NEW YORK — Here we go again.
When Linsanity was at its peak, Carmelo Anthony was out with a groin strain, and there was a feeling among pundits and fans that ‘Melo’s return would throw the New York Knicks back off course.
Indeed, the Knicks lost eight of their first 10 games when Anthony returned to the lineup, leading Mike D’Antoni to resign, having never figured out how to get his stars to align.
With Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire sidelined, it was Anthony’s turn to carry the Knicks. He’s averaged 30.4 points on 50 percent shooting in leading New York to an 8-4 record since Stoudemire was diagnosed with a bulging disk in his back.
“‘Melo, I think now, is settling in,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said after Anthony’s 35 points led the Knicks’ offensive explosion against the Celtics on Tuesday. “He’s playing like we all thought he could play and it’s beautiful to watch him play. He’s doing a lot of things on both ends of the floor. He’s making guys around him better and we’re winning.
“It’s been a good run with him.”
And now, the catch …
Stoudemire is set to return later this week, as early as Friday if he feels well after Thursday’s practice. That would give him four games to prepare for the postseason.
But it also might knock the Knicks off track again, because as D’Antoni realized, Anthony and Stoudemire have proven to be incompatible on the floor. Since Anthony arrived last February, he’s played 1,688 minutes with Stoudemire. And the Knicks have been outscored by 84 points in those minutes.
Knicks efficiency with both Anthony and Stoudemire on the floor
|2010-11 Reg. Season||24||672||97.1||110.7||110.9||-0.2||+3|
|2011-12 under D’Antoni||29||730||97.8||98.5||105.2||-6.7||-83|
|2011-12 under Woodson||7||182||93.9||100.7||87.8||+12.9||+53|
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
The numbers under Woodson are promising. But it’s a small sample size and includes Woodson’s first game, when the Blazers didn’t bother showing up. Further, the Knicks’ success in those 182 minutes was almost entirely on defense. Barely scoring a point per possession is not very good considering the talent of Anthony and Stoudemire.
Based on the overall numbers, it would seemingly behoove Woodson to stagger his stars’ minutes as much as possible, letting them work more as individuals than as a tandem. Anthony is a plus-175 as a Knick in 1,185 minutes without Stoudemire on the floor. The bigger difference in the the Knicks’ play has been on defense, but Anthony has also been a more efficient scorer playing without Stoudemire, shooting better from the field and getting to the line more often.
Carmelo Anthony with the Knicks
|Stoudemire on/off||MIN||OffRtg||DefRtg||NetRtg||+/-||FG%||3PT%||Usg%||PTS/36||FTA Rate|
|Stoudemire on floor||1,689||102.9||106.3||-3.4||-84||42.0%||34.4%||28.3%||21.2||0.334|
|Stoudemire off floor||1,185||106.8||99.1||7.7||175||45.6%||37.5%||35.6%||29.3||0.397|
Usg% = Percentage of team’s possessions used when on the floor
PTS/36 = Points per 36 minutes
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA
But though he admitted that playing them together hasn’t worked, Woodson was insistent that Stoudemire would immediately be reinserted into the started lineup upon his return.
“As the head coach, I’ve got to see if this thing’s going to work,” Woodson said. “I know if you look at the numbers, ‘Melo and Amar’e, it didn’t work early in the year. It didn’t work with Jeremy Lin. But my thing is I look at things differently. Amar’e is a starting power forward, maybe 5 in this league. ‘Melo can play 3 or 4. Tyson [Chandler] is definitely a starting center in this league. I’ve got to make it work. I’m going bring Amar’e back when he decides to come back, and he’s going to start. And we’re going to make it work. That’s what I’m going to make happen.”
This compatibility issue has to be resolved at some point, because neither Anthony nor Stoudemire is going anywhere. They’re both under contract for three more seasons after this one, at more than $20 million per player per season.
But by trying to make it work with just a few regular season games left and facing a first-round series against the Heat or Bulls, Woodson is putting himself at risk, given his job status.
The interim coach has built up some equity with the Knicks in leading them to a 14-5 record since D’Antoni resigned. But if the Knicks flame out when their two stars start playing together again, it won’t help Woodson’s argument for keeping his job next season.