“All he can do is score. Low percentages. He’s going to jack up thirty shots a game and get you seven rebounds a game if you’re lucky. Get ready to tank your percentages and sacrifice virtually every other category.”
That was me last October, talking to my little brother during one of our eight team fantasy basketball drafts. It was the third round, and he was picking fourth.
Flash forward to last week, where this player put up a stat line of 167 points, 14 three-pointers, 33 rebounds, and only six total turnovers. Did I mention he shot 60.9 percent from the field and 86.4 percent from the free throw stripe?
Last week was also our fantasy league’s championship round. In case you were wondering, my brother took home first place.
This player in question is Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks. The stomach-churning tear he went on last week actually crested with him surpassing Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant by a hair’s breadth for the scoring title lead after their duel on Sunday.
The smart money now has Anthony taking home his first career scoring title over Durant (who has won the title the past three years). My hypothesis on why: Carmelo Anthony cannot see hands.
I don’t know how else to explain what I saw from the T.V. in the Daily Trojan Sports Department office last Tuesday. I was sitting on a couch pretending to be engaged in conversation, but really watching Miami’s defensive specialist Shane Battier close out on Anthony over and over again.
Battier put a hand in Anthony’s face: 18-footer swish. Then Battier contested a 26-footer, fingertips inches from Melo’s forehead. Nothing but net.
There’s a hand in Anthony’s face, but you get the feeling he doesn’t see it.
I think maybe four of Anthony’s shots hit the rim that night against Miami. The other 14 shots he made that night didn’t. It’s been a similar story ever since. Anthony is on fire in the month of April, averaging 41.7 points a game on 60.9 percent shooting, including an unconscionable 56 percent from beyond the arc.
Which isn’t to say Durant is completely out of the running. Durant is an efficient, consistent scoring machine. All it would take would be a couple subpar starts from Anthony to put Durant right back in the driver’s seat for the scoring title.
However, for Durant, winning a scoring title never seemed like a matter of life and death. For Anthony, who has been characterized as a heartless gunner (and lives up to his billing by launching 22 shots a game), it almost feels like a potential career-defining moment.
A scoring title means much more for Anthony than it does for Durant, even if the former would never testify to the fact publicly. It would firmly re-establish him at or near the top of the NBA landscape after his less-than-illustrious 2011-2012 campaign. It would acknowledge the work he put in during the offseason to come back in better shape. It could even give him the perspective required of a leader at the helm of a playoff charge, and in doing so, possibly give the Miami Heat a tough series in the Eastern Conference Finals.
If the Heat aren’t careful, this could be the summer where Anthony finally “arrives” and rides the ensuing momentum to push the Knicks, winners of 12 straight, to the precipice of the NBA Finals.
It’s all speculation, though. As for what becomes of the Knicks’ current hot streak and their up-and-down season is anybody’s guess. Either way, don’t ask Anthony to predict the future. For now, all he can do is score.