Anthony is often compared to Paul Pierce, and that comparison is apt. Pierce, like Melo, had a decent amount of success in the playoffs early in his career (a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals with Antoine Walker, a second round exit and a couple of first round losses for Pierce; a few first round exits with both teams, a trip to the conference finals with Chauncey Billups in Denver, a second round exit in New York for Melo) followed by a lull (what Pierce experienced after Walker left and the Celtics began to rebuild; what Melo’s going through now).
Pierce, like Melo this year, had arguably the best individual season of his career in a down year for the Celtics as he averaged 26.8, 6.7 boards and 4.7 assists for the 33-49 C’s in 2005-06 (at the age of 28; Melo is 29, close enough). As if the comparison needed some kind of symbolic kicker, the second leading scorer on that Celtics team was Ricky Davis. For Melo and the ‘13-14 Knicks, it’s JR Smith.
Pierce, a player no one was describing as a “winner” back then, picked up Rajon Rondo as a running mate that summer (the Knicks having drafted Renaldo Balkman one pick prior) and suffered through one more dismal season in Boston before Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen showed up and the Big Three led the Celtics to a title, their first since Larry Bird left town. The Paul Pierce that Allen and Garnett played with wasn’t the same guy he was before the losing started. The Big Three became winners together, no doubt motivated by all the losing they had done in their careers and appreciative of the opportunity to play together.