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John Schuhmann

Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony
Amar'e Stoudemire (left) and Carmelo Anthony will share the scoring load for the Knicks.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

It's not perfect, but 'Melo, Amar'e still can make it work


Posted Feb 24 2011 11:31AM

NEW YORK -- Carmelo Anthony got his wish and the New York Knicks got their man.

Now, what do they do with him?

Franchises need multiple All-Stars to win championships these days and the Knicks are the latest team with two. But Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire don't fit together nearly as well as the Celtics' big four (Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo) or Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in L.A.

In fact, though Anthony is a wing and Stoudemire a big, they do a lot of the same things offensively. They undoubtedly will be the Knicks' two leading scorers, but they won't necessarily be dependent on each other.

Stoudemire is arguably the best pick-and-roll big man in the league. Just don't expect Anthony to be a multi-possession pick-and-roll ballhandler like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul or Deron Williams. The Nuggets, Anthny's old team, had a play in their book which had Anthony handling the ball on a pick-and-roll, and they used it occasionally on critical possessions, but not that much.

So, at least in the short term, it will be up to new point guard Chauncey Billups, as the primary ballhandler, to really make things work in New York.

With Billups handling the ball and Stoudemire rolling to the basket or popping out for a jumper, defenses will have to rotate from the weak side. And that's where Anthony can make his living, taking advantage of the space that Stoudemire creates as the roll man.

The Knicks can even flip the roles around, with Anthony as the roll man and Stoudemire on the weak side, ducking in for catches near the basket or replacing Anthony at the top of the key for open jumpers.

In Anthony's debut on Wednesday, a 114-108 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, he was used mostly in the same ways that the Knicks have used Stoudemire. He was isolated on the perimeter or posted up on the block for a lot of one-on-one play.

The score might make you think it was a fast-paced game. And it was, somewhat. But the score was as much about efficiency as about pace.

In a way, the Knicks' offense was pretty ugly. The Knicks scored more points per possession on Wednesday than they averaged before the trade. And they did it against a top-five defensive team without having practiced together, and with their point guard not really knowing the plays.

That's pretty scary when you think about it.

"I think it's pretty obvious," D'Antoni said afterward, "that we're going to be pretty potent offensively."

There was a Melo-Amar'e pick-and-roll or two on Wednesday, but mostly the two did their offensive work independently.

"You play your game," Anthony told Stoudemire beforehand. "I'll play my game. And we'll figure it out on the go."

Eventually though, D'Antoni wants to see more on-court cohesion between his two players. And that means more of Anthony with the ball in his hands, with Stoudemire setting a screen for his co-star.

"Melo will handle the ball," D'Antoni said. "He can do that. I've seen him do it in USA Basketball. He can make plays. The guy is a very talented basketball player.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to expand [on Anthony's game] as much as we can without losing what he does best. But I don't think there's any limits on what they can do. They can all do a lot of things. We just have to get to what's the best, hone it down and do that."

D'Antoni also will have to get to what lineups work best. He started Anthony at the three, Stoudemire at the four and Ronny Turiaf at the five on Wednesday. But Shawne Williams replaced Turiaf after he picked up two quick fouls, and the Knicks played small most of the night.

And playing small is when the Knicks are most potent offensively. With four shooters around Stoudemire playing the five, they can spread the floor, play fast and aggressive, and make defenses pay for rotations and double-teams.

Knicks' pre-trade efficiency with Stoudemire on the floor
On the floor Pace Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Diff.
w/ Mozgov or Turiaf 97.7 106.7 105.7 +1.0
Playing center 99.2 111.2 109.4 +1.7
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
Off. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions

The question will be: Who's the fifth guy on the floor with Billups, Landry Fields, Anthony and Stoudemire? For the Knicks to be at their best offensively, D'Antoni will need to go with the guy who's making shots. At the close of Wednesday's win, it was back-up point guard Toney Douglas, who also gave the Knicks a lift with his defense.

Of course, that end of the floor will be the bigger issue with this team. On Wednesday, Anthony, Billups, Stoudemire and D'Antoni all stressed that defense will be the key to the Knicks' success. Currently, New York ranks 19th in the league defensively, allowing 106.2 points per 100 possessions. And personnel-wise, the trade didn't necessarily help them on that end.

With how potent their offense will be, though, the Knicks don't have to turn into the Celtics defensively. But they need something. "You've got to have some principles and some concepts that you can go to and be able to get stops for three or four minutes at a time," Billups said.

If the Knicks can find a way to do that, they're going to be just fine, even if their stars aren't a perfect match.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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