Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The playoff statistics on Carmelo Anthony are well documented.
Nine postseason appearances, eight first-round exits.
One trip to the Western Conference Finals.
And in some of those first-round exits, the Denver Nuggets had the homecourt advantage.
But that was then, and this is now, and Anthony believes this Knicks’ team is destined to accomplish something special in this postseason.
“I really don’t know what’s going to happen in the next 8 to 10 years or something like that but as of right now I feel like the team that we have, that I have right now, we have a shot to do something special,” Anthony said Thursday after practice ahead of Saturday’s Game 1 against the Celtics at Madison Square Garden.
While the Miami Heat remain the overwhelming favorites to come out of the East and win a second straight NBA title, this may well be Anthony’s best chance to challenge for an NBA ring.
Dating back to last summer, he won a gold medal with Team USA and then brought a renewed focus and sense of teamwork to the Knicks after playing alongside LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant.
On the court, Anthony won the NBA scoring title by going on a scoring surge in the final month of the season and finishing at 28.7 points per game. He will likely finish in the top two or three of the MVP voting. And his team won 16 of its final 18 games to earn the No. 2 seed in the East and close on a high note.
“As far as mentally, physically, what I was able to do on the basketball court, as a team what we was able to do, this by far was probably one of my best seasons,” he said.
His teammates agree.
“He has challenged himself to be a more complete player,” Iman Shumpert said Wednesday after the Knicks beat the Hawks. “He crashed the boards harder. He gets to the free throw line. We trust his judgment and when he kicks it outside he trusts us to knock down shots.”
Anthony denies that there is any pressure on him this season, but none of his accomplishments will mean anything unless the Knicks at least get past the Celtics in the first round.
“Each year is a new year,” Anthony said. “I get to start all over each year. This year, we had injuries, things that we had to deal with, we dealt with. We got over that hump and it seems like now everybody seems to be healthy…so it seems like we’re starting off with a clean plate right now.”
This year, Anthony will enter the playoffs with a deep, if aging, cast of teammates, including Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton and Chris Copeland.
Amar’e Stoudemire “probably” won’t be available until the second round, coach Mike Woodson said.
Unlike 2011 and ’12, when the Knicks began the postseason on the road in Boston and Miami and quickly got down 0-2, they will begin this playoff run in the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks went 31-10 this season.
“It’s a different mindset for everybody,” Anthony said. “That was our goal, to lock down homecourt. And we did that. Now we have the opportunity to do something special, protect our homecourt.
“But we up for that challenge, we willing to take that challenge. And it starts Saturday. The good thing about that is we here on our homecourt and we have a chance to protect that.”
Anthony’s legacy will depend, in part, on doing just that.
Photo: Daily News
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.