NEW YORK -- Carmelo Anthony passed Larry Bird for 31st place on the all-time scoring list on Wednesday. On Friday night, or soon thereafter, he’s likely to pass Gary Payton and move into 30th.
These milestones further cement Anthony as one of the top scorers of his generation.
But as he walked into the locker room late Wednesday, Anthony wasn’t talking about his new perch on the NBA scoring list. He was grumbling -- jokingly -- about his assist total.
Anthony finished with nine on the night and was facetiously wondering why he couldn’t be credited for one more.
“They should have given me a hockey assist,” he said with a laugh.
His beef with the official scorer went unresolved, but pretty much everything else went Anthony's way on Wednesday.
In addition to scoring 30 points, he assisted on one-third of the Knicks' made baskets during his time on the floor. He led New York in assists for the 17th time this season. And his assists came in crucial moments.
Anthony had two in the final minute of regulation that led to crucial 3-pointers -- and one more in overtime -- as he continued an assault on the theory that he's not a willing passer.
"He showed a level of trust in his teammates that is required for us to be successful,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said.
For Fisher, and team president Phil Jackson, you'd think it would be satisfying to see Anthony show the level of trust he describes above. After all, Anthony is handing out assists at a career-high rate in his 13th season.
But Fisher made it clear on Wednesday that the Knicks will continue to push Anthony to share the ball even more. The coach revealed as much when answering a question about Anthony passing Bird on the all-time scoring list.
“The interesting thing for Melo is that there’s this land of opportunity out there that he has not quite accessed yet. And that’s what we’re here to do alongside of him,” Fisher said. “He’s a prolific scorer, no doubt about it. But I think the other parts of the game that he’s capable of dominating in as well, those are the parts that will elevate him and elevate our team. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Given this approach -- which is the right one -- it will be interesting to see just how much Fisher and the coaching staff can change Anthony’s game at age 31.
He’s already assisting (4.0 per 36 minutes) and rebounding (7.9 per 36 minutes) at career-high rates. But Fisher and the Knicks would like to use Anthony as a point forward of sorts in the triangle offense. This would give him more opportunities to create for teammates. They won't say it publicly, but they'd probably also like him to offer a more sustained effort on defense as well.
"He has that ability in all facets of the game," Fisher said.
For many years, Anthony had the ability, but didn't have the results. The results have been coming of late. Now, Fisher and the Knicks are looking for more.