By John Schmeelk
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Carmelo Anthony (courtesy of the Daily News): “I just want to win, man, I just want to win basketball games. I came to New York for a reason. I know the expectations here in New York is even higher right now. I wanted that. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come here.”
He wants it and he has it. I just don’t think he has any idea what he’s getting himself into. Right now the basketball hopes of entire basketball city are sitting squarely on his shoulders. On his back, there’s a huge target. All eyes are on him, and from this point forward the only measure of Anthony’s legacy will be whether or not he can turn the Knicks into contenders. He will have to deal with the same scrutiny as LeBron James does nationally, except with the passion and irrational furor of New York sports fans. It’s a terrible glare to play under, but Anthony has put himself in that position.
All Anthony has to do is call up Alex Rodriguez and see what the next couple years are going to be like for him. He can also pick up the phone and call Patrick Ewing who dealt with it in the nineties. Eli Manning and Mark Sanchez know something about it too. Whether or not he was actually responsible for running Mike D’Antoni out of town is irrelevant. It is the perception and that’s all that matters. Right now he is the villain in this story, quite a feat considering how much New York Knicks fans disliked D’Antoni. When things go poorly, no one is going to blame Mike Woodson, instead they will blame Carmelo Anthony. Right or wrong, that’s how it’s going to be.
This is far from the first time a player has forced out a head coach. Patrick Ewing did it with Don Nelson. Michael Jordan did it with Doug Collins. Jason Kidd did it with Byron Scott. The list goes on and on. Those three players had either already proven they could win or did so shortly thereafter. Anthony has only gotten out of the first round of the playoffs once, getting to the Western Conference Finals in 2009. (losing to the Lakers 4-2) He still has a lot to prove and Knicks fans are going to hold him to an incredibly high standard. New York fans can be brutal and unforgiving. Carmelo has no idea what the flip side of success looks like here. It’s ugly.
If Anthony doesn’t turn the Knicks into contenders, he will get booed on a nightly basis at MSG and eventually James Dolan will have to trade him. It will be like the Stephon Marbury saga all over again, only without all the off the court drama. He’ll be hated and his name will only he mentioned in whispers along with Isiah Thomas, Eddy Curry, Jerome James, and Stephon Marbury. His timetable is two seasons. This year, fans want to see the Knicks make the playoffs and either win a series or bring the Heat or Bulls to the brink in the first round. A championship in 2012 is even beyond the unrealistic expectations of Knicks fans.
Next year, however, when the Knicks bring in their next big name head coach or retain Mike Woodson, the jury will be making their final decision. Anything short of a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals and great play by Anthony will be considered a failure. If the Knicks finish in the top three, anything short of a trip to the finals won’t be enough. Right or wrong, the fury of all Knicks fans will be focused like a laser on Carmelo Anthony. It will be even worse for him if Jeremy Lin finds himself either benched or out of the picture because that will be blamed on Anthony as well. New York loves to tear down someone that failed to earn their respect. Carmelo will be seen as a guy that not only got a coach fired, but also destroyed Linsanity, and failed to win in the process. His run here would be at an end.
Winning is the only thing that can save Anthony now. The old cliché is right, it does solve everything. We all know Anthony can score, but can he do everything else that is required of a star to be a winner? Can he play defense consistently? Can he lead? Can he hold his teammates accountable? Will he make his teammates better? Can he win? If he does all those things, New York will love him for it. The only thing New York likes more than watching someone crash and burn is a redemption story. Anthony can still turn from villain to hero. He can still be the savior of the Knicks. He can own this town. All he has to do is win. It starts now. No pressure.
- The trade deadline was a little boring but I was surprised to see the Nuggets move Nene shortly after giving him such a big contract. I think they were just thrilled to move someone they clearly overpaid, which might turn out to be the most important part of this trade. They got back a freakishly athletic but very immature JaVale McGee. He is one of the best shot blockers in the league, but he doesn’t have the post game of Nene and is a free agent after the season. Can you say salary dump? The Wizards did manage to get rid of Nick Young, which is addition by subtraction.
- Dwight Howard is driving everyone in the NBA nuts. I could hear the screams everywhere: “MAKE UP YOUR MIND ALREADY!” In the end he decided to stay in Orlando one more year, making me come to the conclusion that he really never knew where he wanted to go or what he wanted to do. This gives him another year to figure it out. Yippee for all of us who have to deal with the rumors for another season.
- His decision is a death knell to the Brooklyn Nets. I find it extremely unlikely they’ll be able to retain Deron Williams without Howard in the fold. Billy King proceeded to compound that disaster by dealing their top asset, their first round pick this year, for an aging Gerald Wallace who is on the downside of his career and can opt out of his contract after the season. Does he really think that Deron Williams will stick around because Gerald Wallace is in the fold? It’s purely an act of desperation. That first round pick was the Nets best back-up plan if they couldn’t get Dwight Howard and Deron Williams decided to leave. Now unless the team gets a top three pick, they don’t have it. It’s the type of move that can seriously set back a franchise.
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