No. 1: Melo is King for a very special night — The game was a sellout – 19,812 at Madison Square Garden – so it wasn’t a matter of empty seats masquerading years from now as truth-stretchers, as in “I was there when Carmelo Anthony scored 62 points.” Oh, that number will grow ten-fold over time, with New York Knicks fans wanting to touch and be a part of Anthony’s very special night (even if they weren’t).
But considering the opponent (Charlotte), the fact that this game was played on a Friday night and the dreary ways of the Knicks lately – with a Super Bowl headed to town! – it’s safe to assume many longtime Knicks fans found their entertainment elsewhere and are kicking themselves today. A scan of bylines shows how few of New York media’s NBA “name” writers and columnists actually were working.
That’s the danger, that’s the capriciousness and that’s the beauty of sports, the possibility that on any given night you might see something completely unexpected that sets tongues to wagging worldwide. Anthony did that when he made 23 of 35 shots against the Bobcats, setting scoring records for the Knicks franchise and MSG. Here’s just one of the waggers, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:
What you will hear about Melo’s magical performance — a franchise and current Madison Square Garden record — is that it proves nothing except the worst stereotypes about one of the NBA’s most gifted scorers. The grumpy old men in the balcony from the Muppets were already chirping on Twitter about how Anthony didn’t have a single assist to go with his 62 points.
As if he’s supposed to pass to J.R. Smith on his way into the NBA history books, with his team rolling to a rare night of outright elation, on its way to a 29-point victory, 125-96. As if Kobe Bryant was supposed to pass to Smush Parker on his way to 81 against the Toronto Raptors in January 2006.
Bryant had two assists that night, in case you’re wondering — proof, I suppose, of Anthony’s enduring selfishness.
Nonsense. Anthony has been anything but during this lost season in New York. He has done nothing but rise above the circus atmosphere that has engulfed his team, leading the NBA in minutes played (39 per game) while putting together one of his best all-around seasons. His nine rebounds per game are a career high, and his 3.1 assists (yep, assists) are the sixth-highest average of his career.
More than anything, though, Anthony has not fueled what could easily have become a free-agent hysteria with his chance to opt out and hit the market after the season. He hasn’t complained about his predicament, because after all, it is his predicament. Melo wanted New York so badly that he forced his way here in a trade that stripped a young, promising Knicks team built by Donnie Walsh of most key assets it had.
That, in the end, will be Anthony’s burden to bear. He just gave everyone a reminder that, on nights like this one, he’s worth it.
No. 2: Anthony’s big night by the numbers — The player whose Knicks scoring record Anthony broke Friday is also the Hall of Famer to whom he often has been compared. Bernard King played for five teams across 14 NBA seasons, but it was his four years in New York that established the Brooklyn native, by way of the University of Tennessee, as one of the league’s all-time most potent scorers.
King, who averaged 26.5 points in the 206 games (of his career 874) he played for New York, found himself trending on Twitter as Anthony stalked and snagged his franchise scoring mark. And he even got in on the excitement:
Bernard King tonight: “I am very proud of Carmelo Anthony. I consider him to be one of the greatest players in our game…
— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) January 25, 2014
In a performance so memorable due to numbers, it figured that the folks at Elias Sports Bureau would have a few statistical quirks and surprises to share:
• Anthony scored 62 points in the Knicks’ win over the Bobcats. It was the 61st time in NBA history that a player scored 60 or more points in a regular-season game. Wilt Chamberlain did it 32 times, all other players combined for 29 such games.
• Anthony scored exactly 50 points in a game three times prior to Friday night, twice for the Nuggets and once for the Knicks. Anthony is only the fourth player in NBA history to score 50 or more points in a game at least twice for two different teams. Chamberlain did it of course, as did Pete Maravich (Jazz and Hawks) and King (Bullets and Knicks). Thirty-seven of Anthony’s points came in the first half, the most for any player in the first half of a game since Bryant scored 42 first-half points against Washington on March 28, 2003.
