Let me preface this by saying the Fillerbuster’s Friday post was very, very good. Funny stuff. Then he followed it up with a review of my new favorite show on television, True Detective. Seriously. If you don’t have HBO, you’re only fulfilling like 50% of your TV’s potential. I’m trying to think of a funny/creative analogy here, but I’m stupid. Just get HBO, or if you’re cheap, download it illegally.
Just kidding. Damnit. Just to be sure.
**NOTE: The comments above and below do not necessarily reflect the views of the Fillerbuster, the Royale with Cheese, or any of this website’s affiliates/aliases and we do not in any way condone any illegal activity.
Moving right along.
After much internal debate on what to write my next column about, I narrowed it down to three topics that would all be equally funny/somewhat interesting.
The Royale with Cheese part of me wanted to write about A-Rod finally coming to his senses. But when I really PONDERED THAT (shout out to the loyal readers, Filler) I think I speak for most New Yorkers (and Americans in general for that matter) when I say we all kind of just hope he fades to black for the next year and I can get through 365 days of NOT seeing his name on ESPN’s bottom line.
HAHA no chance.
The Royal Flush part of me thought I’d do a piece on whether or not the situation in Sochi is funny, or just plain sad. Brown water you can’t wash your face with but is somehow OK to brush your teeth with? Funny. Russian vigilante gangs running around harassing gays? Sad. I imagined a sort of “Junior Mint” type of column. Kramer drops the Junior Mint in the guys body and everyone laughs…. Only in the end, the surgeons sew the guy up and he gets really sick at the end of the episode from an infection from the Junior Mint.
Woof. That’s a bit too heavy. Just laugh at this clip of the Junior Mint episode instead. Gets me every time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhbMqjnYNfI
So in the end the Casino Royale part of me decided on writing a column about the Melo situation in New York, from the perspective of a Knicks’ fan. You never want to come off as a homer. And the last thing I want to do is start writing only about my teams. But I think the Melo trade possibility has generated enough national attention that people outside of New York are talking about it now that it involves LA (both teams), Chicago, to a certain degree Miami (thus affecting Cleveland), and even Phoenix (rumored).
To me Carmelo Anthony is the most confusing athlete in the NBA. The numbers can be interpreted in many different ways, and we can assign any number of narratives to who/what Melo is. Starting from the beginning, Carmelo Anthony undoubtedly knows what it feels like to be a champion. Remember this?
So it’s kind of hard to subscribe to the first narrative:
“Carmelo Anthony doesn’t know how to be a real leader, he doesn’t know how to win in playoff situations, and he will never win a championship.”
Melo’s NBA start had us very excited. In an era where 18-year old kids could skip school and sign multi-million dollar deals right after graduating high school, Melo went the road less traveled, played a year at ‘Cuse, and won a quick championship. That was the APPROVED method back in the day. Jordan went to school, won a championship, learned at that intermediate level. That’s why Carmelo was the smart one. Remember?
I remember when people were having Carmelo Anthony vs. Lebron James debates.
Remember this Sports Illustrated cover?
Note how Carmelo is in the middle. Note how long-time SI writer Chris Ballard says “Carmelo Anthony and his friends.” I remember this SI cover too. This time, Melo has the spotlight all to himself.
Then there’s the not-so good early Melo. You know, the one where New Yorkers thought he was a total punk. Remember the Knicks-Nuggets brawl of 06′? You know, the one where he threw a punch and then ran out of MSG like a punk?
“Man I really miss the Isaiah Thomas days,” said no Knicks fan ever.
But time heals all wounds apparently, and desperate times led Knicks fans to welcome Carmelo Anthony with open arms in 2011. Yes, the Amare Stoudemire signing had been disappointing. But to a Knicks’ fan, it actually hadn’t been that bad compared to other FA pickups throughout the Dolan era. Compared to overpaying Stevie “the Freaky Franchise” Francis, Tracy McGrady, Eddy Curry, Stephon “Starbury” Marbury, Jerome James… I could really go all day with this but I’m going to stop before I cry all over my keyboard. At least Amare had that ONE good year where we were all like, “Hey, MAYBE we can build a big 3 with this dude.”
