Melo Out: Knicks Will Feel Anthony's Absence

Despite Jeremy Lin, Anthony's injury still hurts the Knicks cause

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Feb 8, 2012  |  Updated 10:33 AM EDT
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Anthony's absence does nothing to make the Knicks better.

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The news that Carmelo Anthony will be out a week or two with a groin injury hasn't been met with nearly the level of depression that it would have been just a week ago.

You can thank Jeremy Lin for that. His 80 minutes over the last two games have been the giddiest 80 minutes of the Knicks season and, suddenly, the thought of playing without Anthony (and Amar'e Stoudemire, who will remain with his family for at least Wednesday's game against the Wizards) is being met with a shrug or even excitement.

There are those who would have you believe that the Knicks are somehow better off with Lin in the lineup and with Anthony on the sideline tending to his various aches and pains. Or that the Knicks will benefit from his absence more than they will be hurt by it.

It would be silly to expect Lin to keep putting up the kind of numbers he put up against the Nets and Jazz. For one thing they are both terrible defensive teams, as are the Wizards thankfully, and, for another, he took them by surprise.

Surprise isn't going to be part of the profile going forward. Teams now have tape to watch, which means they are going to keep forcing him to go left and start overplaying the pick and roll when he makes his moves toward the hoop.

That shouldn't rob Lin of all his effectiveness as crafty point guards who can get into the lane are always a valuable offensive tool, but it stands to reason that his outrageous efficiency will dip in the days and weeks to come. And that's why the idea that the Knicks are somehow better off without Anthony in the lineup is ridiculous.

Putting Anthony into a lineup with a point guard who can penetrate, take advantage of spacing and an unwillingness to force passes and you've made yourself more dangerous not less dangerous. With someone who is able to get him the ball, Anthony can do damage in the post or he can draw defenses by hanging outside as Lin runs the pick and roll with Chandler or Stoudemire.

And should things bog down on that front, Anthony will remain an option in isolation come the final seconds of the 24 second clock. So much has been made of Anthony being a ball stopper this season that there seems to be a complete loss of the memory of the way he played in the 2008 Olympics as part of an offense that moved the ball with overwhelming effectiveness.

No one's going to compare this Knicks roster with the U.S. team, obviously, but the idea that Anthony can't work without the ball in his hands belies everything we've seen about his game before he came to a Knicks team that needed him to play that role. Lin's emergence is going to make the Knicks offense more efficient and limiting the amount of shots that Anthony takes is going to make Anthony more efficient and effective as well.

Variety isn't just the spice of life, it's the spice of offensive basketball. And having variety is only going to make it harder for defenses to stop Anthony from getting buckets.

You need only look at the loss to Boston that preceded the onset of Linsanity to see that. In the waning moments of that game, Anthony drew doubles and passed off to teammates who missed open shots that helped hand the Celtics the victory.

Imagine now that Lin is breaking down the defense and then finding Anthony for those shots. That feels like something we should all be able to get behind when it comes to an offensive philosophy.

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.

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