Carmelo Anthony has done and seen it all during his two-plus years in New York during the regular season: being a blockbuster trade centerpiece, spearheading franchise-record scoring and winning streaks, witnessing a coaching change, getting hit with a highly publicized suspension, experiencing the larger spotlight, dealing with the constant criticism, and playing amid a plethora of injuries, even involving himself.
But now, even though the Knicks still can't avoid the injury bug, Anthony said this is the best he's felt about the team since arriving from Denver in February 2011. He believes a deep playoff run is possible, looking past the two previous first-round exits against the Celtics and Heat.
"[The vision] is there," he said after Thursday morning's shootaround. "People that are close to me and my team always told me that when I came to New York, this would be a two-, three-year process. Just for me to get my feet wet, the organization to get their feet wet, figure out where they're trying to be at as an organization.
"And it seems like right now, everything is starting to fall into place. It seems like we're just getting started to play great basketball and put New York back where they're supposed to be."
Through their current NBA-best 13-game winning streak, the Knicks' scoring efficiency has been through the roof. Their offensive rating, based on points per 100 possessions, is 118.8, and the next highest team (the Nets) is at 111.8.
A boost has been coach Mike Woodson starting two seasoned floor generals (Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton) and using another guard, Iman Shumpert, alongside them. He's been able to attack the paint well off the dribble, being an extra facilitator on the weak side. In addition, his much-improved 3-point shooting (21-for-42; 50 percent during the winning streak) has put even more pressure on defenses to scramble out of rhythm with their perimeter rotations.
The biggest key, though, has been Anthony playing power forward. His increased post positioning has drawn more double-teams and, therefore, enabled the ball to flow better and quicker to the open shooter. Case in point: Against the Thunder and Wizards -- their last two wins -- the Knicks averaged 122.5 points per game, shot 35-for-70 from downtown (50 percent) and had only 19 turnovers combined.
"Coach Woodson started with me at the 4 and spreading the court," Melo said, "and I think having Raymond, having guys that can create for other people, create for themselves, play the pick-and-roll, it makes it easier for everybody else on the court."
Defensively, while the Knicks are missing five big men, Anthony and J.R. Smith, especially, have done a great job picking up the slack on the boards. In the past three games, Anthony has been averaging 11.3 rebounds per game, and Smith has been at 6.3.
Looking ahead, however, it will be important that at least Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin are back to alleviate some strain off Anthony, who has been playing more inside. The playoffs are a different ballgame, where too much playmaking and grinding can be punishing in the more physical contests. Frontcourt defensive depth is a necessity for this team.
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