The New York Knicks
With Carmelo Anthony hovering around the MVP discussion and Amare Stoudemire returning, a showdown years in the making could make this a really special NBA postseason.
This story begins more than ten years ago, when LeBron James was a junior in high school. His legendary St. Vincent-St. Mary’s team faced off against national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy, headed by senior Carmelo Anthony. Both young talents had begun to gain the attention of the basketball world, as both were apparently headed for stardom.
The game became a showcase event, as 11,000 were in attendance to see the two outstanding teams and players face off. Both players were exceptional, and while James may have played a slightly better game, Anthony’s team ended up with the win.
Fast forward to the end of the next basketball season. James, now called “The Chosen One” has led his team to a National High School Championship, and Anthony, now at Syracuse, has led his team to an NCAA Championship. For months, the talk of the NBA Draft had been “Melo or LeBron?”. When draft day came, LeBron was taken number one, the infamous Darko Milicic was selected second by Detroit, and Carmelo Anthony was taken third, ahead of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, two names who will play heavily into this narrative.
Melo and LeBron both had terrific first seasons, and while many considered Anthony’s to be superior, James was given the Rookie of the Year award.
Fast forward through the rest of the 2000s. LeBron has ascended to basketball greatness. Although he has not yet won a Championship, he is undoubtedly the best player in the league. In search of a ring, he has joined forces with Wade and Bosh in Miami, creating a 2003 class reunion that rocks the NBA to its foundation. Anthony, despite showing obvious talent for scoring, is considered an underachieving volume scorer. He is unhappy with losing year after year in the first round of the playoffs with the Denver Nuggets (despite a talented roster) and is trying to find a way out. With a lockout and a new revenue share imminent, he looks for trades rather than waiting for free agency.
And so the Melodrama ensues, with New York the most likely destination. The Knicks have experienced a revival as Amar’e Stoudemire, the team’s big free agent acquisition, has dominated the league, surrounded by a sneaky good team of no-names. Anthony, in a quest to defeat the 2003-04 ROY and his cohorts, will join forces with the 2002-03 ROY, as Denver receives most of those no-names.
The next season and a half in New York is filled with turmoil. Both Anthony and Stoudemire experience injuries. Both play well when the other is out, and both struggle when they are on the court together. As Stoudemire’s injuries continue to stack up, the team becomes Anthony’s. Then, out of nowhere, a Chinese-American from Harvard University sets off one of the greatest stories of 2012. Still, Linsanity does not last, and the Knicks are quickly dealt with in the first round of the playoffs by (guess who) the Heat.
Somewhere between Melo’s move to New York and the series loss to the Heat, the Knicks went through a point guard carousel as Chauncey Billups, Baron Davis and Jeremy Lin all failed to be the man. Head coach Mike D’Anonti was fired. A host of new players came and went. Meanwhile, LeBron wins a championship, MVP, Finals MVP, and a Gold Medal.
We reach the 2012 season. Somehow, the Knicks have found the right balance. Raymond Felton returns to run a committee point guard with veteran Jason Kidd. The right mix is found on the bench as J.R. Smith remains among the most explosive bench scorers in the game. And Melo, the preseason ESPN cover boy, is having an MVP type season. All of this with Amar’e out with another injury.
And then, after missing a few games here and there with various injuries, poof. Melo is out of the news. LeBron and Durant are THE MVP candidates. The LA teams take over headlines. And the NFL playoffs have arrived. Nevermind that Anthony has averaged 35 points per game in the last eight games he’s played in. The only story that gets the Knicks in the headlines is the return of Stoudemire. And the news is generally negative. Most experts think they can’t play together, even with Stoudemire coming off the bench.
So you (random expert) are telling me that Carmelo is going to let one of the five best post scorers in the NBA impede him on his quest? After being overshadowed in high school, after being drafted third, after losing ROY, after disappearing in Denver, after losing and losing and losing, after engineering a trade to New York, after a coach that didn’t like him, after a point guard that outshined him, after an embarrassing playoff showing, after this ridiculously great start: you think Melo’s going to fail to find a way to win with Stoudemire?
The Knicks will reach the Eastern Conference Finals this year. They will face the Heat in that series. And the Heat had best bring their A game. Carmelo Anthony is on a mission, and he’s not going to lose easily. He is one of the few players LeBron cannot shut down. And, finally, he has bought into playing defense (credit the exceptional job Mike Woodson has done).
The Heat are compared to the Avengers, but the Knicks are like the Fellowship of the Ring. Anthony takes the role of Aragorn, the unequaled warrior who has wandered the earth as a lost king. His furious defender, Tyson Chandler, is like Gimli, affecting battles with his mighty courage. Old and wise leaders like Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace take the role of the wizard Gandalf, guiding the warriors on their mission. J.R. Smith and Steve Novak enter as the cool marksman, the deadly archer, and the secret weapon, Legolas. Brewer, Felton, and the other supporting players are the hobbits, who, although they may not look it, have plenty to contribute. And finally, Amar’e Stoudmire takes the role of Boromir, the charismatic leader of Gondor’s armies. A powerful swordsman, Boromir often disagrees with Aragorn (remember that’s Melo). However, when he is pushed to it, Boromir takes his ground with the fellowship and delivers one of the most heroic stands of The Lord of the Rings.
If that doesn’t make my point clear, you must not know Lord of the Rings. As I was writing that I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it work, but after re-reading it, it makes even more sense (to me, at least).
The Knicks are loaded, and they are ready for a run at a Championship. Carmelo Anthony is everything a champion needs to be, and now he has the cast to help him there. The Heat (who, for the record, were twice on the ropes on their way to the Finals) have lost both meetings with the Knicks this year, and Anthony didn’t even play in one of them.
I feel as though I’m one of the few people who realize how good Amar’e Stoudemire is. He’s the game-changer in all of this. As great as LeBron is, I doubt his team of superheroes can handle a flowing Melo and Amar’e AND the barrage of 3’s the Knicks are capable of dropping any game. Chris Bosh has really found his role in Miami, but he can’t handle Stoudemire. No way, no how.
The Western Conference Playoffs are sure to be highly entertaining, but the imminent clash of these two teams makes the Easter Conference Playoffs must-see TV. Both superpowers are going to have to fight their way to the Conference Finals, as the Celtics, although struggling, are still dangerous and always seem to have it in for the Heat. It’s a race against time for the Bulls, who have a shot at contending if Rose is at full strength. The Nets are trying to put it together, and they have a special motivation versus New York. Indiana and Atlanta couldn’t care less how star-studded their opponents are. The Milwaukee Bucks could be one trade away from a really tough out.
In the end, after an epic first two rounds, the Knicks and the Heat will face each other, and an epic series a decade in the making will come to it’s greatest moment.
Melo, Amar’e, and the Knicks, who have faded in and out of headlines for more than a year now, hold the power. It’s their turn, whether or not the LA Fakers keep the headlines or not.
Look out Miami. Look out NBA.
It’s Still Your Turn Countdown
10. John Wall
9. Tim Tebow
8. Carmelo Anthony
7. Coming Soon
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Soli Deo Gloria