In the same way that the Patrick Ewing era in New York ultimately became sort of about whether John Starks was good enough, a similar thing is emerging with Carmelo Anthony. We know how good Carmelo is. We can roughly anticipate exactly what he’s going to do night in, and night out. The same can be said for the Knicks’ other indispensable player, Tyson Chandler, another guy who will give you roughly the same production every single time he shows up on the floor.
But, to me, the thing that will ultimately determine how dangerous this Knicks team is in the postseason will be the play of J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton, two players for whom each game is something of a fresh start. The phenomenon of Good J.R. and Bad J.R. is one pretty well understood around these parts, but I think you see a pretty similar rollercoaster watching the nightly work of Felton.
When these two are hitting shots, the Knicks are a far more dangerous team. Over the last 20 games, a span in which the Knicks have gone 12-8, the duo has hit 46% of its shots in wins, 40% in losses, which, yeah, isn’t much of a surprise, as most teams miss shots when they lose, but I think there’s also clearly a correlation between how little can be predicted about the performance of these two from game to game that explains a lot of the Knicks’ up-and-down performance the last couple months.
It’s sort of why the feeling around this season has swung wildly from, “The Knicks are the best thing in the history of man!” to, “The Knicks are history’s greatest monster!” At times they’ve looked like world beaters, at other times like they’ve been beaten up by the world, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that they rely on a pair of talented, but inconsistent guards in Smith and Felton.
Despite the varying results, I like both these players, they’re two of my favorites, and yet they both terrify me on pretty much a nightly basis. There’s something about watching them play that’s like being on an airplane and finding out my brother’s the pilot, “I mean, I love him, but Jesus I don’t TRUST him.”
With Felton, you find yourself hoping he’s helping himself to fresh fruits and vegetables, or easing up on that pull-up jumper, while you monitor J.R. on Twitter to make sure he’s being a gentleman, or not waking up in one of those moods where he decides he must take every shot he can conceive.
But the larger point is they are both equally capable of sustained excellence and its opposite, and which we get more of from here on out may well have more to do with where this team goes than anything else.
Well, unless it turns out Carmelo Anthony’s knee is now made of pudding, then nothing much matters.