This season has not gone how Carmelo Anthony envisioned. After the New York Knicks' 54-win year in 2012-13, Anthony wanted to build on it. He wanted to take his team back to the playoffs and contend for a championship this time. With the ability to opt out of the final year of his contract at the end of it, Anthony established before the season started that he planned to become a free agent.
Since then, he's tried to keep the focus on the court, repeatedly saying that only winning is what matters to him when it comes to deciding whether or not to remain a Knick for the long haul.
But if winning is the big factor, New York is not making a strong case for itself. While Anthony -- now a seven-time All-Star -- has had a tremendous individual year, his team has been a chaotic combination of of drama and disaster.
The Knicks are 20-32 heading into the break and have lost in just about every conceivable way. New York started the year losing 13 of its first 16 games, and less than a month in Anthony told reporters that the team missed its old, retired players. Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace and Kurt Thomas weren't ambling through the door, though, and one had to wonder how much difference anything short of a major shakeup would make. A few days later, Anthony said the Knicks were "playing to lose," and there would be plenty of similar quotes to come. On New Year's Eve, he responded to a mean tweet from an angry "fan" with a hilarious brand of indignation, and it seemed about par for course in this crazy season.
From the beginning, the addition of Andrea Bargnani did not make much sense. Playing power forward, he prevents Anthony from spending his time in his most productive places on offense. The less said about Bargnani at the other end, the better, but suffice to say having an individual averse to help defense does not do wonders for a team's chemistry. Injuries don't, either, and every single one of New York's returning rotation players has been slowed by them this year, with rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. the sole Knick to outperform expectations.
If you're trying to figure out exactly how everything has gone so wrong, you can spread the blame all around. Just don't even begin to say that this is Anthony's fault.
Through all of the embarrassing losses, all of the speculation about his future and all of the concerns for New York head coach Mike Woodson's job security, Anthony has kept pushing. He's not getting nearly the same amount of credit for his play as he did last season, but he's been almost exactly as productive in more trying circumstances. Anthony's second in the league in scoring at 27.3 points per game, and he's shooting 44.8 percent from the field and 41.6 from the three-point line while grabbing 8.6 rebounds per game, which is easily a career high.
You could have a depressing debate over when exactly the Knicks hit their low point. They lost by 41 in Boston in early December, then by 29 at home to Thunder on Christmas Day. They were beaten by both the Bucks and the 76ers. On Martin Luther King Day, they were embarrassed by the Nets on national television, losing by 23 and hearing both boos and "Brooooklyn" chants at Madison Square Garden. Anthony was not thrilled that day:
There is, however, no question about New York's high-water mark. On Feb. 22, on the heels of the MLK Day disaster and the loss to Philadelphia, Anthony ended the Knicks' five-game losing streak in breathtaking fashion. Making decisive moves from all over the court, scoring in every which way, against everyone the Charlotte Bobcats threw at him, he exploded for 62 points. He shattered his career high, breaking both the franchise scoring record and the MSG scoring record. It didn't guarantee that there would be more magical moments to come for Anthony at the Garden, but it did at least remind fans what they felt like.
For all that Anthony has struggled through in 2013-2014, he deserved that incredible night as much as New York's fans did. He deserves to be in New Orleans among the game's elite, too.