The Golden Rules Might Not Apply at the Garden

Two Knicks come home with gold and the same questions about next season

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Gold won't change everything in orange and blue.

    The gold medal game was not Carmelo Anthony's finest hour in London.

    He didn't play poorly -- eight points, five rebounds, three assists -- but he had set the bar pretty high for himself with his record-breaking performance against Nigeria and a steady role as the U.S.A.'s instant offense off the bench over the course of the tournament.

    He also tweaked his quad in the second half, which teamed with a tight hamstring to make it very nice to see the working part of Anthony's offseason come to an end.

    Before the final game and the final injury, though, Anthony had provided an extended look at everything that has made him a star in the NBA and everything that we've wanted to see from him as a member of the Knicks.

    He's a superior scorer who can beat you in a variety of ways, but the Olympics saw very little of the isolation game that's been his bread-and-butter since coming to town.

    Anthony was catching and shooting, he was spotting up and he was scoring in transition with a frequency that we haven't seen with the Knicks. He also shot the ball much more efficiently than he has in the NBA, something that would make him almost unstoppable if he could carry it back with him to the states.

    Before we get too far down this road, we should also point out that Tyson Chandler will also be bringing gold back to the Garden with him. Chandler's role was fairly limited as the U.S. went with their unparalleled athleticism rather than a traditional center much of the time, something that is just fine if it means Chandler's in great shape.

    Back to Anthony and the question of how much of the London game will find its way to New York this season. The guess is that it won't be very much, although it isn't because of the oft-repeated selfish barbs thrown in his direction.

    The idea that Anthony doesn't play well with others has long been overblown, but it was pretty clear in London that he's more than happy to play a role as part of a team instead of needing to be the hero every minute of every game. The problem is that it's a lot easier to do that when you're playing with LeBron James, Chris Paul and the rest of the best players in the world.

    When Anthony and the Knicks get rolling, he'll be getting passes from Ray Felton and Jason Kidd and trying to score against defenses (which are much better than anything at the Olympics) who aren't concerned with James getting to the hole or Kevin Durant spotting up from a short three-point line.

    The idea that he could play the same kind of game under those circumstances is about as fraudulent as suggesting that today's best heart surgeon would have been able to save lives in 1809.

    You have to work with what you have and the Knicks don't have nearly enough to allow Anthony to float around and strike when the defense is distracted by other things. That doesn't mean he shouldn't incorporate some of what worked in London into the Knicks offense because he certainly should be a generous teammate and judicious decision maker on this side of the Atlantic, but it means that expectations about the year to come have to remain realistic.

    The Knicks should absolutely run more pick and rolls, let the offense work through other players so that Anthony gets more open looks and prize ball movement at every opportunity. When the clock's running low and a basket is necessary, though, it is going to be Anthony with the ball in his hands and the team on his shoulders.

    It will work sometimes and it will fail sometimes, but it is almost always going to give the Knicks their best chance to win because, as London drove home emphatically, the man we call 'Melo can score the basketball just about at will when his game is in a groove.

    The lasting takeaway from London is that Melo can play the role that the team needs him to play to win and the lasting takeaway from the Knicks' current roster is that his role is still going to involve a healthy dose of playing the hero.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.