The 2013-2014 NBA season has added importance for the New York Knicks. Not only is this the second straight year the team has gotten a full training camp with head coach Mike Woodson and the same core group of starters, but the team’s window of opportunity has the potential to be drastically closing. For one thing, the Knicks will be relying on veterans like Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Metta World Peace, who have considerable wear on their bodies due to careers full of hard-fought games. Even more important, at the end of the season superstar Carmelo Anthony will be a free agent.
With Anthony’s contract due to expire, one could imagine a scenario where another disappointing result in New York would lead him to seeking greener pastures elsewhere. As a result, the pressure is on for the Knicks to take the next step towards challenging (and beating) the Miami Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy.
Luckily for Knicks fan, this pressure is something that the team seems well equipped to manage. Due to shrewd additions and star players having had another year to gel, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the Knicks can win the conference and challenge for an NBA Title. In order for them to do so, Anthony will have to play like an MVP for the full season and lead the team both statistically and mentally. There are three main reasons why this season is shaping up for him to do just that.
Anthony struggled through an injury-filled season last year, having his game impacted down the stretch by a shoulder injury. After it was discovered that he was suffering through a partially torn labrum in his left shoulder, his struggles against the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the playoffs began to make a lot more sense. After opting against surgery and taking the summer to rehab the injury, Anthony has not had any complaints in training camp and appears over the injury.
Obviously, being injury free is huge news for Anthony, as his offensive game often relies on contact in the post and physicality. Now that his shoulder is healed, Anthony is again primed to dominate slower big guys in the post and weaker small guys on the perimeter. Similarly, Anthony being healthy will be huge for him defensively, as he will need to be physical in order to keep up with some of the bigger power forwards he is matched up against.
It could be argued that part of the reason Anthony got so banged up at the end of the season is because the Knicks were so thin at forward, which required him to play an obscene amount of minutes. With injuries to Amare Stoudemire, Kurt Thomas and others, Anthony was relied upon at times to provide almost all of the team’s scoring. Luckily for him, some of this pressure will be off this season. First, he has a true, capable backup in Metta World Peace that will be able to spell him for a considerable amount of time each night. Additionally, the acquisition of power forward Andrea Bargnani, who features great range and a world-class pump fake, will take some of the scoring pressure off Anthony.
Due to the likely decreased workload on a night-to-night basis, Anthony should be able to avoid some of the nagging injuries of years’ past. This will allow him to focus his energy on a nightly basis to providing fewer, yet more productive minutes over the full 82-game schedule.
Rising to the Occasion
When Anthony demanded a trade from the Denver Nuggets to New York in early 2011, it was with this kind of season in mind. There is no way he couldn’t have realized that he would be under greater scrutiny with the Knicks and would have the weight of a frustrated fan-base and struggling franchise on his shoulders. Now, with free agency pending and the high expectations for the neighboring Brooklyn Nets, there is intense pressure on Anthony to prove that it was all worth it and that he is one of the game’s biggest star.
This increased pressure may be the biggest reason Anthony is going to win the MVP award. If he has a quick start, the media will surely focus a lot of attention on the Knicks, especially if they are successful against other Eastern Conference teams like the Heat, Nets and Bulls. This will lead to Anthony having a quick path to the award if (and when) he is able to star in the Knicks’ high-profile games against those kind of opponents. Anthony appears primed to do just that and take advantage of the attention and fulfill the promise of the trade from Denver by bringing a title to New York and an MVP trophy to his mantle.