Kidd and Anthony Are “THE INDISPENSABLES”

Published on: 10th December, 2012

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anthony scores 34 against Denver
Kidd and Anthony Are "THE INDISPENSABLES"  | read this item

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New York – If asked prior to this season who the most indispensable Knicks players would be, the ones most likely to lead them to an NBA championship, most respondents would have started with Carmelo Anthony, the superstar scoring machine. And then, names like Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler would have certainly been bandied about. No surprise there.

Except, with nearly a quarter of the season now officially in the record books, a little revisionism of indispensability is in order.

Almost no one would have mentioned the name of Jason Kidd in the same vein as those other players. After all, Kidd is nearing the age of 40, when most NBA point guards have already been retired for five or more years. And clearly, the 17-year NBA veteran had been in a statistical decline for several years running.

But, here we are, fully ensconced into the 2012-13 season and the New York Knicks are currently one of the elite teams of the sport. Their 15-5 record is the best in the Eastern Conference, a full game ahead of the defending champion Miami Heat, but what’s become obvious to all who follow the team and quite frankly, the players who play on the team, is that the one player who has had the greatest impact on the team’s play on the court and in the locker room is the 39-year old Kidd.

With one magical swoop of Knicks General Manager, Glen Grunwald’s pen, the signing of the surefire Hall of Famer has altered the culture and the chemistry of this team while turning the atmosphere at MSG from me-first to team-first.

Tonight, the Denver Nuggets came into Madison Square Garden with a confident bunch of young players and a savvy coach in George Karl who sees something good brewing for the team from the Mile High city, who had won two of its last three games.

Instead, the Two Indispensables, Kidd and Anthony, did what they needed to do for the Knicks to win the game. Kidd finished with seven assists to go with 17 points, plus four rebounds and a steal, in 34 minutes of work. Anthony led the way with 34 points on 10-for-24 shooting, six rebounds and two steals in his first game back after being lost to a lacerated left middle finger during last Wednesday’s win over the Bobcats.

But Kidd’s influence continues to be felt on both ends of the floor — not only in terms of cliched and often difficult-to-pin-down “veteran leadership,” but in actual on-court production.

Case in point: After the game, Kidd joked that he’s not sure why everyone’s biting on his pump fake, since the scouting report on him for most of his NBA career has been that he can’t shoot. But if any advance reports on Kidd still include that line one-quarter of the way through this season, they’re pretty out of date — the 39-year-old has been stroking it at a 48.2 percent clip this season, including a sterling 50.8 percent mark from beyond the 3-point arc, both of which would be his career bests. That kind of success begets defenders eager to contest the jumper, which will occasionally result in an unwelcome bonk, but much more often leads to a compromised defensive unit scrambling to cover four-on-five against a Knicks offense that has been the league’s second-most potent through 20 games, trailing only the Oklahoma City Thunder in points scored per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com’s stat tool.

I’m willing to bet the surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer point guard is pretty OK with taking the occasional bump on the noggin to ratchet up the chance of grabbing an easy two or, even better, swinging the ball to an open man in the short corner for an easy three.

Anthony, the former Nugget traded to the Knicks during the 2010-11 season, insisted he held no grudge against the Nuggets. He just didn’t want his old team — or anyone else — walking into his current home and leaving with a victory. Back in the starting lineup after missing two games with a cut on the middle finger of his left hand that required stitches, Anthony twice made baskets in the final 2:08 after Denver had pulled within four points.

“I don’t have no hard feelings toward Denver. It was just one of them games that no matter how many runs we went on, they just wasn’t going anywhere,” Anthony said. “It was just a matter of us and me not wanting to lose on our home court, protecting our home court. That’s something that we always said and we believed in. So there came a point in time in that fourth quarter where it was called upon me to step up.”

It’s the Knicks’ best start at home since beginning 9-0 in 1992-93.

“I’ve said that I feel Melo’s going to win a championship someday,” Karl said before the game. “He’s going to figure out that scoreboard numbers and stat sheets aren’t important. It’s the team scoreboard and intangibles of the game that make winners champions.” The Knicks gave up more than they wanted to in order to get Anthony, and the Nuggets had better balance and more success afterward. Now the Knicks seem to have found the system and personnel that fit best around Anthony, and Karl said the trade was a win-win. “They wanted to get back to the top of the mountain and they took a chance on going out and getting one of the top 10 players in basketball. It didn’t work for a while but it looks like it’s working now,” Karl said.

Karl might be right about it starting to work now for the Knicks and for Anthony. But, it probably is working better with the Two Indispensables working in tandem.

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