It’s kind of hard to believe it, but today Carmelo Anthony turns 30 years old. The 2013-14 season was probably not one that he is going to look back on with fond memories. His New York Knicks, expected to contend for a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference after earning the No. 2 spot last season, floundered their way to an abysmal 37-45 record, missing the playoffs completely. At every turn, Anthony and the Knicks were frustrated by poor performances both on the court (J.R. Smith, Metta World Peace, Raymond Felton) and off it (Felton again). In mid-March, they brought in Phil Jackson to help right the ship, and immediately after the season ended Jackson fired coach Mike Woodson.
However, despite all the turmoil surrounding the team, the season was actually a success for Anthony as an individual. He finished in the top 10 in the NBA in PER (7th), minutes played (4th), and points per game (2nd), and playing the power forward spot full time also put up the best per game rebounding and blocks totals of his career. He tied a career high with 77 games played, and easily led the team in minutes per game with 38.7 (Smith was next with 32.7).
Should he choose to opt out of his current deal, Anthony would enter free agency with a lot of negotiating power. He’s proved willing to play either forward position (depending on the matchup), and has worked to extend his range away from the basket as well, setting a career high in three-point percentage this year at .402. He’d be an asset for any team, but most especially for one that needs regular scoring from someone who can stay on the court (Chicago, we’re talking to you).
Before he hits the open market, though, let’s take a look back at some of the Anthony’s best moments from an otherwise hard-to-watch season.
1/24: Explodes for 37 Points in the First Half Against the Bobcats...
Carmelo’s first half against the Bobcats on January 24 was nothing short of ridiculous. He got things going with 20 points in the first quarter on 8-for-10 shooting, then punctuated that by putting up another 17 in the second quarter on 7-for-11 from the floor. The final bucket was the most absurd of all, a halfcourt shot at the buzzer that dropped straight in. Anthony himself knew he was on to something special, saying after the game that “When I made the shot at the half, I told myself the zone was there.” Indeed he was, as he would set the Knicks franchise record for points that night with a total of 62.1 of 10
1/24: ...Then Finishes with 62 Points
A truly incredible performance in all, Melo’s 62 point game on January 24 set the record for highest scoring output by anyone who ever donned a Knicks uniform. That’s a lot of legends, from Walt Frazier and Willis Reed to Bernard King to Patrick Ewing and Allan Houston to Stephon Marbury and Eddy Curry (kidding). He scored in pretty much every conceivable fashion, and could have had even more had the Knicks not blown the Bobcats out of the building by so many points. Melo left the game for good with 7:22 to go, secure in his team and MSG record.2 of 10
1/13: Hustling Versus Phoenix
You can’t knock the hustle here. Carmelo was involved in pretty much every facet of this play; he blocked the shot, saved it from going out of bounds, hustled down the court, and buried a long transition three. While we don’t often discuss him when talking about great hustle players in the NBA, Anthony certainly deserves praise for his will to win and ability to be all over the floor. Plays like this are why he is beloved by Knicks fans.3 of 10
2/24: Game-Tying Three Versus Dallas
There weren’t a ton of great moments this year in New York, but this three nearly blew the roof off of Madison Square Garden. The Knicks had come back from eight points down just a minute earlier, and this transition three by Carmelo brought the teams back level. For Carmelo, it was his seventh made three pointer of the game and gave him a total of 44 points on the night; however, the Knicks would go on to lose the game on Dirk Nowitzki’s ridiculous in-and-out-and-in jumper as time expired.4 of 10
2/21: Dancing Around Tobias Harris in Orlando
In a 44-point, 11-rebound, four assist outburst against Orlando, Carmelo showed off exactly what makes him so deadly from the top of the key. Tobias Harris thought he had Melo covered, only to see Anthony shimmy and shake his way free, nailing a three right in his face. This type of herky-jerky misdirection is what Melo does best, and what makes him so dangerous from any spot on the floor.5 of 10
2/27: Swatting LeBron
Who says Melo doesn’t play great defense? Obviously, in the NBA there is nobody who can match the sheer power and force of LeBron James when he takes it to the rim. Anthony is not afraid, though, and even though it looked like LeBron had gotten around him Melo was still able to rise up and swat James’ layup attempt into the second row. You can probably count on one hand the number of guys in the league who can legitimately claim to be able to do that on even a semi-regular basis.6 of 10
1/9: Dunking on LeBron
Just as it is really difficult to stop LeBron James when he gets going to the hoop, it’s equally tough to blow by him on offense. Anthony may have one of the most deceptively quick first steps in the NBA, though, and even a talented defensive player like James can be caught off guard by Anthony’s explosive moves to the rim. This jam added to Melo’s total of 29 points, eight rebounds, and five assists as he led the Knicks to a home win over the Heat.7 of 10
1/13: Dishing to K-Mart
Passing has never been something associated with Carmelo’s game, but when he wants to he can be a phenomenal distributor of the ball. This pass to Kenyon Martin is stunning in its pinpoint accuracy, and clearly took the opposing Suns by surprise too. Really, the only one not surprised seems to be Anthony, who turns and starts jogging back down the court pretty much right after the ball leaves his hand.8 of 10
3/12: Crossing Up Humphries
Kris Humphries just can’t catch a break. The Celtics had a brutal season, and then he ended up stuck out on Carmelo on the perimeter. Anthony feasts on these kinds of situations, and he put his dribbling skills on full display as he made Humphries look like a baby deer trying to guard him. Rather than take the big man to the basket, though, Melo went for the ultimate humiliation as he buried a long three right in Humphries’ face. Ouch.9 of 10
1/20: The Head Shake
While the famous head shake may not be a “highlight” per se, it certainly drives home just how bad the Knicks’ season was. This lack of communication, effort, or general defensive instinct was a hallmark of this disjointed team. While statistically they ended up in the middle of the pack as a team, the Knicks never seemed to be able to find a rhythm on the court throughout the season. For the rest of his days, whenever he looks back on this past year this is the reaction we expect Melo to have.10 of 10