At least for one night Carmelo Anthony was a glue guy, and no I’m not sniffing glue. And no, I don’t expect to see any more of the one-point outings he had last night, and I admit I may have sniffed some glue following the 49ers loss this Sunday. I just can’t be sure about anything other than the Kyle Williams tattoo that I woke up with in my armpit.
Back to business though, upon learning that the cause and solution to all of the Knicks’ problems had gone 0-for-7 from the field with just one point on a technical free throw, I admittedly thought the round mound of slowing the ballgame down had suffered some sort of crisis. Then seeing the Knicks’ winning score, I couldn’t help but wondering if Anthony had been ejected only to see his team rally to win in spite of the guy holding their offense hostage with each successive jab step.
It was none of that, and all kidding aside it wasn’t all that surprising to see Melo take a big step back following his 10-of-30 shooting effort in Saturday’s loss to a Nuggets team he spurned for the media glitz of New York. Of course, this came after 61-of-172 (35%) stretch shooting the ball and a six-game losing streak. "Maybe I need to not take so many shots," he said after the symbolic loss. "Should I pass it more? Maybe I should take the blame for the games we've been losing (and the) offensive struggles.”
I’m not going to bore you with the complete history lesson, but the Knicks are in the bind that they are in because of Carmelo Anthony. His people stripped the team so he could get his contract extension with the side benefit of stroking his ego. Anthony, for everything he hasn’t proven in this league, joined a team that was previously winning and imposed his way of handling matters on the court despite the losing it bred. Saturday’s loss was the final proof the jury needed to see to determine that O.J. did it, and the folks that think he didn’t have a bunch of glue all over their nose.
And though the quotes were relayed to us as the words of a dejected man, we don’t know if he was truly being introspective or just passively defensive when he said that. Only he knows. It doesn’t matter though -- we will get the answer to that question on the court, because if he doesn’t make the necessary changes the Knicks will keep losing and the New York media might eat him for lunch.
So I wasn’t surprised to run the tape and see that Carmelo Anthony was a good offensive teammate last night. The game-plan was obvious from the get go. Anthony was going to defer. He held the ball like it was a hot potato and he put himself in the corner at times, literally. His seven field goal attempts came within the flow of the offense, and ironically he looked like a guy that was trying too hard to make the shot because he knew he’d only get a handful of them. He set off-ball screens to free other guys up, and he moved out of their space when it wasn’t his turn to stand there. His teammates responded by actually keeping their hands above their waists when making their cuts. They smiled and laughed as movements were easy. Things actually worked.
They started to resemble an NBA offense.
Maybe it was just one game. Maybe it was the Bobcats. Maybe he was tired of the white hot spotlight of the New York media breathing down his neck. But if you’re an Amare Stoudemire (18 points, eight rebounds, one block) owner, this stuff is important. The venerable Tommy Beer, a true basketball expert and solid Knicks guy, said that Stoudemire showed more explosion last night. Going to the tape I would agree, but he’s still taking too many jumpshots – which tells me he’s not fully back. None of that is going to matter if Melo is grinding the offense to a halt. Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert are both guys holding fantasy value right now, but they’re inconsistent. Their inconsistency, along with that of Toney Douglas and whoever else is going to play the PG position – will be tied to whether or not the Knicks run offensive sets as they did last night. The Knicks even got out and ran a little bit, and frankly there is absolutely no reason that Melo should be walking the ball across the half-court line at the 16 second mark. These are the things that owners need to watch for when assessing the Knicks. Even Anthony’s owners will shave off a few extra points if it means a better field goal percentage and a couple of extra assists per night.
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THE JACKSON FIVE
Tyson Chandler scored 20 points with a season-high 17 rebounds and a block in his abuse of B.J. Mullens, but the tougher fantasy decisions rest with Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert. Fields is on a nice little hot streak, and last night he scored 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting with four rebounds, five assists, two steals, two blocks and a three in 30 minutes. Meanwhile, Shumpert hit just 1-of-9 shots for three points, five boards, two assists, two steals, and a block in 25 minutes. Their four-game stretch is a microcosm of what each player represents right now, as Fields has been mostly steady and Shumpert has two nice games and two awful games. Here are their averages over that span:
Fields: 36 minutes, 15.8 points, 0.8 threes, 3.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, 53.3% FG, 57.1% FT, 2.5 turnovers (Round 6 value in 8-cat, Round 7 value in 9-cat)
Shumpert: 34 minutes, 11.3 points, 1.3 threes, 4.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 3.0 steals, 0.3 blocks, 36.4% FG, 80.0% FT, 2.8 turnovers (Round 4 value in 8-cat, Round 6 value in 9-cat)
As you can see, Shumpert is actually holding more value but his inconsistency along with Fields’ experience and recent play means that Fields could end up holding the starting shooting guard position when Baron Davis returns. Davis could debut tonight at Cleveland, but he’s going to be handled with kid gloves and provides neither the Knicks nor fantasy owners any guarantees. That said, if you have a need for point guard in any respect then hopefully you made the add a few days ago while he was still available. Look for Davis to come in and add some stability to the offense, but he’ll also steal touches from everybody when he’s on the court and isn’t afraid to jack up bad shots, either.
This leaves Shumpert, a hot add a few weeks ago, as somebody panicked owners might drop if/when news breaks that he will come off the bench. Given the strong valuations during a tough stretch for the rookie, I’ll be right there to pick him up. Davis isn’t a good bet to stay healthy and Shumpert will continue to improve as the year goes on. As for Fields, he’s certainly worth an add and looks a whole lot better in a functioning offense. I’d also look to sell Fields for just about anything I can get my hands on with Shumpert possibly overtaking him as the year goes on.
Of course, it all comes back to Melo. If he plays within the offense, then you can expect Amare to return somewhere close to form, Fields and Shumpert to both hold value, Tyson Chandler will continue to put up big lines, Baron Davis will be a low-end value guy, and maybe even Toney Douglas could make some noise. This is New York and Mike D’Antoni’s offense, but it’s Melo’s world and we’re all just pawns in it.