During the 2008-09 season, for roughly a two-month stretch from mid-March through mid-May, I thought the Nuggets were the best team in the NBA. We’ve never been able to say that before, not for that length of time, during that time of the season.
Carmelo Anthony, of course, was the centerpiece of a powerful operation that advanced to Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. If the Nuggets don’t give away Game 1 in Los Angeles, they probably advance past the Lakers and into the NBA Finals.
That series was lost in Game 1, not when the Lakers clinched the series in Game 6. Melo had 39 points in the Game 1 loss.
What’s the significance of a playoff game and a playoff series that went down over four years ago?
Watching the Knicks this season — and seeing the criticisms thrown in Anthony’s direction — brought it to mind. Melo has been very good, but the Knicks are losing.
Anthony is back in Colorado tonight when the Nuggets host the Knicks. He will get booed again, and that’s dumb, but that’s not the point of this quick blog. You will see how bad the Knicks are, and you will probably see how good Melo’s been. This is shaping into one of the better seasons of a Hall of Fame career. But his team stinks.
I’ve probably watched three or four Knicks games. It’s a small sample size, sure. But I just have a tough time placing the blame on a guy giving the kind of effort I’ve seen from Anthony. Among players who have played in at least 10 games, he’s in the top 15 in Player Efficiency Rating. There’s just no way a rational person can watch the Knicks and say they are awful because of Anthony.
(Sidenote: Ty Lawson is 12th in PER this season. Considering the point guard is at the forefront of a new system, Lawson has been awfully good for the Nuggets.)
The Nuggets made the best of an uncomfortable divorce when they traded Melo to the Knicks, and their record since The Trade is decidedly superior (Nuggets: 121-66; Knicks: 107-83). So I guess you could say the Nuggets got the best of the franchise-altering swap.
But the Nuggets also have never been closer to an NBA title than they were with Melo. That must count for something.
Now the Nuggets hope the Knicks continue to lose, since Denver holds the rights to New York’s top draft pick in the talented 2014 draft. Best-case scenario: That pick turns into another Melo, since Denver’s never had one quite like him.