• Anthony also hauled in 13 rebounds to go along with his 62 points becoming only the fifth different player in NBA history with that many points and rebounds in a game. The others to do that were Chamberlain (22 times), Elgin Baylor (three), David Robinson and Michael Jordan.
No. 3: He’s a ‘bad’ man, but The Greatest? — What, more Melo? To which we at Hang Time HQ respond: What, someone scores 62 points every night in The Association?
While a lot of the better-known NBA media folks in New York were somewhere other than MSG Friday, George Willis of the New York Post was on hand and probed an interesting Anthony-Muhammad Ali angle. In fact, it might have said more about the Knicks star than Willis even realized. The columnist focused on Ali as inspiration for Anthony Friday, thanks to a pregame video the team was shown.
But the parallel between Ali and Anthony might go deeper. One dominated in an individual sport, the other tries to dominate individually in a team sport. Ali, through ego and deeds, separated himself from the pack, while Anthony, with his own ego and deeds, often seems to separate himself from teammates and teams.
While some critics focused on Anthony’s assist total Friday – zero – to take a few new whacks at him on his night of 35 shots and 62 points, the assist numbers of the other Knicks might have been more revealing. Hard to argue that Melo should have been passing to cohorts not nearly as hot in shooting touch. But in their passing to him, none of the Knicks had more than five assists and the team had just 23. The Bobcats posted the same number, 23, on 13 fewer buckets.
This was Anthony at his individual best, initiating and finishing the highlights Friday. Only five of his first 18 field goals were assisted and just nine of 23 overall. The old “Does he make teammates better?” question that the game’s elite strive to answer still hands over him.
Here is a little of Willis’ take:
Before the game, Anthony was so intense, a few of his teammates asked if there were something wrong. There was a lot wrong: Like a five-game losing streak, three straight losses to begin an eight-game homestand and all the talk about the Knicks starting to turn on coach Mike Woodson. There was also talk of whether the Knicks would be better off without Anthony’s huge contract.
Amid the growing adversity, Anthony found inspiration in the words of Ali.
“It was one of his speeches about greatness,” center Tyson Chandler said. “He said, ‘I’m going to show you that I’m great.’ Everybody was against him. Obviously, Melo took it to heart.”
Anthony took it to heart and to the court.
“Hearing the words of Muhammad and then getting out there making those first couple shots, I felt like it was going to be a good night,” Anthony said.
No. 4: Parsons’ 10 from distance send USA message — Not everything amazing happened in the Knicks-Bobcats game Friday. In the second half of Houston’s 88-87 home loss to Memphis, Chandler Parsons made 10 3-pointers, more than any NBA player in a half and matching the Rockets’ record for a full game.
It wasn’t enough as the Grizzlies’ defense on Houston’s last possession forced the ball out of his hands. But it was notable, exciting and tinged with a little resentment, with Parsons feeling yet again overlooked, this time by USA Basketball. As Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported:
He did, however, hope he had sent a message after he felt he had been snubbed when excluded from the USA Basketball Men’s National team 28-player roster.
“I’m going to use that the rest of my career,” Parsons said. “I’m not surprised. I’ve been overshadowed, overlooked my whole life. I was very frustrated. A life dream of mine is to play on that team. I deserved to be on that team. I played well in the camp. My game, my versatility, I feel like I’d be perfect for that system. I was upset. I still am upset. I think it’s a joke I’m not on there. Maybe next time.
“I guess I can take a positive from a negative and hit 10 3s in a half from here on out.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Who are the Lakers? And for that matter, why? Pau Gasol gets frustrated and existential. … Doc Rivers thinks the Bulls would be nuts to let coach Tom Thibodeau walk away – Rivers-style, Celtics to Clippers – though Thibodeau was thinking more Friday night of Kate Upton. … Steph Curry had 33 points and 15 assists, the Warriors shot 55.1 percent and yet Golden State lost? Wait, the brighter perspective: Minnesota won a close game. …