved off the court too. You can see him pulling guys aside and giving them advice, and you can also see him cheering on his teammates from the bench in an emphatic manner that we have never witnessed from him before.
Overall, it’s been great. He’s been great, the Knicks have been great and their record as a collective is just that as well—great.
But there’s something missing. Something that keeps the Knicks from not just asserting their dominance as a powerhouse, but also preventing them from receiving the amount of respect their record dictates they deserve.
I’m referring, of course, to respect from the referees.
As a team, New York is attempting 19.9 free throws per game, 24th worst in the league. We could easily attribute that to sheer coincidence, but it takes just a few minutes of watching to see that ‘Melo, and sometimes his teammates, are getting banged up and not getting a majority of the calls. And it’s visibly effected Anthony and the rest of the Knicks’ preferred methods of attack.
The quintessential example of this came with time winding down against the Dallas Mavericks. Instead of attacking the rim, Anthony settled for a jumper that fell short, and the Knicks lost. Considering the path to the basket was relatively open at that point, one would have expected him to drive hard and attempt to dunk the rock and/or draw the foul.
But he didn’t. He had been hammered all night in the post and wasn’t getting that many calls. All one needs to do is see how much his headband shifts on each possession to see that he’s getting hit in the head more than most, and not receiving whistles a majority of the time.
Which isn’t okay. Anthony is a superstar, and superstars normally get those calls. Especially when they’re incurring the type of physical abuse he does.
So why isn’t ‘Melo getting those calls? Why is he not receiving the respect his stats, the respect his status suggests that he should.
Well, to put it bluntly, because of himself.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you Anthony doesn’t deserve more respect, because he does. But I also cannot say his attitude hasn’t played a part in his lack of calls, because it has.
He cannot be arguing with refs constantly, yet that’s exactly what he’s doing. He has to rise above the no-calls so that his teammates—who look to him for direction–don’t feel the need to litter the court with their heated sentiments as well.
Take the Knicks’ blowout loss to the Houston Rockets. There was one play where Anthony believed he was fouled, and instead of getting back on defense, he turned his back and argued with one of the refs, thereby allowing Patrick Patterson to traipse his way to an easy dunk. Oh, and he was called for the technical as well.
Anthony—and the rest of his teammates—must understand that arguing isn’t going to get them anywhere. Referees don’t reverse calls for players. They just don’t.
Which means, the Knicks—Anthony included—must rise above it, must play through it. They cannot self destruct the way they did against the Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies and even the Mavericks. Instead, they must learn to persevere. Doing so ensures they keep their composure and don’t allow games to get away from them like in Memphis and Houston.
What it also does, though, is show the refs that the Knicks are not a squad that is going to protest every call; it shows the boys in black and white that New York is wise enough to keep its collective mouth shut.
And at that point, the Knicks will become more deserving of respect, ‘Melo becomes more prone to getting the whistles the amount of contact he draws warrants and the team as a whole doesn’t self-destruct.
No, I can’t guarantee the Knicks are unbeatable or that they’ll even come close to winning a championship. What I can say, however, is that the only team this season—Grizzlies and Rockets included—that has taken them out of games is themselves.
That has to change; Anthony needs to change.
Lest the Knicks spend the season attempting to contend for a title in spite of being their own worst enemy.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.