The Return Of The “Real Melo” Should Help Knicks Hang On To Playoff Slot

Be careful what you wish for, for wishes can come true. Chances are pretty good that some variation of that phrase was running through New York Knicks All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony’s head just a few weeks ago; as his team was below the .500 mark and his relationship with former Knicks bench boss Mike D’Antoni was chilly at best. Rumors were springing up that the forward who had pushed hard to get his former club the Denver Nuggets to complete a trade in February of 2011 that sent him to New York was now looking for a new home.

Instead of being hailed as a hero and a money player who could take over a game at any time; Anthony was getting called a selfish player and  a ball-hog, who did not play well with others. Members of the media and fans of the squad were even asking if the club was a better team when Anthony was not in the lineup. Certainly this was not the scenario he was expecting when the young man who led Syracuse to an NCAA Title his only year in college was expecting when his wish was fulfilled and he became a member of the Knicks roster last year.

A few weeks can seem like a lifetime in the Association; especially in this campaign with just 66 games in the regular season that started on Christmas Day and will end late this month. Sunday the tough experiences that Melo had gone through earlier in the campaign were just unpleasant memories, as Anthony knocked down a game winning trey with 8.2 seconds left in overtime to lead his squad past the Chicago Bulls by a final score of 100-99. Carmelo scored a game high and season high 43 points in the victory.

After averaging 21.0 points per contest for the season, Anthony has increased that average to 22.0 points over the last ten games and 29.0 points so far in the month of April. Since D’Antoni resigned, the club has gone 10-3 under interim coach Mike Woodson; many of those games played without starters Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire who have both been sidelined by injuries. Anthony has once again been put in the spotlight and has reclaimed his spot as the star of the franchise. The victory on Sunday gives the Knicks a record of 29-27 and keeps them one game ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Playoff chase with New York holding the eighth seed.

If the Knicks hold onto the final Post Season slot in the East; their odds of surviving the first round are slight as they will be facing either the Bulls or the Miami Heat. Although New York showed they are capable of taking a game from Chicago on Sunday, they would be hard pressed to defeat either team in a series even at full strength. Lin is most likely done for the season after undergoing surgery last week and although the club expects Stoudemire to return for the Playoffs, it remains to be seen how effective he can be playing with back pain.

The franchise was unable to meet the lofty goals that were thrust upon them when they signed Free Agent center Tyson Chandler before the start of the campaign; as many fans and NBA observers expected them to rival Chicago and Miami as a power in the East. If they hold onto the eighth seed; even if they do get eliminated in the first round, it will not be a step back for the team as they had the same fate last season.

The team has some decisions to make in the off-season about what direction they want to take. Anthony was acquired to be the centerpiece of their offense; a fact that D’Antoni could never come to grips with which led to his departure. Woodson seems to have a strong rapport with his star and barring the Knicks being able to land Phil Jackson he should be the leading candidate to be the coach for next season. Whom ever assumes control of the team’s bench next season has to be on the same page as Anthony in order for the Knicks to prosper. If they can not do that; they best look into trading their forward this summer.

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