By Jason Keidel
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We all have mindless pleasures. One of mine is watching “The Walking Dead” on Sunday nights. Little did I know that if you look closely enough you’ll find the undead ghouls limping down the road are really wearing Knicks jerseys.
The New York Knickerbockers have lost five straight, wandering like zombies on their rancid road trip. Owners of the longest current losing streak in the NBA, the Knicks are 18-23 and you’ll find the masses are muted over any world title talk. Now they play the Chicago Bulls, the team with the best record in the league.
And somewhere along the swarm of maladies, Linsanity died. And that’s the problem with drugs – physical or metaphysical – the higher you get the harder you crash.
Consecutive covers of Sports Illustrated? Popping from every New York newspaper? We at WFAN were guilty, too. Practically every other article on this site was dedicated to Linsanity. There even were reports that Lin changed commerce in far corners of the globe. The rampant projection of superhero qualities was so delusional that there was no way Lin could keep his high orbit with such weight on his newly broadened shoulders.
Yes, Lin was the beneficiary of the perfect, social media storm. The faerie dust around the Giants was swept up with the confetti along Canyon of Heroes. There was no baseball. We were bored, the Knicks were twirling down the drain, and Lin stepped in. Then Dwyane Wade, among many NBA stars, grew sick of the adoration, and thus teams swarmed the Harvard man until he suffocated.
Sure, part of Lin’s fading stardom is natural. He wasn’t as great as his run indicated, but he’s not as bad as he looks now – a turnover machine who can’t keep the ball long enough to pass it.
But perhaps Lin’s fade from the limelight is slightly unnatural. That’s why I held back before dissecting the Lin phenomenon. No doubt Lin is more Roy Hobbs than Shane Spencer, but you’re quite welcome to thumb through my columns to find that I worried that Carmelo was the cure for Linsanity.
The thread running through the winning streak, the peak of Lin’s powers, was the sense that everyone was involved. Yet when Carmelo came back, you sensed that the ball was dumped into a vacuum. When Carmelo has the rock on the block, his long arms coated with sleeves, you know it’s not coming back out, which means everyone just watches him shoot.
I was fairly certain that the Knicks would win enough to land in the playoffs, but now they’re one game ahead of Milwaukee and Cleveland.
You wouldn’t believe the grief I get whenever I speak poorly of Carmelo Anthony. My inbox boils with hostility, from “Have you ever watched basketball?” to “Do you just say things to get attention?” to things unsuitable for family programming.
We have an impulse to protect our blessed figures, and Carmelo is no different. Like someone with a gambling habit, instead of leaving the table you double down on Anthony, convinced that if you chant his name enough times he’ll remold the Knicks into a champion.
I’m sure to get more missives about the chasmal gaps in Lin’s game, about how he failed to adjust to Carmelo’s game, not the reverse. Then I’ll get a few on Mike D’Antoni, asserting that he’s not an NBA coach, despite winning about 60 games a year in Phoenix.
Amazing how the NBA is a player’s league until the your cherished player bombs. Then it falls on the team, the time, the town, the coach, and those of us who saw this coming. I denounced the Carmelo Anthony trade when it happened a year ago. This is Anthony’s ninth season in the NBA, and soon his ninth without a ring.
The only man who looks longingly at Carmelo Anthony is Joe Dumars – because he drafted Darko Milicic instead of Anthony (and Dwayne Wade). The rest of you should look the other way.
Carmelo Anthony is a very good player; he’s not great because he doesn’t make his teammates better. He can help a team win a title, but he can’t lead them there, which is what legends do. Just look it up. If facts interfere with your theories, don’t blame those of us who point it out.
Feel free to email me: Keidel.firstname.lastname@example.org
Is Keidel too tough on Melo? Join the debate in the comments below…