Tag Archives: Carmelo

Headlines 1/9/2013

Woody and RexAfter another season of disappointment and playoff-absent football, the Jets big two of Rex Ryan, and Woody Johnson stepped to the podium finally to answer questions and the media surely got some answers.  Conor Orr of the Star Ledger writes that the sales pitch for their future was unveiled yesterday by the men in the white shirts and green ties. Gary Meyers of the Daily News says that Rex is a good enough coach that he deserves one final chance, but that’s all he should be guaranteed by Woody.  Woody’s Wrecks describes Steve Serby of the Post after hearing about the Jets game plan for next year. Ben Shipgel of the New York Times writes that the more pressing concern than rebuilding his image, is rebuilding his staff, Mike Westhoff retired, Mike Pettine is gone, and Mike Tannenbaum was fired.

On twitter, beat writers were complaining about lack of room to tweet out minute by minute updates of the press conference.  I’m sure they wouldn’t have been able to type fast enough with the way that the front office came out and put on a show.  The Jets were their usual clownish selves.  Selling the fans and the media a product that only the two at the podium can’t see because they are too close.  Yesterday was about a renewal.  It felt like Rex was being hired for the first time.  It felt like 2008.  Promises about what the Jets were going to do.  How they were going to fit the image of their head coach.  The offense will attack and nobody is gonna wanna play the New York Jets next season.  

I almost feel sorry for Jet fans who had to be thinking the same thing when the press conference was over: “we’re in deep doo doo next year”.  It almost felt surreal to hear Woody stand up there and give a full fledged vote of confidence to a head coach who has done nothing more than give him headlines in the backpages; good and bad.  Let’s not sweep the two conference championships under the rug, but I’ve said it for years now.  The Jets transitioned from that team in both philosophy (choosing to pass more without checking whether the QB was ready to shoulder a greater load) and in personnel.  They let several clubhouse leaders and veterans go like Tony Richardson, Thomas Jones, and Jerricho Crotchery and brought in guys like Santonio Holmes and unproven rookies.  In order for the QB to take on a leadership mantle, he has to set the tempo in practices and show up in every single meeting prepared and also, and most importantly, show up on Sunday ready to give his team a chance to win.  On so many Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the season, that opinion of whether Mark Sanchez gave the Jets that opportunity to win began to change.  His confidence dwindling by the minute Rex continued to bet big on him.  And as more and more was expected of him, Sanchez continued to disappoint.  His low point was the butt fumble, but I think the low point of his professional career may have been when fans were outwardly pining for Tim Tebow to take over.

I THINK, I’m a better QB option than Tim Tebow, so I dont know what Mark Sanchez was feeling.  He of the 2 AFC Conference Championship games under his belt.  Rex spoke mostly of his offense and rightfully so.  His defense held up their end of the bargain, once again finishing as a top 10 unit even without their best defensive player on the field.  They won 6 games which sometimes doesn’t even seem right considering how media folk came with pitchforks and knives like they had just went winless this season.  The Jets still have a ways to go.  They have to undo the mess they created for themselves the last two seasons.  Their defense is good enough to keep them in games.  If they have to return to the conservative offense that kept them out of mistakes and away from Mark Sanchez’ turnover issues then that’s what they will have to do.  The Jets have plenty to work on but now comes the more pertinent question: how much longer does Rex have?  Woody sounded resolute that he will have say in matters going beyond the coaching sphere.  Whatever GM gets hired, he will have to keep Rex for this season.  But its clear that whatever GM comes, will only have one year of Rex to deal with and it certainly sounds like whoever comes in had better not have his sights set on firing Rex without Woody’s blessing because that may be a problem.  Woody and Rex are joined by some voodoo black magic that doesn’t allow either to blame the other for their problems because they certainly don’t have restrictions blaming everyone else around them.  So more and more people are leaving.  Goodbye Mike Tannenbaum.  Goodbye Tony Sparano.  Goodbye Mike Westhoff.  Goodbye Mike Pettine.  Hello new unnamed GM who will certainly be starting from a point of non-favor because he doens’t fit the paradigm that Rex and Woody have created.  God bless whoever comes in.  

We won’t even get in to the tatoo conversation. 


It seems the Carmelo Anthony/Kevin Garnett beef that escalated to Melo waiting like a school bully after school outside of the cheese bus will be investigated by the league and possible sanctions may land on Anthony for being so aggressive at, according to Anthony, “just wanting to talk with KG about what was said.”  The internet speculated about what KG said to set off such a heated response by Anthony but its understandable to assume that its something that no man should say to another man.  Tony Williams of the Star Ledger writes that Melo must keep his cool as teams now may look to take Anthony out of his game by employing similar dirty tactics.  Mitch Lawrence of the Daily News puts it best “its 10 years in the league and NOW Melo is deciding to let KG’s taunts bother him?”  Nate Taylor of the New York Times writes that Melo agreed that he played Monday’s heated game against the Celtics way out of character.

