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Carmelo Anthony has his legacy in his hands in New York

Feb 22, 2011, 11:01 AM EDT

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Carmelo Anthony gets mentioned as one of the game’s elite scorers. As he should. Few players can average 25 points a season consistently. Few players in the league can fill it up — from anywhere on the court, creating their own shot — like Anthony. He doesn’t do it terribly efficiently (his shooting percentage is about the league average), but he puts up the numbers. He is an elite scorer.

But elite leader? Guy who makes his team better? Guy who can lead his team to a title?

No. Not yet anyway. Carmelo Anthony is not considered in the same strata with Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade and even LeBron James (who has taken a team with questionable talent around him to the finals).

If Anthony wants to be in that group, he’ll have to prove it in New York. By winning. And not just 60 regular season games, but by winning when it matters in the playoffs. By leading a team that in a couple years can beat the Heat and Bulls. By leading a true title contender.

What happens with the Knicks in the next three years will be how we remember Anthony after his career. Will it be as an elite scorer, or as a winner?

Anthony has always put up a fight in New York — remember the Dec.16, 2006 fight where he (and the other 9 players on the floor at the time) but tossed for a brawl? Even the crowd was fighting that night. He’s going to need that kind of fight now, much of it to push and pull his teammates up to contender status.

Some things are beyond Anthony’s control. The roster around him and Amar’e Stoudemire is not ready to contend — the Knicks just shipped out their best role players to get Anthony. They are going to need a center who can defend the paint. They need depth everywhere. They need a point guard who can run Mike D’Antoni’s system (Chauncey Billups at age 34 is a more efficient point guard than Raymond Felton was, but how a guy who thrives walking the ball up into halfcourt sets does with the Knicks system remains to be seen).

A lot of what will be around him — and the ability to bring in Chris Paul or Deron Williams to really run the show — will be decided in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. Nobody knows what that is going to look like. It could be so restrictive as to make it hard to put much of a team together. While that will be true of the Knicks it will be true of other teams as well. The Knicks problem is that the Heat and Bulls (and Celtics for this season and next) got a jump on it and have more complete rosters already. The Knicks will be playing catch up under different rules.

This season, the Knicks may (if they get lucky) climb all the way up to the fifth seed (they are 5.5 games behind the Hawks, but Atlanta has one of the toughest schedules in the league the rest of the way).

But next season, and for a couple seasons after that, the expectations for the Knicks will be ridiculous. Fans will expect a contender, whether or not it is warranted.

It’s going to fall to Carmelo Anthony (and Amar’e Stoudemire) to lead them there. To push them and, if necessary, drag them there. That is what elite players do — they make teams better than just the sum of their parts. They lead, by example and in the locker room. They make their teams contenders by play and by force of will.

If Anthony wants that to be his legacy, he will have to prove it in New York. On the league’s biggest stage.

Whatever happens, that will be his legacy.

  1. leearmon - Feb 22, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    I agree with the majority of this post, (unlike the previous one). However, one could argue Landry is the Knicks best “role player”. So to say ” the Knicks just shipped out their best role players to get Anthony.” is a bit misleading. And we could go back and forth about Billups vs Felton, but to your bigger point yes, its put up or shutup time for Melo. While just making the playoffs was good enough for the Knicks prior to the trade, its now about advancing, and reaching the championship level. This trade does not guarantee New York a title, but its hard to argue that it doesnt put them closer. I look at Melo similar to the way I looked at Pierce prior to Garnett’s arrival. The numbers are also very close. The difference is clearly, Pierce got the job done, when all eyes were on him, will Melo be able to do the same? Thats the $63 million question.

  2. loungefly74 - Feb 22, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    the concern is if they do go after another elite talent next year…will they have cap room for additional efficient role players? will they be a team that consists of 3 super stars and 9 average guys? yeah…they got a lot to do to catch up to the bulls, magic, celtics, heat, etc…
    the knicks will be better though…and thats good for the NBA.

    • hnirobert3 - Feb 22, 2011 at 11:54 AM

      the problem the knicks will have is they’re going to have two MAXED out guys, maybe three, which will leave little to nothing for anyone else. at least the heat have three guys who should be maxed out (bosh isn’t a max guy but would’ve gotten one if he wanted it), but aren’t, which left a little wiggle room for decent role players like udonis haslem and mike miller.

      there’s no way melo will take less than amar’e (maxed out) and there’s no way whoever the third guy is (deron williams, cp3, etc) will take less than the other two.

      • loungefly74 - Feb 22, 2011 at 1:12 PM

        absolutely. you’re right…melo will want the $$$ like amare…someone is gonna have to sacrifice some cash for that team to contend.
        they could go after a solid PG/perimeter guy who would not be a max guy and still have plenty for role players. though personally, i love billups but yeah, he is getting old. maybe a guy like mike conley…still very young and has the talent to excel if given the chance…AND he wouldn’t kill the cap.
        an analogy would be like a grade school report card…would you rather have: A, A, A, D, D, F or A, A, B, B, C, C?

  3. psousa1 - Feb 22, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    If I have to hear one more basketball media lackey talk about some idiot’s ‘legacy’ or even worse ‘brand’ I will barf. Every NBA writer feels they have to carry water for them

  4. redstar504 - Feb 22, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    I am done with basketball. This legue is going to be so dumb there are oing to be 3-4 top teams loaded with superstars but no depth and the rest of the NBA is going to be deep role playing teams. Unless you play in an attractive major city forget about it.

    The small market is done. The NBA should move right now to contract (this is coming from someone in New Orleans – a small market) the NBA to about 10 or 16 total teams / 2 single division conferences of five or eight then let the top half of every conference in the playoffs. Every team can be made up of nothing but all stars. THis has to be done to maintain competition. The way the NBA is going there will be no competition unless they do this. If the trend continues there will be no way for a team who is not the Celtics,Lakers, Knicks, Heat to have an honest shot at winning.

    Shout out to LeBron thanks for destroying the NBA because you lacked the heart to win on your own. You need to team up with other rivals to get it done and even bigger shout out to the rest of the gutless wonders that “want to be like LBJ” insted of manning up and yeh that means you too CP3!!!

    • leearmon - Feb 22, 2011 at 2:34 PM

      Its hard to say small market teams cant survive when the Spurs have the best record in the league. Not to mention Durant re-signed in OKC. Free agency isn’t the only way to build a champion. Sometimes you have to do it through the draft. Cleveland, Denver had Bron and Melo for 7 years. That’s a long time. If you give a team 7 years of your career at a high level its up to management to bring solid players around you. Now Melo had great teams around him in Denver, but Lebron? Not so much. And as for New Orleans, they have done a horrible job of surrounding Paul with any legit talent. So when you are blessed enough to draft a once in a generation type talent, you better do all you can to bring in a championship team.

      • passerby23 - Feb 23, 2011 at 2:07 AM

        I agree. Denver’s window closed and I think Melo saw the writing on the wall and didn’t want to be part of a rebuilding process. OKC has proven they can be competitive in a small market and are really a player or two away from competing for a championship. The Spurs have been probably the second most dominant team of the last decade while Utah has consistently fielded playoff teams for the better part of two decades in arguably the hardest market to sell to players.

        Lebron I have less sympathy for. Cleveland did all they could to surround him with the right mix of talented role players. The way the last two seasons ended in bitter disappointment and calls that Lebron couldn’t get it done in the playoffs put a lot of pressure on him and he bolted.

  5. dysraw1 - Feb 25, 2011 at 9:17 AM

    knicks need bigs,td gets better every game we are over loaded with 3s

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