Carmelo Anthony and Mike Woodson laugh to keep from crying. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Woodson's comments came Thursday during his weekly interview on 98.7 FM ESPN Radio in New York. According to ESPN New York's Ian Begley, Woodson said that Knicks All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony does not receive the same brand of respect and treatment offered to other top-flight NBA stars when it comes to foul calls:
"Absolutely. And I'm not going to shy away from that, either. I think Melo gets hit more than ever," Woodson said in his weekly radio spot.
"I've been at this thing 30 years, and sometimes I'm starting to wonder what's a foul and what's not a foul."
Woodson specifically mentioned a play late in the Knicks' overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday in which he felt Anthony was fouled. No call was made.
I'm not sure if this is the specific play to which Woodson was referring, but it sure seems like it might fit the bill:
More from Woodson:
"The offense normally has the advantage when you're making plays at the rim," Woodson said. "... Melo draws a lot of contact, but he comes up empty a lot of times as well." [...]
"They can't see everything and I understand that, and sometimes they miss calls," Woodson said. "Yeah, I thought he got bumped on [a play late in overtime Wednesday], but hell, he didn't get the call, so we have to move on."
Color me suspicious that Woodson, Anthony and Knicks fans writ large will stop looking at the zebras with a jaundiced eye any time a 'Melo move results in contact but not a whistle. Recall that Anthony himself struck a skeptical note about the way he's officiated compared to James Harden and other stars after last Thursday's loss to the Houston Rockets, according to the Associated Press:
Asked if it was tough that the Knicks sent Harden to the line often when they got close, Anthony replied, "We didn't put him on the line, they put him on the line." [...]
"You look at that, you see the way that some guys get their calls," Anthony said, "and for me, I've got to get cut, you've got to see blood for me to get a call down there. So that's where the frustration comes from."
While the frustration is certainly real — if you doubt that, just watch the likes of Anthony, Dwyane Wade and other at-times dramatic stars hanging behind the play to air their grievances with officials rather than hustling back on defense — it's more difficult to determine whether the claims underpinning it are really valid, especially for an isolation-heavy attacker like Anthony, according to Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal:
There's no objective way to unveil precisely how often Anthony or any other player has been the victim of a no-call. Still, there are a handful of metrics to suggest that Anthony's close-range shot attempts have, for whatever reason, resulted in far fewer trips to the line than other stars around the league in the past two seasons.
According to Synergy Sports, a statistical outfit that tracks each play in every game, opposing defenders fouled Anthony just 5.1% of the time last year when he was attempting dunks, layups or tip-ins. That's considerably lower than Harden (8.9%) or LeBron James (8.7%).
In fact, of the 25 players named to last season's All-Star Game, Anthony ranked 15th in terms of how frequently he drew shooting fouls when near the basket. [...]
Anthony [...] is one of the most physical players in the sport and often initiates contact by barreling into the paint. In fact, he sometimes seems content to be out of control in traffic; he scored a league-high 5.2% of his baskets after rebounding his own misses last season.
That style—different from someone like James, who's more composed, or Chicago's Derrick Rose, who contorts his body to avoid contact—makes it tough for referees to distinguish whether Anthony or his defender is at fault.
As a result, he often doesn't get the call where other players would. "He's a very difficult person to ref, because he causes a lot of the contact," said former NBA official Steve Javie, now an ESPN analyst. "That's always our question: Was it the offensive player or the defensive player who had the infraction?"
At multiple points over the course of the last four games — the loss to the Rockets, a 20-point blowout by the Atlanta Hawks, a six-point loss to the Detroit Pistons in which Anthony received a technical foul for complaining about perceived missed calls and said after the game, “It’s kind of hard when you’re out there dealing with that, thinking things should be going your way and it’s not, thinking something should be called and it’s not,” and Wednesday's overtime loss to the Pacers — officials seem to have skewed toward the belief that the offensive player initiating contact shouldn't get the benefit of the whistle. (He's still averaging just under 10 free-throw attempts per game over that stretch, thanks in large part to his committed work on the offensive glass.)
Whether Woodson's decision to call the officials on the carpet results in Anthony getting a friendlier whistle or even less leeway remains to be seen, but it's clear that with just about everything going poorly for the Knicks these days, tempers are running hot and frustration's running high. And in the NBA, as Coach Woodson learned Friday, that can be expensive.
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