Carmelo Anthony has never had it easy. So with the New York Knicks banged up entering the playoffs for the second year in a row, he'll once again be asked to carry the load. New York and coach Mike Woodson should be fine with that, because this is a new day for Anthony.
A strong summer where he often looked flawless for the Olympic team has led to a surging regular season for Anthony and the Knicks as a whole.
In his 10th NBA season, it's nothing new for Anthony to have the pressure put upon him. It's another thing for him to have enough in him -- and around him -- to get teams over the top. The forward has made the playoffs every year of his career, but only once did his team get past the first round.
New York had made the playoffs only once in the nine years leading into the acquisition of Anthony, and the 2013 playoffs act as a marker of truth.
Can he get the Knicks deep into the postseason this time around?
It's not to say two brief postseason runs with the Knicks haven't been to any fault of Anthony's, however.
The 2011 playoffs saw the Knicks play the Boston Celtics in the first round with little support around Anthony. New York's depth and talent level had been purged to acquire the All-Star forward, leaving few scoring options outside of Amare Stoudemire. Add in the fact that the Knicks were coached by an offensive mind in Mike D'Antoni, and the ensuing sweep by the Celtics wouldn't come as a surprise.
The Knicks never shot above 43 percent in a game against Boston, and individual shooting performances in the series included a 0-for-11 game for Bill Walker, a 5-for-16 performance from Toney Douglas, and a 5-for-20 outing for Stoudemire.
Swept away, the Knicks looked for help in the offseason. But New York's second playoff run with Anthony hardly went better -- it didn't help that they earned an ugly draw against the eventual-champions, the Miami Heat.
With coach Mike Woodson leading the charge in 2012 after D'Antoni stepped away, injuries plagued New York, which ran out a fragile point guard duo of Baron Davis and Mike Bibby. This time, there were more pieces at the Knicks' disposal, including rim-protecting center Tyson Chandler and reserve shooting guard J.R. Smith. But the painful reality came to a head in Game 1, when New York lost rookie defender Iman Shumpert to a torn ACL.
The Knicks again struggled offensively, failing to eclipse the 94-point mark in the series that went five games. New York only staved off elimination in Game 4, when they pulled out a gritty 89-87 win thanks to 61 combined points from Anthony and Stoudemire.
So here they find themselves in 2013, again hit by the injury bug but with a swagger unseen to this point in the short Anthony era.
And with the second seed in the conference to their name, the Knicks finally have a favorable draw, setting Anthony up for the opportunity of his career.