It’s tough when you’re the last person to realize a relationship is not going to work out. Even worse when it’s playing out in public.
But that’s the position Carmelo Anthony is in and it’s hard not to feel sorry for him.
Melo came to New York with the label of savior which, during this week, we all can agree is too heavy a cross to bear. He was greeted as a Native New Yorker even if we took loose liberties with the term. He was going to be Bernard King 2.0- the superhero who made New York believe but whose career was cut short due to injuries.
He came at the cost of a number of building blocks. His desire to play in New York, the Mecca of basketball and media capital of the world, had its ulterior motives. He wanted to come but ONLY if he was traded- so he could get a bigger contract thanks to NBA salary cap rules. He wanted to come to play in the Garden but threatened to play for Brooklyn who desperately looked for credibility and a chance to eat away at the Knick fan base. He could get New York and play for the upstart. His wife Lala could have better opportunities as well.
James Dolan, the beleaguered owner of the Knicks, blinked and forced a trade of assets rather than bring Melo to NY in the offseason. Melo was greeted as a hero- but it was apparent that he wanted to win on HIS terms.
He didn’t want to play defense at the expense of wasting energy that could be better used to get buckets. He refused to play the point forward position for then head coach Mike D’Antoni or play as a small 4. These are now considered staples of the modern NBA game and James Harden- in D’Antoni’s first year as coach of the Rockets- has turned into a top 3 MVP candidate. As a point forward.
Relationships are built on trust and it was clear that Melo had none for the Knicks. But let’s face it- this organization shouldn’t be trusted to run a hot dog stand. Melo also was domineering and wanted control and it to be about him.
His jealousy arose when Linsanity’s improbable rise happened. Incapable of believing that anything good could happen to the Knicks that he was not personally being given credit for he froze out the young point guard. The icy relationship made it easy for the Knicks NOT to swallow the “poison pill” and allow him to go to the Rockets in free agency.
The one year he saw on court success he was surrounded by veterans and more importantly true leaders. In 2012 the Knicks won 54 games, clinched the Atlantic division title and 2 seed and defeated the Celtics in a playoff series. Unthinkable for Knicks fans who had gone through a period of absolute garbage basketball.
But that was quickly erased in 2013 when the Knicks continued their rotten ways and gave up two first round picks for a guy that was about to be released. The kind of crippling- pay $5 for NYC tap water put into empty used Poland Spring bottles from a dude standing on the side of a busy intersection- move reserved for complete morons. It was like a self fulfilling prophecy- one step forward three steps back.
Melo got older and the wins got harder to come by. Eventually Knicks fans became upset.
Enter Phil Jackson. Almost like a counselor introduced to salvage a marriage. He was going to fix the Knicks and restore order. But it always felt like he was learning on the job.
Lesson one- don’t give anyone NOT named Lebron James a no-trade clause. He gave Melo one. Lesson two- if you want to believe that Melo is a team player expect him to leave some dollars on the table so roster holes could be fixed. He didn’t. Melo signed for the max- ensuring that no matter what Melo was going to get his.
Ultimately Melo is the selfish half of a hapless relationship. Unwilling to give up for the other- he wants it all. He wants to do it on his terms.
It wasn’t until this year that he demonstrably returned the boos. When he hit a game winner he refused the applause. Knicks fans were still willing to cheer him but now ONLY when he did something good for them. Suddenly he was losing control.
Knicks fans found a new guy. He’s younger and he’s got a few more tricks than Melo. He could be transcendent. All anyone seems to agree is that Melo should step aside and let the young man fly.
But when has that ever been Melo’s style?
Melo wants acceptance and love but he wants money and fame and respect. He wants to be known as one of the best players in game in line with his banana boat buddies all while NOT playing defense. He wants on his terms.
Now he “sees the writing on the wall”. He said he will have a long talk with Knicks President Phil Jackson and the idea is to have all the cards on the table. The Knicks would love to acquire draft capital or young cost controlled talent in return for Melo. While his value may not be so high thanks to that contract and trade kicker- he still has value as a very expensive 3rd option.
Melo will need to accept that he’s not the savior anymore. Melo needs to accept the reality that he is not needed in NY anymore and sometimes not wanted. Melo needs to accept the reality of the situation. The situation he forced. The situation he created. It’s all been leading to this moment.