NBA PM: Carmelo Anthony Returning to All-Star Form

Carmelo Anthony is playing well in the preseason. The Knicks need him healthy and producing to achieve success.

Cody Taylor profile picture
Updated 12 months ago on
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Carmelo Anthony Returning to All-Star Form

For the New York Knicks, the 2014-15 season went about as poorly as possible. The team recorded its lowest win total in franchise history with just 17 victories and still only managed to draw the fourth pick in the draft (despite having the second-highest odds of landing the top pick).

To top it all off, All-Star Carmelo Anthony played in only 40 games after suffering a knee injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season following the All-Star game on February 15. The team’s bad luck would continue into the summer after the Knicks failed to land any top-tier free agents. The team was said to be targeting LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan and Greg Monroe among others in free agency.

Despite missing out on those big names, the Knicks came away from the summer with some quality additions. Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, Derrick Williams, Kevin Seraphin and Kyle O’Quinn were some of the new players the Knicks added this offseason. The team felt those players would fit into their system and play well with Anthony. While the additions and improved supporting cast will help New York, the team’s success for this season still hinges largely on how Anthony will return from his knee injury.

So far this preseason, Anthony and the rest of the team have answered questions about how their new unit will jell together. Although preseason performances should be taken with a grain of salt, the way Anthony has returned from his injury has many Knicks fans optimistic for the upcoming season. Through two preseason games, Anthony has averaged 19 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Perhaps the biggest positive for the Knicks is just how well Anthony is shooting the ball. He’s converting on 72 percent of his shots from the field, including 40 percent from three-point range.

“[The shot] comes right back to you, believe it or not,” Anthony told reporters following Friday night’s win over the Washington Wizards. “You just worry about everything else coming back: getting that pop, having the power to do different things [and] pushing off the leg. At first, it was like, ‘It’s going to be hard to get that back this soon.’ But after the rehab went on, it started coming back to me.

“I kind of feel like I have that rhythm coming earlier than expected and just right now applying that to a full basketball game – getting back into being physical out there and the contact of the sport. In practice, I try to be as physical as possible just to try to get back into that mode.”

The results so far are impressive, considering where Anthony is at in his rehab. Following the surgery on his knee in February, Anthony was held out of basketball drills until around July. He joked with reporters that he wasn’t allowed anywhere near a basketball court, and that team officials had a “No Melo” sign on the door preventing him from entering the basketball facility. He started shooting again in July and has been working ever since. He said that he’s in the last phase of his rehab and will continue it through the end of the month.

“It’s nice to just get back out there and just get back into the flow of the basketball game,” Anthony said. “The most important thing is being healthy. When you’re healthy, everything kind of falls into place mentally. There’s a lot of clarity for me at this moment. I can just play ball and not have to worry about no ticky-tack injuries or having surgery and things like that. I can just focus on helping my team out.”

Anthony can’t continue shooting at a 72 percent clip from the field since that’s obviously not sustainable, but the early results are a good sign. For the coaching staff this season, their priority has to be keeping Anthony healthy and putting him in position to be successful and lead. With more offensive weapons around him this year, he may not feel have to shoulder such a big load and can focus on doing other things during games. It seems as though he’s doing that now.

“He’s shooting the ball really well and we all know that he can shoot the ball, so I don’t really think that’s surprising,” head coach Derek Fisher told reporters Friday. “It’s more about the mindset that you see in his approach to the game. He’s being aggressive. He’s making passes when he should make passes. He’s putting in effort on the defensive end and he’s really leading our guys in the direction that we want them to go. The offense will always be there for him, but it’s the other things that we’re seeing from him right now. He’s enjoying being back on the floor and that’s helping our team a lot.”

Given that the Knicks play in the largest media market in the country, expectations are understandably high. Players are constantly bombarded with tough questions and they know the spotlight is brighter than usual in New York City.

After tallying just 17 wins last season, it would seem reasonable that the team will see some sort of improvement this year. They have a good mix of veterans and younger players, and are hoping to compete for a playoff spot. Dominance from Anthony will certainly help them as they battle in the Eastern Conference.

John Wall Makes Turnover Bet with Coach

For Washington Wizards star point guard John Wall, this season is about elevating his game to a higher level.

Wall believes he is a top 10 player in the league, and wants to prove it. Many of the offseason rankings leading up to the start of the regular season had Wall listed outside of the top 10.

He told Basketball Insiders’ own Alex Kennedy recently that he’s using those rankings as motivation this season to be even better and listed his lofty goals for the 2015-16 campaign.

“I want to be in the MVP conversation and give myself a shot at being the MVP,” Wall said. “That means I need to play well, help my teammates play well, get those guys shots and lead my team to wins. I definitely want to be an All-Star starter again. I want to be All-NBA First Team. I want to be on the All-Defensive First Team; I was All-Defensive Second Team last year. I think I was snubbed from the All-NBA Third Team last year, but I just use that as motivation for this year to try to get better. Another individual goal is definitely leading the league in assists this year. There are a lot of things I want to do, but those are some of the main ones.”

One common stat that critics point to for why Wall is not a top 10 player is his turnover rate. He finished second-worst in the NBA behind only James Harden for most turnovers last season. His assist-to-turnover ratio was still respectable because he averaged a career-high 10 assists per game, which helped offset those turnovers.

But in an attempt to cut down on his turnovers, he’s developed a bet with Wizards assistant coach Howard Eisley. As part of the deal, Wall will give Eisley $100 for every game in which he commits more than two turnovers.

“So that means take care of the ball,” Wall told the Washington Post.

Wall is due to make $15,851,950 next season, so he would be looking at a $8,200 loss if the worst-case scenario occurs and he has to pay up every game. Wall committed at least three turnovers in 62 out of a possible 79 regular season games last season, and would have been faced with a $6,200 bill if that bet took place last year.

It’s unlikely that a potential $8,200 bet will financially impact Wall that much. More so, having to fork over $100 for each time he turns the ball over more than two times will hopefully create a reminder to take care of the ball. If anything, this gesture is an encouraging sign for a player that is trying to be among the league’s best players. It’s great to see an All-Star like Wall working hard to correct his weaknesses and striving for perfection on the court.

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Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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