Oct. 15, 2016
Carmelo Anthony Will Never Change-And That Is His Downfall
About 4 months ago, I put up a post about Carmelo finally "got it" when it came to basketball and how he handled himself during the Olympics. When Team USA struggled once again even with the likes of Kevin Durant, Paul George, and DeMarcus Cousins, it was Carmelo who took the initiative and zeroed in on the game. He didn't screw around like Durant and Butler. He focused and won a few games probably on his own. And given how last year, despite the fact the Knicks failed to make the playoffs, they were on the right track as Melo established a strong chemistry with new teammate and future star Kristaps Porzingis. Then the Knicks added Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. It seemed like the Knicks would not only compete for a division title, but also possibly give the Cavaliers a run for their money.
However, one red flag came up for me when the Knicks made their moves to get Rose & Noah. A small video of Noah "practicing" with Anthony in the off-season was out and it showed Noah and Anthony "working together." But what it really looked to me was Noah was passing the ball to Carmelo, who took the shots and then when Noah put his hand up for the ball, Melo still continued to shoot and failed to pass the ball. Yes, it was really the "drill" that probably kept Anthony from passing, but it felt like with other key players around him Anthony would go back to his old ways of taking the shots and being "the guy" once again. I shrugged it off after the Olympics, thinking he might have gotten the bit of "I need to win and will do anything to do so." What it got him was the adoration of a lot of people of how he handled it and the moniker as the most decorated gold medalist in Team USA basketball.
And then the NBA season started. The Knicks started off sluggish. Understandable. New players, new adjustments, new coach, etc. An early ejection on Anthony against the Celtics had Anthony screaming "foul!" on Tony Brothers who Carmelo thinks "has it in on him" and "it is always something" about him.
Not the attitude to have, Melo.
Yes, NBA referees in the past have been brought in question time and time again especially after the whole bit of throwing games (i.e. the Lakers/Kings and rumors of the refs getting blasted by the NBA for not properly fixing the 1997 Western Conference Finals of seeing Jordan/Pippen/Rodman Bulls against the Hakeem/Barkley/Drexler Rockets where instead we got the Bulls vs. Jazz. But whether it is true that Brothers "has it in" for Anthony shouldn't be the point. He's 32 years old. He has to understand refs make bad calls all the time. If Carmelo knows that some refs are combustible than others, then he should have to play with more poise and be collected out there, not trying to show the referees up.
The thing is though, even despite the Knicks having bright moments, they still are in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference where right now a few teams are in a cluster with the Hawks, Bucks, Wizards, and Bulls while being just 2.5 ahead of teams fairly subpar such as the Pistons and Magic. And looking at the numbers, it is somewhat easy to see why.
Anthony's numbers outside his PPG has dropped again. Assists are 2.9 per game (down from 4.1 last year), rebounds are almost down by 2 per game (7.7 to 6.0), The FG% is down yet the shots are up. Which is amazing given the fact Rose is there (and is taking a good number of shots too, but is shooting at a better rate than Melo) and somehow Anthony has reverted back to his old ways of "I'm going to take the shots because I am THE man." It isn't much of a surprise the Knicks are only 16-15 given his play (yes, I also get New York hasn't won any games when he isn't in the lineup, but not really the point). The issue persists that Anthony doesn't really get the other 4 on the four involved. He might get Rose and Porzingis and at time Courtney Lee involved, but it seems like the team plays shorthanded on the offensive side when Anthony is running things.
And then last night happened. Fighting for a rebound with Thabo Sefolosha, Anthony lost whatever cool he had, grabbing Thabo by the neck, and then swinging at his head. Granted, it wasn't a full blown punch and it did connect, but Anthony played it off like it was Sefolosha's doing. When the replays showed Anthony was the culprit and got nabbed for swinging at Sefolosha, he didn't seem fazed by it and looked to the fans, notably Knick fans in the Atlanta crowd. When the announcement was that he was ejected for the second time (only DeMarcus Cousins, Richard Hamilton, and Matt Barnes have been tossed more) this season, Anthony walked off calmly but still interacted with the fans, turning his head to hear what fans of the Hawks and Knicks had to say about him while almost shaking hands with one of the fans.
And that's when it somewhat hit me: Carmelo will never learn.