All we have is the present, but as a Knicks’ fan, you hold on to any and all hope imaginable. I rarely agree with Charles Barkley because he’s like, you know, insane and everything, but his comments about Melo and the trade rumors are actually pretty great and solidly on point. He argued that in the end, New York really is the best place for Carmelo Anthony. He talked about Chicago as a possibility, but when it comes to Carmelo just fitting in and being who he is (the guy who kind of wants to win but really just likes to score), New York is perfect for him.
So here’s the argument to keep Melo:
– The Knicks can pay him the most. Under the new CBA, the Knicks have the inside track to re-sign Carmelo and give him the most money, keeping him happy, keeping La La (or whatever his wife’s name is) happy.
– The Knicks were the 2-seed in the Eastern Conference last year. Does this year look bad? Absolutely. They’re an absolute mess. But throwing away a team with its same core from a year ago that saw as much success as the Knicks did seems like jumping the gun.
– It’s entirely possible that just like any other superstar, all Carmelo needs is a real supporting cast around him. Tyson has been injured half the season and just not the same guy for the other half he has been there. Raymond Felton is actually playing like a fat guy instead of just only looking like one, J.R. Smith might actually be the human manifestation of cancer, and saying Amare is getting better is like saying “hey, that infected appendix that serves no function in your body is getting better, but we still can’t remove it for another two years.”
– There are a plethora of young point guards out there. If the Knicks were able to find a good distributor to quarterback the team offensively, it could take some pressure off of Melo and allow him to just focus on being a scorer.
– Getting rid of Melo for draft picks would be starting over. People will always go see games in the Garden, but they wouldn’t be relevant for quite some time.
– New York really is the best place for Melo. Big market, big star, happy wife, volume scoring, asses in the seats. If it doesn’t work for Melo in New York, where else will it work? Serious question. The ONLY somewhat viable option I saw for Melo to be in real, championship position was in L.A. with his buddy Chris Paul – and even that was a stretch (AND, the Griffin trade has already been shot down). So… Chicago with D-Rose? Nope. I can’t see Melo coexisting in harmony with a defensive guy like Tom Thibodeau. Besides, remember that time the Bulls were going to snag the Leastern Conference 3-seed WITHOUT Derrick Rose? Oh wait, that’s right now. The Bulls are in the business of getting rid of big money guys right now, not adding them just yet (see Luol Deng trade). Kobe and Melo coexisting? Dream on. The ball movement would be hilariously stagnant. “Inbound pass to Melo, HE SHOOTS! Inbound pass to Kobe, HE SHOOTS!” Stop it. No room for him in Brooklyn, the fans hate him in Boston… I could go all day with this.
Here’s the argument to deal Melo:
– In my humble non-NBA-insider opinion, I just don’t buy that he’s staying in New York. I just can’t see that happening. He seems like the type of guy that has always not necessarily blamed others for his lack of winning, but never really admitted that its his fault. The thought of going to a greener pasture with slightly less money will be VERY appealing to him.
– Having said that, losing Carmelo for nothing would devastate a franchise that’s staked its future on Melo panning out already. If he’s not going to stay you have to get something for him.
– The Knicks have virtually zero meaningful draft picks over the next few years because they’re the Knicks and they somehow always screw up the draft/their budget/anything having to do with the front office. If you can’t snag a big name like Blake Griffin and you’re serious about rebuilding, get some draft picks. For what its worth, the Knicks haven’t drafted terribly as of late. Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. have been great defensively and offensively, respectively.
– Carmelo doesn’t hold a no-trade clause in his contract, so the Knicks could very easily find a team with some potential in desperate need of some star power and an abundance of value guys and/or draft picks. I like Phoenix here. Get a Morris twin and a couple picks and cut your losses. Evaluate Tyson’s health and potential and make a call on keeping him in the long run. Obviously drop Amare and clear some space. Not a bad deal for a rebuild.
– The biggest reason is if Carmelo stays and the Knicks miraculously start playing like they did last year, they’re still only the third-best team in the Conference. No turnaround with or without Carmelo Anthony will be enough to get past the Heat or the Pacers anytime soon. The Pacers are going to be good for a LONG time folks. Best case scenario, the Knicks dump old washed up money grabbers and develop their young talent for a run four or five years from now.
The saddest part about this is as a Knicks fan, I’m fine with either scenario. If Melo stays, it means he’s serious about playing in New York and he thinks he can win a championship with them before retirement. While I think the Knicks with Melo would never be capable of this, they would be playing better, more entertaining basketball in theory. And as a fan of any Eastern Conference team outside of Indiana and Miami, that’s all you can really ask for these days. If the Knicks deal Melo, they will get something out of it and we the fans can hold on to that at least.
In all honesty, the Garden will never not be a great place to go watch Knicks games, no matter how bad they are. I watched during the Isaiah Thomas days, the Lenny Wilkens days, the Larry Brown days. The Knicks are lucky enough to play ball in Midtown Manhattan in a legendary stadium. Its like we know that Willis Reed will come trotting out of that tunnel at some point and we’re going to miss it if we don’t keep watching, keep paying $100 for decent seats, and $8 for beers.
We remember Larry Johnson doing the “LJ” sign after hitting a clutch three. We lean on the 90’s, when we thought baseball Jordan would give Ewing and Starks a window to steal a championship or two as long as Reggie Miller cooperated.
But the truth of the matter is the Knicks will not trade Carmelo Anthony and our greatest fears will be realized this summer when he bolts for whatever he thinks the greenest pasture is. He’s already phoned it in. The freakin coach – despite what he says publicly – has already phoned it in. We’ll be left with J.R. Smith ($5.5 mil), Andrea Bargnani ($11 mil) and Amare Stoudemire ($21 mil), no draft picks, and probably a lame duck coach.
Melo will leave the Knicks for nothing, setting the franchise back half a decade as a desperate franchise will take their chances, mortgage their future on him, and set themselves back too.
Because in the end, here’s the best narrative to describe Carmelo Anthony: When he’s right, there are probably only three or four guys I’d rather watch play basketball for my team. I mean he is absolutely electric at times. The streak he had at the end of last year as he wrapped up the scoring title was a thing of basketball beauty. There’s no denying that. But he blames other people or his team for their misfortunes. And it seems like he takes a “There’s always next year” attitude to every year. But nothing lasts forever, and Melo turns thirty in just a few months. If he’s not past his prime he’s certainly in it right now. The proverbial ceiling has been undoubtedly reached.
At some point he has to understand, whether he’s in New York, Chicago, L.A., Phoenix, or wherever, that in the end all that really seems to matter as we evaluate superstars and determine whether or not they are in fact legends is championships. Ask Jordan. Ask Bill Russell. Ask Lebron. Ask Peyton Manning. Ask Dan Marino. That means Melo is going to have to look himself in the mirror, watch some tape, and admit he has a defense problem. He needs to admit that sometimes he has an attitude problem. He needs to admit that he pulls the trigger and shoots on possessions that the great ones like Magic and Lebron would probably pass.
But I’m a realist and a lifelong Knicks fan. I know he won’t do those things. He’ll leave, never win a championship with whoever/wherever he goes. Or maybe in a slightly less likely scenario he’ll stay. And the Knicks won’t win a championship for a decade after he’s retired. In either case, Spike Lee and I will be at the Garden, watching it anyways, listening to Clyde Frazier, waiting for Willis Reed to trot out of that tunnel like he did over 40 years ago.
And Melo will always have his scoring title, his 62 points at the Garden, and maybe even a spot towards the bottom of the list of greats inducted to the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. But if he wants his jersey up in the rafters next to a championship banner in the Garden next to Frazier and Reed, he’s going to have to swallow his pride and change the narrative.