For the , the latest team to enroll in Superstar Chemistry 101, is relieving Amar’e Stoudemire of the bulk of the offensive responsibilities that he carried through four months of a renaissance season. In doing so, Anthony is assuming them himself.
The transfer has been most apparent in the past few games and probably reflects a combination of factors — from Stoudemire’s fatigue to Anthony’s gaining confidence in a new system and mostly new teammates. The two are now sharing the court and the city’s large off-court spotlight as well. There are two huge billboards bearing Anthony’s likeness near Madison Square Garden, and he recently made an appearance on “.” He and Stoudemire also taped a segment for “” together.
Stoudemire was the first All-Star to agree to take on the huge task of rebuilding the Knicks last summer, signing with the team as a free agent. Anthony joined him after Stoudemire provided the healthy start, forcing a trade from Denver in late February.
When Stoudemire played for Phoenix, he shared the spotlight with Steve Nash and sometimes felt his accomplishments were not held in as high regard as those of Nash, a two-time winner of the Most Valuable Player award.
“There’s always enough room for a few superstars,” Stoudemire said. “It’s just a matter of us continuing to win and continuing to play together as a team. That’s the most important thing. I can give a little of the spotlight and take some of the light off of me.”
In his last three games, Anthony is averaging 38 points. The Knicks required all of them to squeeze out victories against Orlando and in the past two games and halt a tailspin. The Knicks (37-38) can clinch their first playoff berth in seven seasons Sunday if they beat Cleveland (for the first time in 12) games and if Charlotte loses to Washington.
Anthony’s hot streak must seem familiar to Stoudemire, who set a franchise record with nine consecutive games with 30 or more points this season. In three of the past six games, however, he has 16 or fewer.
“I think he’s kind of tired of trying to go out there and score 30 or 40 points,” Anthony said. “He’s been doing that this whole season. He’s been carrying the team on his back this whole season and having an M.V.P. year, having one of the best seasons of his career so far. So for him to have somebody else on his team and a couple of guys who can help him out, that’s perfect for him. He doesn’t have to go out there and score 30 to 35 points in order for us to win.”
But if Stoudemire does not score that many, Anthony usually has to for the Knicks to win. Lately, Anthony has taken on more of that responsibility, especially late in games.
Both players have adapted since becoming teammates, according to an analysis by Synergy Sports Technology. In the fourth quarter of games with the Knicks, the number of times that Anthony has gone one-on-one with a defender has accounted for 33 percent of his total plays, as opposed to 45 percent with Denver. Stoudemire is being used less in the post and in pick-and-rolls and more in isolation (which may have less to do with Anthony and more to do with the departure of point guard Raymond Felton, now with Denver). His field-goal percentage in the post has also dipped from 62.5 percent in the fourth quarter before the trade to 44.4 percent.
Both are shooting more jumpers — 8.4 percent more for Stoudemire and 5.2 percent for Anthony, according to Synergy, which logs and tracks each N.B.A. game.
“They added an isolation specialist in Carmelo that really neutralizes Amar’e, and when Amar’e does get touches, it turns him into an isolation player, too,” said an Eastern Conference scout who has seen the Knicks play several games since the trade. “When you have isolation players and not flow players, the defense gets set easier. When one of them makes a great one-on-one move, the defense is set and they know where you want to go, and then the help comes. You take more difficult shots with less time on the shot clock. They have to win games off sheer talent, and that’s tough.”
The scout said that Stoudemire and his teammates were still trying to settle into a rhythm.
“Everybody is a Monday morning quarterback in figuring out what needs to happen after it happens,” the scout said of Stoudemire and Anthony’s adapting to each other, adding, “It takes time.”