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We have a guest blogger today. Willy Clark from the WVC6 SportsBlog has a pretty spot-on analysis of the Knick’s failure to heat up after the addition of Carmelo Anthony. Like most of the ex-pat Bostonian community in
New York HELL, my opinions of the local sports franchises range from ambivalence (the Islanders, the Mets) to antipathy (The Devils, the Rangers without Sean Avery) to absolute flaming hatred of the sort that even Joe McCarthy never equalled (the Yankees, the Rangers with Sean Avery, the Giants and especially, oh so especially, the fucking Jets). But I’ve lived in this state for almost 4 years now, and the one team I really don’t hate is the Knicks. Mostly because they have been mostly harmless for a pretty long time, and any team that poses no threat to my beloved Celtics is fine with me. Also Spike Lee is awesome. Anyway, here it is:
Some people just don’t get it.
This statement, while vague, is undoubtedly true. It applies to all aspects of life but is of particular significance in the world of sport. The New York Knicks recently pulled of a gigantic trade to get Carmello Anthony, one of the better individual players in the NBA. Yet mystifyingly since acquiring Carmelo the Knicks have not been any better. In fact they’ve been a little worse. They are clearly more talented than they were before so how has that not translated into wins? Simple: some people just don’t get it. Or in basketball terms: some players just don’t understand team basketball.
For exhibit A, look at the career of Stephon Marbury. Marbury was an immenselytalented point guard widely regarded throughout his career as the best in the league at getting to the rim and possessing numerous other talents. Yet for some reason every team that ever traded Marbury immediately got better after his departure and every team that acquired him slowly got worse. This really doesn’t make sense. He was one of the better point guards in the league for over a decade. How could he make teams worse? Some pointed to his personality – he feuded with Larry Brown while in New York, but this was rarely mentioned as the problem. Some point to his defense – while never a defensive star he was generally at least a decent defender. He had his flaws but his overall talent should have been enough to make teams better. But for some reason it just didn’t happen.
The answer is simple; Marbury just didn’t get it. He never really grasped team basketball. It just didn’t come naturally to him. In other words Stephon never fully understood all the intricate things he needed to do to help his team win. Maybe he wasn’t always a good teammate, but there were certainly times in his career when he was trying to be. Maybe he wasn’t always a good defender, but there were certainly times in his career that he was doing his best to be one. It just did not come naturally to him. Basketball in many ways is such an individual sport so dependent on one on one matchups that many times a good individual player may not do much to improve a team. Understanding how to beat your man and understanding how to help your team win are not always the same thing. Marbury was never able to fully grasp this distinction and unfortunately I see many of the same things developing in Carmelo Anthony. That is why I believe the Knicks were better of without him.
On talent alone Carmelo Anthony is one the very best players in the league. There really isn’t anyone who can guard him one on one. He makes more shots as the shot clock expires than anybody in the league. And he certainly has the ability to be a great defender when he makes up his mind that he wants to. Yet after eight years in the league he has yet to prove that he is anything other than a scorer. Too many times I watch Carmelo make a great shot then spend the entire trip back down the court whining to the official that he got fouled and his man ends up dunking the ball on the other end. Too many times I see him play great defense for one possession and then don’t see that again for the rest of the game. I never see him make any great play that isn’t a basket and this is not a recipe for success. To win in the NBA your best players need to do more than score. Being one dimensional is fatal and right now that’s what Carmelo is.
In addition it is about time that people called Anthony’s personality into question. Anytime a coach as good as George Karl is happy to see a player that talented leave it says something about that player. After fighting his way out of Denver in a way that made Lebron James’ “decision” look quiet and refined, only two weeks later Knicks star Amare Stoudemire publicly stated that some people weren’t buying into head coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. He didn’t actually mention Carmelo’s name, but the Knicks only acquired two new people at the deadline and he sure wasn’t talking about Chauncey Billups. I mean these are good coaches. If Carmelo can’t get along with either of them then he has a problem. What’s he going to do, go to L.A. and then not buy in to Phil Jackson’s system? Coaches coach and players play. That is a big part of team basketball, something Carmelo doesn’t seem to understand.
Now I’m not saying the Knicks can’t win with Carmelo. But for them to do so he is going to have to change his game. There was a point when my all time favorite player, Paul Pierce, was nothing but a scorer. In order for the Celtics to win it took Doc Rivers demanding that Pierce change and Pierce being willing to do so. If this hadn’t happened the Garnett and Allen trades probably would not have worked and the Celtics probably would not have won a Championship. For the Knicks to win Carmelo is going to have to change his game and become a more complete player. Until that happens Knicks fans will continue to scratch their heads and wonder why they aren’t better when their talent has clearly improved. Team basketball is not as easy as it looks. Just ask the Miami Heat and even they are doing a better job at it than the Knicks are.
Winning a Championship is not as simple as just signing a few super stars,