This isn't the same 22-year old hot-shot Carmelo in Denver that would lose his cool at times. This wasn't even the same 28, 29-year old Carmelo who wanted to start a brawl with Kevin Garnett after making comments about his wife after a game was over. This is a 32-year old veteran who should know right from wrong and a guy who, he really feels like he is "the team" should know not to be thrown out of a basketball game. Yes, the Knicks played tough, but lost to Atlanta, and when April rolls around could decide possibly whether the Knicks are #4 or #5 and possibly playing the Hawks in the first round. And unless it is Cleveland, the Hawks play pretty darn well at home. So Carmelo's inability to change/learn from his mistakes might have costed the team big time.
Many basketball fans loathe Carmelo Anthony for his style of play since joining the NBA back in 2003-2004. The irony was, when that year started, many thought the gap between LeBron and Carmelo Anthony was super-small and would remain that way for the majority of their careers. Heck, we were supposed to see LeBron with Cleveland vs. Melo with Denver as Bird vs. Magic. However, as time progressed, that gap has grown. Anthony wanted no part of Denver and wanted to be a star in the world's grandest stage. LeBron's drive was he has always wanted to win and didn't care how he wins as long as he was considered a winner and a champion.
And that is where the key difference between LeBron and Melo reside. LeBron through all the superstardom and whatnot, is driven by winning. It is why he has won 3 world championships (say what you want about "needing" other stars to help, but he is driven by wanting to win). He also has developed his game into an all-around game as well as getting the other teammates on his side involved. And what we've seen is total dominance on his part. Melo, it has always been about him when it comes to the Nuggets or Knicks.
I loved watching Carmelo play at Syracuse in his lone year there. To me, he has gone down as one of the best collegiate players I've seen play. He was driven to win under Jim Boeheim and he did. He could do it all and when the draft lottery happened, I strongly believed Detroit would have netted Carmelo Anthony as he was an all-around complete player. Of course, the Pistons, needing bulk and help for Ben Wallace down the road, drafted Darko Milicic, thus despite winning a world championship the next season, somewhat set the Pistons back. However, an argument can be made had Detroit drafted Carmelo, they might not have landed Rasheed Wallace for their stretch run. But anyway, had the Pistons drafted Carmelo Anthony, he would have been in a locker room full of veterans who were driven by winning and playing the team game. Would he have fallen into that philosophy Larry Brown built in his two years in the Motor City? It is all hypothetical, but I like to think he would.
Instead, he went to Denver. He was chosen as "the guy" to take the Nuggets back to prominence. And let's face it: Denver was a young team. Carmelo was brought as being the guy. Then Allen Iverson came along. I told a friend of mine, who is a Carmelo fan through & through the attitude of Anthony changed the minute AI arrived in Denver. Iverson, who has been known as wanting to be "the guy" wherever he went, probably left a negative impact on Anthony in that sense. It created the whole "the other players will have to play for me" mentality that has not really ever left Carmelo in New York. And while I am taking George Karl with a grain of salt, but it does seem like Anthony's desire to play in New York was to be one of the League's top superstars and not keen on sharing the love with anybody else (Jeremy Lin anybody?). And what have we seen with the Knicks since Carmelo has joined the team? Mediocrity. In a conference full of mediocre teams.
What Carmelo fails to realize is something that landed on his door in August when he helped USA win the gold. He was driven to win. He was praised and applauded by all, even people who have never been fans of the guy. Then he gets back to the NBA, it is "well, I am a superstar so therefore I need to be front page guy." Patrick Ewing is still a far bigger superstar than Carmelo Anthony ever was in New York and there is a key difference: Ewing wanted to win first and foremost. And that has separated the players from that era (Hakeem, Malone, Barkley, Ewing, etc.) where they all generated success (at least an NBA Finals appearance) and even the players of this era (Wade, Kobe, Curry, Westbrook, etc.) with Anthony. They know they have to win to generate the success they have. And they need to rely on the players and play smart basketball in the process.
For Carmelo, nothing has changed in his NBA career. He doesn't want to make the necessary steps to improve himself, his teammates, or his mentality of how to take the basketball game. And at 32 years old, might not ever change. And that is unfortunate for a guy who could have been one of the best players of this era without question.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat