By Jason Keidel
» More Columns
Listening to you call WFAN over the last few days, it sounds like there’s a subtle split among Knicks fans, who are equally happy and horrified over their playoff mores. After squeaking by the Mesozoic Celtics on Friday, giving life to a club barely younger than the cast of “Cocoon,” the Knicks tanked on Sunday against the younger, hungrier and exponentially more athletic Pacers.
The masses seem to be slowly but finally getting religion on Carmelo Anthony, who looks like George Gervin one night and Harold Miner the next. Yet we still hear the shrinking chorus chanting “MVP!” for a man who hasn’t shot close to 50 percent in the playoffs, not even over one game.
Out of 121 media members, 120 voted for LeBron James as league MVP. A brave but misguided soul named Gary Washburn voted for Anthony, which proves that they serve Melo Kool-Aid on tap in Boston pubs. James is better than Anthony at everything on the hardwood — rebounding, defense, passing and energizing his teammates.
But why should facts interfere with hero worship? The only reason that New Yorkers were so unwilling to admit this is because they’re still scarred by being jilted at the MSG altar, watching in tears as James took his talents to Miami. Not to mention it ripped open another scab seeing Pat Riley win yet again after abandoning the Knicks.
There’s no better illustration of this gap than a sublime statistic I heard from Los Angeles columnist J.A. Adande. Melo missed 18 shots on Sunday (10-for-28), while James missed 22 shots the entire series against Milwaukee. And if you consider Anthony’s 10-for-35 night in Game 4, he missed more shots in one game than James did in four games. How do you even put that into context?
The Knicks remind you a little of last year’s Yankees, who blasted their way to October by the long ball. Once they nudged past the Orioles, their home run dependency was exposed by pitching -rich Detroit.
Likewise, the Knicks shoot bombs, overwhelming teams when they fall. But they look like a group of gunners when they don’t. And if they think Indiana will be a challenge, imagine Miami, who should vaporize the injury-addled Bulls.
No matter when New York’s season ends, can we please stop blaming referees? Has there ever been a team or town west of Kevin McHale who whines more about whistles? When you sign nine-figure contracts and always refer to the team as “my” team, then it’s on you. James took a wretched, 20-win team to the NBA Finals. The Cavaliers routinely won 60 games, and when King James inelegantly left Cleveland, they instantly returned to a 20-win team.
Bill Parcells famously asserted that you are what your record says you are. This marks 10 years that Anthony has gone without winning a ring, and in only two of those seasons did he get past the first round of the playoffs. And, unlike football or baseball, which have too many moving, disparate parts for one player to commandeer a club, basketball is perfectly contoured for stars to earn their stripes.
It didn’t take Kobe Bryant 10 years. It didn’t take James 10 years. It didn’t take Tim Duncan a decade. Even Kevin Durant, with whom Anthony is most often compared, got his team to the NBA Finals last year. None of this would be proper if Melo and his fawning masses didn’t so rabidly remind us that he’s one of the five-best players on Earth. Eventually, you must prove it.
While I proudly hang my Ph.D in player hating on the Knicks above my bed, I don’t think they will fall short against Indiana. Despite my contempt for Melo, teams need a bona fide scorer at the end of big games. And Anthony is that, despite his colossal shortcomings across the rest of his game.
But the unnecessarily arduous Celtics series and Sunday’s flatline in front of their fans shows that the Knicks will lose eventually. And that’s because they are led by a loser.
You May Also Be Interested In These Stories