There’s been a debate the past few days about Carmelo Anthony’s place in the pecking order of NBA stars. Anthony felt a magazine’s decision to rank him as the 15th-best player in the NBA was “disrespectful.” Some agreed with Anthony; others didn’t.
The New York Knicks, obviously, still see Anthony as one of the top players in the league. But new coach Jeff Hornacek made an interesting distinction on Friday: New York doesn’t necessarily need Anthony to produce at an All-NBA level every night to be successful. And Hornacek would prefer that Anthony doesn’t try to do so.
“That’s the beauty of having these more talented guys on the team. He doesn’t have to carry us every night,” Hornacek said. “There’ll be stretches in games, maybe he does. Then other times, maybe another guy does. He’s at a point where he knows what it’s going to be for our team to win, and that’s not going to be him shooting it every time or trying to do that. There are going to be times when, yes [he carries the Knicks]. But he feels very comfortable, I think, with his teammates right now.”
The Knicks have surrounded Anthony with arguably one of the most talented rosters of his career. Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Kristaps Porzingis, Courtney Lee and Anthony form one of the top starting lineups — on paper — in the Eastern Conference.
In the best-case scenario for the Knicks, this will allow Anthony, 32, to shoulder less of a scoring burden over the course of the season. He averaged 21.8 points last season — nearly a career low — but had arguably the strongest season of his career in areas other than scoring. He had a career-high 4.2 assists per game and averaged 7.7 rebounds in his first full campaign after knee surgery in 2015. It’s worth noting that the Knicks were 0-11 in games that Anthony missed due to injury.
It will be interesting to see how the Knicks’ presumed upgrades at point guard (Rose), center (Noah) and shooting guard (Lee) impact Anthony’s game. If Anthony plays well and the Knicks have a successful season, he’s likely to make an All-NBA team (which is voted on by the media) for the first time since 2012-13.
Porzingis, naturally, still sees Anthony as one of the top players in the NBA thanks to his offensive prowess.
“Yes, for sure,” the second-year big man said. “He’s one of the top offensive players in the league. He’s the leader of our team; he’s the best scorer and he makes everybody look better. That’s the thing that not a lot of people see. They see his scoring ability, they see his rebounding ability, but there are a lot of little things, little details that he knows about the game, and he makes us better.”
Rose back next week? The Knicks decided not to send an assistant coach to Los Angeles to be with Rose during his civil trial. Rose has been away from the team since last Wednesday while attending a trial for a lawsuit that alleges he and two friends sexually assaulted his ex-girlfriend. Hornacek said Friday that the club is hopeful Rose will return early next week. If he’s back on Tuesday, it’s unclear whether Rose will play on Wednesday against Boston. Hornacek said if Rose played against Boston, it would probably be for limited minutes with an eye on increasing his minutes Thursday against Brooklyn.
Noah excited to defend rim with Porzingis: Saturday’s game against the Celtics will be the first in which we’ll see Noah and Porzingis defend the interior together. Noah said on Friday that he’s looking forward to playing with — and tutoring — Porzingis.
“I think the sky’s the limit for him. He’s an unbelievable talent,” said Noah, who is slated to make his Knicks debut. “The way he can move at his size, it’s pretty unbelievable. The way he can protect the rim, as well. It’s also about putting him in positions where we can really utilize his defensive skill set, his mindset too. I think he definitely has a ways to go in that area. But I think the sky’s the limit for him.”
Porzingis a fan of Hornacek’s offense: The Knicks’ increase in pace has been well-documented. New York is 18th in pace through three preseason games, six spots ahead of where the team finished last season. Hornacek’s club is averaging about five more possessions per 48 minutes than last season. Porzingis is a fan of the increased pace — and other wrinkles Hornacek has added to the offense.
“I think now we’re adding some really good things that are going to help our shooters, that are going to help spread the court and get wide-open layups after pick-and-rolls,” Porzingis said. “I like the offense a lot. I think we just need to polish it, make it really sharp and know where to be and know where to set a screen. And then, once that all clicks, I think we’re going to be pretty good.”