This is the fourth such game that I’ve seen a team take Carmelo Anthony completely out of it by their physicality.  Memphis, Chicago (Twice) and now Boston on Monday.  They all bumped him, grabbed him, got away with a ton of physical play and left Melo with the tab.  The only reason Carmelo Anthony didn’t get thrown out of that game, and trust me he was begging to,  was because the game was in NY.  Melo started playing defense with his hands.  He began rushing shots.  He was more focused on hitting KG and trying to set off an altercation rather than play basketball.  It was so clear that it was working and kudos to Doc Rivers for installing a game plan that would make the Knicks switch Melo to guard KG who he was not in the right mind to guard.  That’s what smart teams do.  They saw Melo melting down and went for the kill.  I know Doc had to be thinking to himself “what do I have to do to get this guy fouled out? I already got KG to say the most disrespectful thing you can think of to his wife.”   Whatever the case may be, the league may not wind up suspending Carmelo Anthony since there wasn’t any physical altercation and nothing really happened once Melo got to that area where KG was.  The TMZ clip shows more of the Melo/KG argument with KG putting his hands up as if to say “Yo, the game is over, what do you want now?”  And that’s what Melo has to realize.  KG will go to that length to beat you and after the game will forget what he did.  Its not something I exactly applaud but its the attitude that Melo has to have.  You war with the team during the game but after, its just another game.  KG has always been a trash talker of extremely low character calling Charlie Villanueva who has alopecia a cancer patient.  So this is the kind of stuff you will hear from KG.  Melo has to be tougher mentally to handle those things and tune those people out.  I found myself yelling at the TV at other Knick players to get Melo out of there but there was no one to save Melo from himself and his anger towards Garnett.  Whatever the case may be, look for more teams to try this strategy and especially in the playoffs where its win or go home.  If a game in January could make KG say that, imagine the kind of reckless conversation he’s having in May and June.  


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Headlines 1/8/2013

After a day’s vacation, I come back to you knowing that you were all withheld from critical information regarding the sporting universe.   So here I am back to give you the news with my opinion as only I can.  Saturday opened with the news that renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews never cleared Robert Griffin the third to come back into the game in which he originally injured his LCL despite the opposite coming from Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan.  Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports wrote that he did himself and his team a disservice by keeping RGIII in that game.  Les Carpenter of Yahoo Sports writes that maybe Mike Shanahan needs a no man.  Jarrett Bell of USAToday wrote that perhaps this is what life with RGIII will always be like: Risk vs. reward.

I will write more about this subject later on today, but the fact is, most people agree that RGIII should’ve been taken out at some point in the game, long before he was ever actually scraped off the field.  When we finally saw his knee buckle and RGIII lying motionless on the ground it only served to confirm everything the viewing public had seen.  He wasn’t right at any point of that game and he was becoming a liability.  On the other hand, this is the playoffs and suddenly being down 21-14 probably called upon your best player to rise to the occasion which he really tried to do.  What most people won’t understand is Shanahan’s motivation for keeping him in the game.  During the game, I tweeted at 14-13 that if Seattle scores, maybe it should turn to Kirk Cousins because after the first two series, the Redskins just were never the same and the momentum had squarely fell on the Seahawks who had got back to playing sound defensively.  

Much of yesterday was spent breaking down what role Mike Shanahan played in RGIII’s knee being destroyed.  Today will be spent in analyzing the results of RGIII’s MRI which Dr. Andrews will take a look at.  Dr Andrews not wanting RGIII back in that game speaks volumes about how injured RGIII was and how Shanahan is either lying to himself to keep RGIII out there or he just doesn’t care how he wins or what it costs.  Either way, Shanahan will get ripped apart in the greater DC area.  Not only did they lose, they may have lost their franchise for a good portion of the 2013 season.  One important thing to remember is that they have a capable QB in Kirk Cousins who is more than capable of coming in and winning a few games.  He may not offer the team the chance that RGIII would on a game by game basis, but he isn’t a terrible option and unlike the Eagles who had three healthy QB’s in McNabb, Vick and Kevin Kolb and decided to ship the other two out and throw all their chips on Vick.  This may have been the best thing that happens to the Redskins.  If Cousins does perform very well, he may be able to build up value and the Skins would, in theory, be able to recoup some of the lost draft picks they sent to the Rams in order to draft RGIII.  


Carmelo Anthony lost his cool and the Knicks lost the game.  Tell me if you’ve heard that script before.  The Knicks have and did.  Nate Taylor of the New York Times writes that Garnett and the Celtics showed they can rattle Melo and beat the Knicks.  George Willis of the New York Post writes that if the Knicks aren’t careful they can begin to pick up a reputation of being easily thrown off their game.  Dave D’Alessandro of the Star Ledger writes that Doc Rivers and the Celtics pride themselves on championships not on small goals like winning the division.

