They say that necessity is the mother of invention. That might as well be the motto for the Carmelo Anthony–era New York Knicks. Over the past two seasons, the team has been forced to adjust to a seemingly endless string of injuries. Amid the constant lineup shuffling, the Knicks have stumbled onto an identity that's made them the best version of themselves.
Because of the absence of traditional big men, namely Amar’e Stoudemire, New York has fielded more lineups that pair Anthony and All-Star center Tyson Chandler in the same frontcourt, surrounding them with a rotating cast of shooters spreading the floor. It's allowed the team to capitalize on the most precious commodity in the league today — space.
For most of the year, Miami is for Lamborghini-driving Argentines and frat bros with barbed-wire tats at Wet Willie’s. But for a brief, fragile window, during the annual Art Basel, the city is Little Downtown New York. Whether by happy accident or cunning scheduling, the Knicks just happened to play the Heat right in the middle of Art Basel this year. Adding to an orgiastic week of art shows, musical performances (A$AP Rocky rapping at the Delano Hotel), parties with gratis champagne, and half the taggers from Bushwick skateboarding into the Design District, there was also a matchup between the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. Advantage: David Stern.
This couldn’t have been more different from the first time the Knicks and Heat tangled. Held in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the game took place when parts of New York were still shrouded in darkness, when subways were flooded and the battered citizenry was subsiding on Utz bodega chips. Miami might not have tanked, exactly, but it’s difficult to imagine Coach Spoelstra delivering a fiery oratory in which he pounded on lockers and demanded that his soldiers send the fans in Madison Square Garden back to their cold, dark rat traps in sadness. After absorbing a pounding from the Knicks, members of the Heat smiled and embraced their temporary betters. That’s not usually what occurs when a team gets the breaks beaten off by a conference rival in a season opener.
But last night’s game? Everyone knew that one counted.
When NBA superstars are 28 years old, they’re supposed to be in their prime. Michael Jordan won his first title when he was 28. LeBron is 27 and is clearly playing better than ever. Carmelo Anthony turned 28 in May. He spent part of the summer in London, and as the second leading scorer on Team USA, reminded us that he's more than capable of playing alongside LeBron, Durant, or anyone else. The problem is, we needed that reminder.
Carmelo Anthony is a great player, but his numbers suggest decline at the stage when most superstars peak. Last season, many of his key indicators raised red flags. He shot 43 percent from the floor — the worst figure since his rookie season nine years ago. He also averaged the fewest free throws per game since his rookie season — only 6.7 per game. His rebounding was at its lowest level since 2006-07. These three indicators don't just suggest that Carmelo had a bad year last year; they also imply why — he’s not spending enough time near the basket.
Two important things happened over the weekend in Knicks world, where Important And Often Very Dramatic Things are always happening: Ronnie Brewer was cleared to practice again, and the Knicks announced that Amar’e Stoudemire will miss between two and three weeks after doctors found a popliteal cyst behind his left knee — the same knee for which Stoudemire underwent microfracture surgery a half-decade go.
The two connected events naturally lead to one conclusion: Carmelo Anthony should play power forward, and Stoudemire’s injury gives New York cover to make that very tricky political move. The Knicks were wildly successful when Anthony slid to big forward late in the season, when Stoudemire had to sit for a few weeks with a herniated disc in his back. Anthony tortured slower big men by taking the ball to the perimeter, especially on the wing, and blowing by them. The Knicks last season were one of 10 NBA teams that installed high-tech tracking cameras, and STATS LLC, the company behind those cameras, gave me exclusive first access over the summer to several reports on the data they dug up — including one on what happened each time a recorded player drove the ball from an area 20 or more feet from the hoop into within 10 feet of the rim.
Even though this is the second straight week that Spinks-related gear has come up (leading me to believe a certain someone has a "Spinks Vintage Shirt" Google Alert), this is the better of the two finds. Why? You get TWO shirts. Never underestimate the power of having multiple versions of the same item. It screams, "I can't wait until my significant other and I show up to this party wearing the same shirt, completely being those people." It's corny when you're both wearing full denim outfits with matching cowboy hats, but when it's two matching Tyson vs. Spinks shirts? Fantastic. If you have someone to keep you warm at night, wait for this item to get reposted (no one bid on it), and if you're single, find a way to get these shirts and then get out there and find you a soul mate.
On Friday, arbitrator Kenneth Dam ruled that Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak were entitled to Early Bird rights under the NBA collective bargaining agreement. The decision was a huge win for the Knicks. It allows them to use the Early Bird exception to re-sign Lin and Novak and still have use of their mid-level exception to sign other free agents. While New York fans drool over the possibilities this opens for the Knicks, here’s a quick Q&A to help you understand the ruling.
Eddie Huang is the Owner-Chef at Baohaus, Host of Cheap Bites on the Cooking Channel, and Author of the forthcoming memoir with Random House: Spiegel & Grau, Fresh Off the Boat. Here is the story of how a Jeremy Lin started an unforgettable party.
2. LeBron James, Force of Nature I think it's a very useful thought exercise to sometimes just sit down and think about how LeBron James plays basketball like some kind of unholy combination of Magic Johnson, Shawn Kemp, and Khal Drogo.Watch this collection of LeBron's 10 best plays from just the first half of this season. Sometimes calling what he does "basketball" seems like it's underselling what he does.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Jeremy Lin had 28 points and 14 assists, and his teammate Steve Novak scored 14 fourth-quarter points as the Knicks beat the defending champion Dallas Mavericks 104-97. Hey-oh, looks like we need to hand out some Novak-olades, am I right?! Come on, let's spread it around! Novak-olades! The next big thing. It's going to be great, we just have to get Novak-climated! Wait, where's everyone going? Are we Novak-uating? Mom? Dad?
Kobe Bryant ripped Lakers management for the way they've handled the potential Pau Gasol trade, saying: "If they're going to do something, I wish they would just (expletive) do it." Bryant added that he felt the same way about war with China. "Let's get it on!" he shouted crazily.