By Jason Keidel
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Despite their varied personas, there’s a thematic thread weaving through all superstars.
When the Lakers lose, it’s on Kobe. When Miami loses, it’s on LeBron. Likewise with Dirk in Dallas. With stud fees come commensurate expectations.
Except with Carmelo Anthony, who is never blamed for anything south of .500. When the Knicks lose, it’s the team, the time, or the coach. Mike D’Antoni was the voodoo doll du jour for all who couldn’t buy what the Knicks were selling: poor play by well paid players. And now that D’Antoni is gone, who will be the next victim of the vacuum called Carmelo Anthony (whose next NBA title will be his first)?
Evidently, nine years and no rings for Mr. Anthony mean little to New Yorkers, who don’t apply the same stratospheric standards to the Knicks (and Carmelo) that they do to the Yankees and Giants. Maybe there’s too much MSG in MSG, a sporting or spiritual food poisoning. Between the Rangers, Red Storm, and “Your New York Knicks!” we’re looking at an odd wasteland in Gotham’s vortex.
“Mike D’Antoni’s resignation is the best thing to happen to the Knicks since Isiah was canned,” says my boy Frankie C. (from the Bronx, he hastens to add). “We have Carmelo Anthony. He’s our guy.”
Frankie, like us, is a sports junkie. But his view is skewed by Carmelo Kool-Aid. I have yet to identify the ingredients, but the drink is strong and the intoxication seems permanent.
None of us can say with great assurance that D’Antoni is a great or poor coach. We do know he won a whole lot of games in Phoenix. Yes, Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion can make any coach look more adept than they really are, but wins are wins and there was much basketball fruit sprouting from the Arizona desert.
Like many of you, I seriously doubt that D’Antoni wanted Carmelo Anthony on the Knickerbockers. We won’t ever know for sure, because the coach will want to coach again, and throwing his employer under the team bus is hardly a hardy audition for his next gig.
It says here, in Spike Lee’s vernacular, that the Carmelo acquisition was a “Jim Dolan Joint,” a quintessential consolation prize for losing LeBron. D’Antoni and Donnie Walsh forced a brave corporate face over the deal, claiming the idea to trade much of their core for Carmelo was theirs. Sure.
Let’s be candid: as long as James Dolan runs the Knicks they will run deeper in to debt, dementia and destruction. Since the team became entirely his – meaning no more Patrick Ewing – Dolan has hired Isiah Thomas, Larry Brown, Lenny Wilkens, and has displayed a supreme talent for making legends look like fools. (Thomas was uniquely incompetent, but the buck stops with ownership.)
Funny how it’s a player’s league until your beloved baller fizzles. As unlikeable as Kobe Bryant is, you never question his dedication to his craft or the final score. And though LeBron James hasn’t won a championship, he took a rancid Cavaliers club to the NBA Finals, and few doubt that he will bag an O’Brien Trophy with the Heat. Dirk Nowitzki heard all the doubts, gulped them, and spat out a championship. It’s what great players do. In five or so years we’ll be saying the same of Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose.
Forgive the comic book cliché, but with great power comes great responsibility. So far, Carmelo Anthony has shown neither – the only All-Star starter who wasn’t on a winning squad. Now that the fall guy is gone, the New York Knicks are his. Any excuses are yours, and his, with an increasingly hollow ring – as we approach 40 years since the last ring.
Feel free to email me: Keidel.firstname.lastname@example.org
Has Melo worn out his welcome in New York? Be heard in the comments below…