NEW YORK — Years ago, back when Kevin Durant was making a name for himself as a prep player in the Washington, D.C. area, Carmelo Anthony probably never thought that one day, he would have a chance to make history against Durant’s team.
Even more so, Anthony probably never thought that a victory over Durant’s team could somehow make the difference between him being viewed as a legitimate player that an NBA team could build a winning culture around.
Yet, here we are.
The Knicks are surging and will ride the club’s 11-game win streak into Oklahoma City on Sunday. A win makes it a cool dozen and legitimizes the Knicks as a team that should be taken seriously come playoff time. It could also legitimize Anthony as being more than the non-winning gunslinger that many in the media hold him out to be.
A loss, though, and the national media will dismiss the streak as merely being born of battering vulnerable competition. The same exact thing will be done to Anthony’s historic scoring performance over the past three games, as well.
Such is the life of ‘Melo.
In his 10th pro season, Anthony’s failures, fairly or not, are magnified much more than his successes. The resulting perception is that Anthony is a great scorer, but not a player who a coach can build a winning program around.
Anthony’s 17-37 career playoff record is highlighted more than a law school textbook.
But his accomplishments—including leading the Nuggets to a 26-game turnaround as a rookie or his leading the Knicks to their first division title in almost 20 years—go largely unheralded and uncredited.
Sadly—and unfairly—that trend will prevail if the Knicks lose to the Thunder on Sunday afternoon.
On the schedule and in the standings, it is just a single game. But in reality, it is a bit more than that.
Despite Anthony’s 10-1 career record against Durant, Durant is widely regarded to be the better player of the two. Like Anthony, Durant is regarded primarily as a scorer, but overall, he seems to be perceived as a less selfish player and one who more willingly defers shot opportunities to his teammates.
Though Anthony’s story is far from complete, many already consider him the second coming of Allen Iverson—a ball dominant volume scorer who a coach cannot win with. Ironically, that is what Kobe Bryant was thought to be before the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Pau Gasol and it is what Paul Pierce was cast as before the Boston Celtics snagged Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
Now, after getting the right systems, coaches and supporting casts in place, Bryant and Pierce have both won Bill Russell Finals MVP Awards.
From what we have seen from Anthony this season, it is not ridiculous to think that he could, one day, follow suit.
A win over Durant’s Thunder on Sunday, though it is just a regular season game, could go a long way toward altering the way Anthony is viewed.
Head-to-head, Anthony has averaged 29.6 points per contest against Durant and has shot 50 percent from the field.
All 11 of the prior matchups, though, came when Anthony was a member of the Nuggets.
Interestingly enough, on Sunday, Anthony—as a Knick—will get his first crack at Durant.
LOOKING FOR MIAMI HEAT TICKETS? LOOK NO FURTHER
By the time Anthony was traded to New York back in Feb. 2011, the Knicks had already played the Thunder twice. In 2012, due to the NBA Lockout, the teams only played once—in Oklahoma City—and Anthony missed the game with a sprained right ankle and an ailing left wrist.
Earlier this season? Anthony was nursing his knee injury and sat out the Knicks 95-94 loss to Durant and co. back on March 7.
Now finally, on Sunday, Anthony’s Knicks will battle Durant’s Thunder.