Statistically, Carmelo Anthony used a higher percentage of his team’s possessions last season than this one — his usage percentage last season was a career-high 35.6, this season it’s 32.7, which is still second highest in the NBA behind Kevin Durant.
This is where context comes in (and why every advanced stats guy in the league watches games/film and uses that context — nobody just looks at the numbers alone). Last season Anthony got help from a team that spaced the floor to shoot threes better, plus had better individual years (J.R. Smith, for one, although he has picked it up lately scoring 20.4 points a game and shooting 45 percent from three in his last five games). Anthony’s numbers dropped over the course of games as defenses focused on him and dared any other Knick to beat them. For much of the season they couldn’t and the losses piled up, adding to Anthony’s burden.
Phil Jackson sees it. He sees Anthony working hard — and harder than anyone remembers on defense — and thinks he deserves credit for it.
Clearly Jackson’s talks with Anthony will lead toward the Knicks attempting to keep their star this summer. Jackson spoke about Anthony with ESPN.
“We’ve had a couple occasions to talk,” Jackson said at the team’s practice facility. “We haven’t really delved into the future as much as what’s gone on, getting to know each other type of thing. Trying to see how he’s feeling about playing.
“He’s had to carry a big load. It’s been a tough year for him. But it’s been a tough year for everyone. It’s not just isolated with him. But I think he feels the weight of it a lot more on himself.”
These kind of conversations are how Phil Jackson works — it’s about getting to know the player then subtly guiding that player to his way of seeing things. It’s about growth and not just as a basketball player but as a person. It’s something Anthony likely will respond well to.
As for the load, when Smith and company are helping out, when the three balls are falling (40 percent as a team the last five games and 39.2 over the last 15) then some of that burden is lifted. The Knicks offensive rating their last 15 games is up to 112.7 and that is winning them games.
And with that the Knicks are making a run that could well lead them to the playoffs (thanks to the Hawks collapse). That certainly would make this disaster of a season feel a little better. Jackson is there to bring hope for the future.