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. — Carmelo Anthony says assists don’t matter.
Well, not exactly.
But two days after he went for 36 points and just one assist in the Knicks 85-78 win over the Celtics in Game 1, Melo was asked by a reporter, “When you score 36 and your team wins, why do people care how many assists you have?”
“It don’t matter,” he said. “I mean, it really don’t matter to me. I know what type of player that I am, I know that I share the ball, we share the ball as a team. Sometimes me sharing the ball, I don’t always get the assists.
“It is what it is. I really don’t pay attention to it.”
Anthony didn’t get his first assist of Game 1 until there were 40 seconds left and he fired a high pass that Kenyon Martin corralled for a layup.
Anthony’s performance led to renewed criticism of him as a me-first, ballhog.
In a column entitled, “Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony will never win it all,” Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote: “He’s not going to be an NBA champion. He’s not one of the all-time greats. He appears to be incapable of doing anything to help his team unless he has the ball in his hands.”
Anthony certainly helped his team in the fourth quarter.
After starting the game 4-for-4, he missed 15-of-20 before making 4-of-5 down the stretch as the Knicks outscored the Celtics, 18-8, in the final period.
“I’m just trying to go with the flow of the game,” Anthony said. “I look back at film and a lot of shots I missed, I mean there was four or five shots that I missed wide open. I’m not really worried about what I shoot from the field and things like that. I’m trying to win the basketball game.”
Martin, who played with Melo in New York and Denver, issued a strong defense of Anthony’s scoring tendencies prior to the playoffs.
“He’s been a scorer his whole life,” Martin said. “And that’s everybody else’s opinion that he don’t trust his teammates. Of course if you could score the ball like that , you going to believe in your ability over the next guy. That’s the way it is. That’s the nature of it, that’s the way he’s always been. He’s been a scorer his whole life, so if he thinks his chance of getting two [points] is better than probably the next guy.
“But he’s making the right pass, he’s making the right play, he always has. But guys are trying to nit-pick and things like that with his game. Is it fair? No, but we understand it because that’s what people have to do or you guys wouldn’t have jobs.”
Shaughnessy is one of those “guys” and his theory will certainly be tested in the coming days and weeks as the Knicks seek their first NBA title since 1973 when, as Shaugnessy pointed, the Knicks had a group of players who happily moved and shared the ball.
As has been well-documented, Anthony’s teams have lost in the first round of the playoffs eight of nine times.
This year they would appear to have a realistic shot to at least make the Eastern Conference Finals, but they must first get past the Celtics.
And winning Game 2 would certainly help in that direction.
“Game 2 is harder than Game 1,” Anthony said. “Although we took care of business in Game 1, we still want to come back and not give away this game. This game is more important than Game 1 was.”
If Celtics coach Doc Rivers opts to double-team Anthony more, Melo said he knows he will have to pass out of it more and involve his teammates more.
“I think that’s an adjustment they will make, double-teams,” he said. “We gotta be prepared for that. When the ball comes to them, I have to make plays for them, they have to make plays for me. We have to make plays for each other out there.”
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.