The New York Knicks’ star forward left Monday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers with a bruised right knee and did not return. Though he himself asserted that it wasn’t serious at all, any bump or bruise New York’s leading scorer suffers is cause for major concern.
Or is how he plays the real concern?
It’s worth noting that Melo suffered this injury after tripping over his own two feet, so there really isn’t any opposing player (or even teammate) to blame. That said, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, Anthony’s knee has bothered him for quite “some time.”
Carmelo says his right knee has been bothering him for some time. Not sure if he’ll play Wednesday vs Pistons.
— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) March 5, 2013
If you’re like me, you’re hardly surprised. Melo is a notoriously effective bully-baller who isn’t afraid to grind down low to get his points.
If you’re even more like me, said tactics are also slightly unnerving. This is the way Anthony plays and it’s what has made him one of the most potent scorers in the game. But there does come a time when maybe it’s too much.
Anthony has already spent a majority of the season playing out of position at power forward. Smaller lineups have become a commonality league-wide, but that hasn’t prevented Anthony from having to square off against opponents much bigger, much stockier than himself. And again, even at the 3, he prefers to attack the rim and bounce off bodies to get his points anyway.
Which is dangerous. Not in the sense that it’s career-threatening, but in the sense that he’s (now) forced to play through continuous pain.
By no means is this a knock on Anthony, but he just isn’t as graceful as Kevin Durant or LeBron James. Melo has quick hands and feet, but he’s not as agile as some of his counterparts; it’s not often that he goes untouched en route to the basket. Not like Durant and LeBron.
To an extent, that’s perfectly fine. Few players rival Anthony’s scoring ability and almost no one scores in the physical manner he does. Now 28, though, you can’t help but wonder if something is going to have to eventually change. And soon.
We’ve questioned Durant’s long term durability to no end because of how lanky and frail he looks in his Oklahoma City Thunder uniform. Fear of him getting pummeled and broken in half (kidding) on his way to the basket presented a very real problem.
Five-plus years into his career, though, said fears (most of them, anyway) have evaporated. He still looks like he could fall victim to a hard-placed foul, but his speed and incisiveness perpetuate the feeling that he can continue to play at a high level and remain unscathed.
But can we say the same for Melo? His body is one that’s built to last. That upper-body of his isn’t LeBron James-cut, but it’s bang-down-low massive.
It is not, however, center-esque.
As much as we like to believe Melo is built to score the way he does, he takes a beating on a nightly basis, more than any other “wing,” I’d hazard. Too often his headband is knocked off his head, too often is he found hitting the floor with a reverberating thud. And as intelligent a scorer as he is, it’s difficult not to believe it will one day catch up with him. In fact, it may already have.
Anthony is already attempting a career-high 6.6 threes per game. Much of this has to do with New York’s preference to spread the floor, but it could also be an indicator of his attempt to adjust his game to meet the limits of his body. Over the years, we’ve watched Kobe Bryant go from a rim-rocking fiend to a habitual jump-shooter. This is obviously a different situation, but it could have a similar premise.
Don’t mistake my inquiry or concern for doubt. Nor am I calling Melo a “softy” or even implying that he has to tailor his game differently. I’m simply wondering aloud, thinking about his future.
I’m beginning to think that his body may be on the cusp of writing checks, making drives to the basket that it can’t cash in on much longer. I’m beginning to think that these injuries may be seen with much more frequency. I’m beginning to think a decade’s worth of abrasive scoring is on the precipice of catching up with him.
And I know the Knicks have to be just as concerned as the rest of us.
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.