The 2013-14 season was a nightmare for the New York Knicks. As they got off to a bad start, the pressure increased and they never improved or gelled together as a team. Only one player consistently showed up and played well, leaving all he had on the floor. That was the team’s best player and one of the best players in the NBA, Carmelo Anthony.
Just by watching the games and reading his body language, Anthony was visibly frustrated. This is a Knicks team that hoped to compete for an Eastern Conference title at the beginning of the season, only to see his team not reach the playoffs and miss out on the postseason for the first time in his career. Despite all of these low points, Anthony decided to rejoin his hometown team and build off of the incredible season he had.
For starters, his 27.4 points per game was the fourth highest average of his career. He shot 40 percent from three for the first time in his career and also averaged a career-high 8.1 rebounds per game. The Knicks also had to use Anthony a lot, who had a usage rate of 30.1 this past season, fourth highest in the NBA. The team relied on him a lot, but he delivered. With a new regime in the Big Apple headed by Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher, that will change but also make Anthony even better in the process.
What Jackson and Fisher are doing by installing the triangle offense and other schemes is not making adjustments to the playbook, but also to the culture the team has installed. They have won titles with star players surrounded by a team constructed of players willing to play as a team. They all feed off of each other and make each other better. As the front office continues to rework the roster that they have, this new culture will start to evolve and help make Anthony even better.
Anthony has been criticized a lot over his career, stating he is not a winner and never will be, especially since he has made a conference finals just once. Put this in perspective, Anthony has not been in a system like the one Jackson and Fisher will install and has never been around this much championship experience before. His best teams were not even that great.
Grantland’s Bill Simmons wrote an article after Anthony announced he would return to the Knicks in July and he pointed out the star has only been on a team with three players to make an All-NBA team and four to make an All-Star team. He had Allen Iverson, Chauncey Billups, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, but he played with all of them as they were passed their prime. With more of a team system and some cap space coming next summer, Anthony can learn the system this year and continue to improve as a showcase to help his team bring him some more help in free agency and with their first round pick in next year’s draft.
Anthony has been on some solid teams in his career, but by no means were any of them true championship contenders. This upcoming season will be no different, but in a weak Eastern Conference and a new system, Anthony will still be the leader. He will be the player they depend on most, but having another shooter in José Calderón and maybe a more motivated J.R. Smith, those players can take some of the pressure off of him, helping Anthony and the Knicks improve from last year as a team.