Melo? No Thanks.
February 23, 2011 Leave a comment
Last night, when my seemingly worst fears were confirmed, and the news broke about Carmelo, I have to admit, I was furious. No, more disappointed. Actually, a whole lotta both. Steadfast in my anti-Melo position for the past few weeks, I have actually gotten into some heated arguments with those who believe that this is a good move for the Knicks. So when I sat down to figure out how to most eloquently shut down my opposition on this matter, I got to thinking. And thinking some more. What’s so bad about another big star joining the ranks on one of basketball’s biggest stages in arguably the best basketball town in the country? Of course, there were a few reasons that popped up, mostly including the Italian Stallion himself, Gallo, the cap room factor, and the sheer fact that this trade is essentially stripping this team down to bare bones mid-season. But, in analyzing the move a bit closer, I have found myself conceding a few of the objections I initially had. Unlike Greg, who has dubbed this “a great time to be a New York Knicks fan,” I find myself treading a bit more lightly. Okay, so I don’t hate it….yet. But then again, the promise and hope that my counterpart (Kaplan) has placed faithfully in the arms of this trade has also not come to fruition…yet. Here’s where I am at thus far, as we find ourselves Melo-ing out in the first few days of a new era for our New York Knickerbockers:
For the first time in over a decade, the Garden (and this team) is again relevant in the whole scheme of the New York sports culture. New York is and has always been a basketball town. We were just somehow dealt a few less than desirable hands recently (cough, Isiah Thomas, cough), and have found the fabric of our historically successful franchise unraveling faster than Lindsay Lohan at an open bar. It is what it is. But this season, we have seen a serious turnaround manifesting itself through the likes of the acquisition of Amar’e and rookie sensation Landry Fields, as well as the progress of D’Antoni’s entire Knicks system, including better minutes from Gallinari. So why shake things up when progress is actually being made for the first time in years?
The Knicks are 28-26 right now. Compared to their recent seasons, that’s not bad. However, we gotta be real here. That’s not good, either. And when one considers the teams in division and conference that the Knicks have to contend with (Boston, Miami, Orlando, etc.), 28-26 is the equivalent of trying to make a cross-country trip on one tank of gas. Super awesome idea, but you’re gonna be on empty mighty soon.
The only way to be able to power on late in the season (and more realistically, next season and beyond) is to bolster the lineup, plain and simple. It is exciting when a team is good, but when that team continually craps out come playoff time, people start to lose interest. It’s best to make a preemptive strike at avoiding such a fate in such a huge market as New York.
So the solution to this flimsy roster naturally seems like Carmelo, right? According to everyone in the entire world except me, apparently, yeah, it is. Yes, Melo is better than anyone the Knicks lost in the trade, from Chandler, Felton, Mozgov, and…sigh…Gallinari. I’m waving the white flag here. Melo is a fantastic basketball player. Especially when paired with Stoudemire, we’ve got ourselves a bonafide pair of high-scoring stars. Boom. Right?
Wrong. Let’s think about this Knicks team a little bit more closely. Mike D’Antoni’s “seven seconds or less” system is all about ball movement, a steady flow of offense, and little if no isolation situations at all. Thus far this season, Amar’e has been the star of this Knicks team, but even he isn’t simply given the ball to do with what he pleases. Even his possessions and impressive scoring numbers involve the steady offensive flow around him. That’s what works in New York.
Now let’s look at Melo in Denver. He thrives on the iso wing system, where he is given the ball to work with pretty much independently. And, yes, it worked. In Denver. But New York is a different program with a different style of play. So with Melo now donning the white, orange and blue, who is making the compromises here? Is it going to be the sought-after star in Melo, who now makes millions just for breathing in the hazy NYC air? Or is it going to be the members of the already established Knicks team, who have been honing a certain system all season, only to now have to scratch the whole plan since the new number 7 wants to crash the party? The latter seems most realistic, especially since Melo is a guy who wears sunglasses during television interviews. He doesn’t seem like much of a self-sacrificing team player, if you ask me.
We have also got to look at the gaps in the Knicks roster and evaluate if Melo helps in those areas. Is he a big body in the paint? An elite rebounder? No and no. Additionally, Carmelo isn’t a hustle player. And he doesn’t play defense. “But he is a great scorer,” you are inevitably whining right now. But in the entire scope of the Knicks programs and specific needs, Carmelo Anthony does not fit the bill in the slightest. And that’s cool, because we just traded an arm and a leg (and a Gallo) for him. And a washed-up pointguard in Chauncey Billups. Sweeeeeeeet.
I am the biggest champion of Amar’e, and I will admit outright that another one of my biggest objections to this trade is that Melo has the potential to outshine one of my favorite current players. Stoudemire is strong and talented enough to take over games, and he has done just that so many times this season. He has a clear view (get it, because he had a detached retina?!) for the future of this franchise. He wants to take the Knicks to the playoffs. He wants to be the hero that New York has needed. The introduction of another star like Carmelo Anthony could create a fission in the lineup, harming the versatile, solid dynamic already established by D’Antoni’s system. The NBA, unlike the college arena, is all about superstars strutting their stuff, grabbing the glory, and getting paid big time for doing so. But these star players disperse from team to team for a reason. Too much star power in one city is a recipe for disaster. In the words of every cliché Western flick…is the Garden is big enough for the both of them?
Concessions. Yes folks, I am making them. Soak it all in. So, the loss of Gallo has hit me hard. But I will live. And a Felton trade-in for a true point guard in Billups is acceptable for now, as I doubt it will be a lasting relationship. And a thinner Knicks lineup this season in order to clear cap space for the potential of free agency victories in the off-season makes sense. Essentially, I am down for all of the moves made by the Knicks organization with the very exception of signing Carmelo Anthony. He is not suitable for this system. He just doesn’t fit.
It’s not like I am adverse to change. I once chopped all of my hair off on a whim. I am also one of the only people in the world who don’t mind when the layout of Facebook changes dramatically. I digress, but I am trying to say that I will not fully defend nor reject this move by the Knicks’ front office until it starts producing results to support either side. Signing Melo just because he is Melo is an irresponsible and exorbitant move…for now. But hey, Joe Lieberman changed his mind one time. And I guess, so can I.
And so my personal Melo-dramatic inner monologue continues…for now.