A common concern when Carmelo Anthony returned from injury was that his isolatin' ways would tamper with "Linsanity", that such a ball-dominant player couldn't possibly fit in with Jeremy Lin and New York's newly sublime, free-flowing offense. Folks imagined Melo clearing out on the elbow and jab-stepping his way into oblivion while Lin and friends cowered in the corner, detached from the play. Watching the six games he's played since returning and checking the numbers this morning, that's not what I've seen. Let's have a look at some of those numbers...
From HoopData: This season, Melo has attempted 5.3 of his 18.4 attempts per game at the rim (28.8 percent). 34 percent of his baskets have been assisted (both career-lows). Now, there aren't "pre-Lin" and "post-Lin" splits that I can find, but the majority of the above data comes from those 22 games he played before the injury and before Lin. We can suppose that the "pre-Lin", pre-injury numbers alone would be slightly lower, because check out the six-game segment of data since Melo returned (in reverse order):
|FGA||FGA at rim|
|Total: 96||Total: 51 (53.1)|
So, 53 percent of Melo's attempts in the last six games have come at the rim. And I'll add without use of a chart (because making the above chart was way harder for me than it should have been) that 62 percent of Melo's field goals since returning have been assisted.
Now, I went and pulled those numbers (which perhaps weren't the right ones to use and perhaps weren't properly employed), but if you've been watching, you've seen this, too: After twenty-odd games of trying to play "point forward" and attempting to score on the ball away from the basket, Melo has spent the last six games attempting to score off the ball and at the basket. And he's struggling! He's shooting 38.5 percent from the field since returning. We've seen him miss some easy attempts, get blocked, and fail to get foul calls in the paint. Last night, we saw him post up a lot but get the ball there pretty rarely.
My point, if I have one, is that folks worried that Melo would return and revert to hogging the ball and heaving jumpers, but he hasn't. Even though he's played poorly, he's done it while trying to fit into the offense and attempt inside shots. He's gone from one extreme in the first 22 games to another in the last six, and he's had a rough go of it so far. He said so himself:
"I think anytime you go from the early part of the season, just having the ball and me just having the ball and being the distributor, and now just running the wings and waiting for the ball to come to me, that’s quite an adjustment for myself."
This could all be (and has been) taken as a sign that Melo isn't a superstar and should be traded or drowned. I take it to mean that Melo is trying very hard (perhaps too hard) to avoid pissing everyone off by hogging the ball. He's trying to fit in, but fading at times and failing to execute through his first six games back. It's a new role, and it's proven to have a bit of a learning curve, especially in the presence of different teammates. That was probably to be expected. Of course, we as a fanbase don't have the patience to accept such struggles, and the fact that he hasn't contributed much in other regards, the fact that he's projecting a less-than-fiery image on the court, and the fact that the Knicks have been losing just stoke the impatience, which is understandable.
In the long run, I imagine that neither his recent approach nor a more uniformly ball-dominant approach is the right one. It will probably have to be a blend of the two, which calls for a keen sense of which situations against which opponents call for which style of play. Melo and D'Antoni might never achieve that balance, but if they do, it's going to take some more time and patience. There's that "patience" again. It's a pain, but that's kind of how these things work.