Carmelo Anthony is one complex dude -- the wannabe "digital athlete" who marches with protesters, champions prison reform, owns a soccer club, designs Ninja Turtles merchandise, runs one of the most efficient charitable organizations in sports and still can't resist calling out the random "glazed donut face ass" from deep within the bowels of Internet comment sections.
Befitting a man of such complexity, Melo the basketball player has been asked to assume many different identities since joining the New York Knicks, with varying degrees of success. In five short years we have seen "Missing Piece Amar'e Partner Melo", "Mike D'Antoni's Point Melo", "Three-Bombing Stretch 4 Scoring Champ Melo" and "Triangle Linchpin Melo."
And just when many observers thought they had the man pegged as aged, one-dimensional scorer, at odds with the Knicks' future, Carmelo Anthony has unveiled his most spectacular iteration yet.
NBA, meet "Dad Melo."
Dad Melo is more than just leader, more than just a respected veteran on a transitioning squad. He's the teacher, the rock, the shining example of basketball the way it should be played.
Yes, I'm still talking about Carmelo Anthony here. His ball hog reputation was always overblown to an extent. We saw as much before the season, when Amar'e Stoudemire made headlines with his quip that Melo was "definitely not" one of the top 10 assisters on his career list (Melo was No. 7, so why exactly was the joke on him?). In truth, Melo has always had a more nuanced relationship with iso-ball. There have been times when he should have passed more; there have also been times when he had no business passing at all. By far the best Knicks team of the past 15 years, the 2012-13 club, just so happened to coincide with the best scoring performance of Melo's career. It's what he does.
Dad Melo does still scores (21.7 points per game), but not at the clip we're used to seeing. That average is the lowest of his New York tenure, and the third-lowest of his career. What he has done is raise his game in almost every other area. His per-36 assist and rebounding numbers have risen as his points and field goal attempts have decreased.
Check out where Melo's 2015-16 numbers rank in his 13-year career:
|FGA/36 min||PTS/36 min||RB/36 min||AST/36 min|
Never before has Melo assisted or rebounded as he has this season, and the numbers are only trending higher. Over his past seven games -- five of which resulted in New York wins -- Melo is averaging 21.0 points, 8.7 boards and 5.1 dimes.
Ah, but how is he dealing with his other traditional bugaboo: defense? Per NBA.com, opponents are shooting a full 6.8% worse with Melo as the primary defender.
Sunday night's victory over Milwaukee was the essence of Dad Melo. He annihilated the Bucks in nearly every statistical category, with 24 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and only one turnover. More importantly, he took over when the kiddies started screwing around in the fourth quarter, letting a 22-point lead creep back to 10. He got to the free-throw line, found Jose Calderon for a three, canned a jumper, and put the Bucks to bed. After the game, he was quick to praise his favorite son, Kristaps Porzingis, while also not losing perspective:
Melo, on whether KPs progression makes him excited for the future: "It makes me excited for Tuesday against Boston."— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) January 11, 2016
Ah, Kristaps. The Golden Child. Remember the heady days of summer, when the whole hep basketball world immediately came to the conclusion that Melo would never accept the lanky young Latvian, that one of them (almost certainly Melo) would have to go?
It hasn't quite gone that way, has it? Instead, Melo speaks of Porzingis in fatherly tones: "He's gonna lead this organization long after I'm retired. Hopefully we can hoist one or two [championship trophies] before that happens.''
Anyone who has watched these two on the court can see their relationship extends beyond mere words. Their chemistry is undeniable. Only point guard Jose Calderon (37 times) has assisted on more Kristaps buckets than Melo (29 times). New York is rock-solid (+3.8 net rating) when the two share the court, utterly incompetent (-7.1 net rating) when Melo plays alone and somehow even worse (-10.3 net rating) when Kristaps plays alone. These guys need each other; most importantly, they understand that they need each other.
.@Ruka35_PT made something pic.twitter.com/K1mavwzNnM— Posting and Toasting (@ptknicksblog) January 11, 2016
Dad Melo still has some room for improvement. He's shooting an un-Melo-like 43.3% from the field and 32.9% from beyond the arc. While his overall shooting percentage is trending steadily upwards, his three-point shooting appears to be getting worse. The Knicks will have to hope he recovers his shooting form as he gets further from last year's knee surgery. If Dad Melo starts hitting his threes, the Knicks will truly become a force to be reckoned with.