Forcing the to deal him to the always seemed like the prudent move for Anthony, one of the ’s glamour gunners. The Knicks were hungry to double their star power after landing Amar’e Stoudemire last summer. Anthony was eager for a bigger stage than Denver, and outside of Los Angeles, where could he get more visibility than in his native city?
But the flip side of greater visibility is enhanced scrutiny. Whereas Anthony was celebrated in football-crazed Denver as a cold-eyed gunslinger, in other words, for all that he was, his new home may inevitably dwell on what he isn’t, or has yet to show himself as during his brief opening on Broadway.
Did Anthony realize that coming to New York would require his proving to be a player who lifts up others and leads by example to help establish the qualities that define a championship-caliber team? With the arrival of the at Madison Square Garden on Monday night came the perfect examples of those who put their hands together and demonstrated an understanding and acceptance of what that gesture was supposed to mean.
“I think you get a lot of young players who say they want to win, and they do, but want to win as long as it’s comfortable for them,” , the Celtics’ coach, said before his team’s morning shootaround. “But very few players want to get out of their comfort zone to win.”
He was speaking generally, but after a recent stretch in which appeared to be an example of what was ailing the slumping Knicks rather than being their prized solution, Rivers’s point seemed apropos.
What did he mean by comfort zone? Better to let Ray Allen, one-third of Boston’s so-called Big Three, explain the transition he made with the Celtics in 2007, the previous season.
“Truly you cannot try to come to a team like this and try to win on your terms,” he said. “I know because I know when I went from Milwaukee to Seattle, there was a space open for me; like there were 25 points, 6 to 7 rebounds, 5 or 6 assists, based on the void that left.
“But here, that void was no longer there, where I needed to shoot the ball 19 to 23 times. So you have to temper how you pick and choose the shots you are going to get, and how else you can help win a game. Now, I might have to set a good screen, or get a big rebound or make a sharp cut so someone else can go down the lane for a layup or be open for a 3. But that’s winning on this team’s terms, not on my terms.”
Allen, of course, was not alone in making statistical sacrifices. and each dropped just under 4 fewer points that season along the road to the Celtics’ 17th (and most recent) N.B.A. title.
As Rivers noted, the winning attitude is not necessarily unrelated to age. The glaring difference between the Celtics’ mixing and matching of recognized stars and that of the Knicks and even Miami is that all of Boston’s were at least 30 and ready to learn the more tedious facts of championship life.
“They had to buy into our defense because at the end of the day, I just believed that we could figure out a way to score,” Rivers said, while acknowledging that Garnett’s intensity around the rim influenced the others to join the choir more so than him.
Not to put this all on Anthony — because there are numerous unresolved issues with the Knicks that include the question of Coach ’s commitment to making defense a priority — but it is fair to wonder just what the Knicks have purchased for $65 million.
Will Anthony make the full adjustment to D’Antoni’s motion offense, or ultimately instigate the one insurrection he might get away with because the owner is so invested in him? Will he understand the need to work himself that much harder so that an opposing jump shooter (see Carlos Delfino on Sunday in Milwaukee) gets a fraction less time to unload?
Is he willing to make the aforementioned hard cut as a decoy not just because the play dictates he must but because he is capable of experiencing the thrill of clearing out space for a teammate to succeed? Is he ready to play with passion each and every night, not just when he has the ball or when the Celtics or are in town, to plant championship seeds that will flower in spring?
N.B.A. stars soar, dunk and rain 3-pointers for the highlight shows, but Allen compared being on a championship team to “being on a football team, being a lineman, one of the workhorses.”
He added: “Every team can score. D’Antoni’s game plan should suit them because it’s a West Coast offense, and all their guys were in the West. But when people talk about chemistry, it’s judged basically in the fourth quarter, executing on both ends. If you don’t get that, it’s because you only want the glory.”
He meant the glory of me, not we. Whether he bargained for it, the burden is on Anthony to prove he recognizes which one his new and championship-starved city wants more.