Rescuing the Knicks Has to Be a Team Effort

Carmelo Anthony alone won't fix or ruin anything this season.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Everyone's gotta do their part to pull the Knicks out of their rut.

    Worst case scenarios aren't much fun.

    All through the giddiness of Linsanity, there was a cohort that warned that all the fun would come to an end once Carmelo Anthony (and Amar'e Stoudemire, but the knives were really out for Melo) came back to the team. Jeremy Lin would be neutered by big bad Melo and the Knicks would sputter back to being a chore to watch instead of the most enjoyable team in the league.

    Score one for the haters. Sort of.

    The Lin-Anthony pairing has not been a latter-day Antony and Cleopatra so there's plenty of fuel for that fire. So long as you dismiss the addition of two new rotation pieces on top of the stars, Tyson Chandler's injury, Lin's own downturn and a schedule that crossed over the tracks into the nice part of town, the Knicks are flailing because Anthony has ruined the nice flow that everyone's had going. 

    It's hard not to feel that way when you hear Anthony complain about not getting the ball enough in the wake of a game that his teammates almost pulled out in Dallas or when you see him barking at Lin, a player who it is easy to forget has been an NBA starter for a blink of an eye. The fact that's easy to play the blame Melo card doesn't mean that it is entirely accurate, though.

    In a way, it's funny that there's been such an outcry about Anthony usurping the rest of the team when everything we've seen in this rough stretch has provided evidence that the entire team needs to do a better job if the Knicks are going to succeed. That's not an apology or absolution for Anthony, because he certainly needs to be more willing to move without the ball and fit into the team's overall offensive scheme.

    He also needs to do more defensively, a need that he shares with several of his teammates not named Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert or Jared Jeffries. Everyone has focused on the offense, which is worse although not enough to account for all the change in results, but the biggest difference in the last few games has been the atrocity that the Knicks have been while protecting their own net.

    Lin can't stay in front of opposing guards and neither Stoudemire nor Anthony makes much of an effort on that side of the floor. And, since we're talking about the notion of a team working together here, no one ever provides any kind of help defense which leads to guys like Ian Mahinmi and Tiago Splitter winding up with easy baskets. 

    The defensive problem highlights the overall problem with the Knicks right now. If Anthony and Stoudemire aren't scoring and leading things on the offensive end, they are simply two overpriced players who aren't doing anything to help the team win games.

    That doesn't mean the team should suddenly switch back to iso-heavy looks that bring back the stagnant results of the early part of the season, but it does mean that the point guards and coaches have to shift some of what they're doing to get the ball to the two forwards in advantageous spots.

    Mike D'Antoni might not like that and Lin might not be optimally suited to running that kind of offense, but they simply have to figure out a way to mesh with the two big names on offense for the Knicks to keep moving forward. As of right now, Lin's numbers with either Anthony or Stoudemire pale in comparison to his numbers without them but there's no workable solution that doesn't have that trio playing the bulk of the minutes for the Knicks the rest of the way.

    D'Antoni bears as much, if not more, responsibility for creating the right solution than his players. That's a coach's job, after all, and too often it seems D'Antoni resorts to throwing up his hands and letting the players do whatever they want on the court if things aren't working to his ideal.

    That's not going to work with this team. The mix of players, while talented, is too haphazardly constructed and he needs to figue out a rotation that actually works instead of this platoon system he seems to have settled on since the bench swelled.

    The players need to listen and execute, of course, but this is clearly a team that's going to need to be led through the coming weeks by someone who has a real plan on how to make all the pieces fit. D'Antoni has a lot on his plate, but, again, that's the job he's being paid to do. 

    This weekend brings a date in Milwaukee and a home game against Philly. It's still a bit too early to say that a game is a "must-win" for making the playoffs, but it's getting right around that point for the team to have a chance at pulling out the division and getting themselves some leverage once playoff time rolls around.

    Making it happen is up to everyone, not just Anthony, and this weekend would be a good time to start making it clear that everyone is committed.

    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.