Last night’s game was awesome from the perspective of the atmosphere in the Garden (the fans were terrific), and atmosphere.  New York is a city full of transplants and there are plenty of shamrock-rocking folk in this town to know that a full home crowd is NOT to be expected but the fact that they were so into this game, it probably ratcheted up the intensity ten fold and probably added to Carmelo’s frustrating evening.  His shots weren’t going in, but KG’s mouth was running and Melo unable to hurt him where it counts decided that the only way to get the last word was to chase KG down in the visitor’s locker room after the game, a place he purposefully he went to without even hesitating for a moment following the final horn.  

I wrote this after the game, but the book on the Knicks is out there.  Rattle the superstar.  Get them complaining to the refs and they will be mentally distracted enough that they won’t be able to recover.  Play them physically and force them to return the aggression, because they can’t do it with control, and they will be completely duped.  The Knicks are becoming that team with a very quick temper and unable to control themselves in situations.  Those that cry that Melo doesn’t get the superstar calls, that’s why.  He spends so much time complaining to refs that most of them don’t ever want to satisfy Melo because nothing is ever enough.  Yes, does Melo get fouled a ton?  Sure.  But basketball is physical when you enter that five feet area between player and basket.  That’s where grinders and maulers have to be bigger than the foe in front of them and impose their will.  Melo has the body, but he does not have the temperment to spend too much time boxing out and setting up shop.  I’m not implying that Melo is weak or soft underneath the basket, but he has to stop being so angry everytime a whistle isn’t blown.  The refs can call that foul every single time but when he doesn’t you keep working.  

Melo plays the kind of physical basketball that you want to see but is so difficult to officiate.  Its not in the same league as Shaq who walked a fine line everytime he swung that arm around and the elbow almost always seemed to miss the defenders face by a whisker.  Its tough to match him physically down there but when a team can, its time for Melo to do other things.  His 18 foot jumper is almost always a good decision.  His turnaround jumper is getting better.  Getting the bigger defender away and driving past them is a skillset he is putting more to use this year.  These are the kind of decisions that you want to see Melo make.  Decisions based on who’s guarding him.  Every team throws multiple defenders on him.  Last night, the Celtics put Bradley on him at times, Paul Pierce, Jeff Green.  Mixing and matching big with small.  It can’t be easy for Melo but he has to understand that his best skill is to draw multiple defenders away from their man so his teammates can get a better shot.  By the time that Kevin Garnett had taken him completely out of that game, he was jacking up threes with 18 left on the shot clock and doing things that old Melo used to do.  Anthony just can’t play mad and its becoming a liability when he gets into those modes where he’s playing out of pure spite for the guy in front of him.  He forgets teammates and the game plan and Woodson needs to have a sit down with him.  

There’s no doubt that Melo is the MVP and nothing about yesterday’s game is going to disprove that, but last night’s game is a continuing novel being written by perennial playoff contenders, teams who have played in the games that the Knicks are making a strong case they will play this year, that if you want to get to that level you must play physical and if you aren’t willing to match the physicality and you are more willing to swing than actually play ball then you don’t belong in the discussion and you probably aren’t ready for the primetime that teams like the Bulls, the Grizzlies and most importantly the Celtics have been to.  

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Headlines 1/4/2013

act_carmelo_anthonyThe Knicks had been struggling for some time on defense and needed a team to come in to reinvigorate them on that end and wouldn’t you know it, the schedule read: San Antonio Spurs!  Yep, the Knicks not only beat the Spurs, sweeping the season series for the first time in nearly a decade, the Knicks dominated the Spurs on their home court.  Al Iannazzone of Newsday wrote that this was one of the more impressive showings by the Knicks this season beating what Mike Woodson calls “the best team in the NBA.”  Nate Taylor of the New York Times writes that after watching footage from games just six weeks ago when they had the best defense and offense, they were able to put on a vintage 2012 performance for the second game of 2013.  Mike Vaccaro of the Post thinks that there are stretches within the game that make you think about what can be for the Knicks.  Mitch Lawrence of the Daily News writes that maybe Spurs coach Greg Popovich should have sent his stars home, maybe the reserves would have put up a better effort against these Knicks in their fourth game in five night stretch.

A few things about this Knick game were encouraging, first and foremost being the defense.  Certain coaches bring an identity and can typecast their team.  Mike D’Antoni certainly has a reputation of being an offensive genius while ignoring defensive principles, while Mike Woodson is known for emphasizing defense.  I don’t doubt that both preach the other side of the ball that they are supposed to be not so well versed in, but sometimes you just get that reputation and its hard to shake it unless there’s a dramatic shift in their team’s play in that other side of the ball.  But the Knicks forged a defensive intensity that you just hadn’t seen from them.  My theories, in order, were 1. Jason Kidd, 2. Tyson Chandler, 3. Mike Woodson.  These three guys have won and know that the only way to win games in May and June is on the defensive side of the ball.  Kidd in particular has impressed me because he faces quicker guards on a regular basis, but his intelligence and quick hands are great equalizers and allow him to keep up with even the quickest of guards.  

Chandler has always played defense and last year was like the lone wolf howling at the moon and the Garden faithful enjoyed watching him play.  This season he has more help and certainly stands to gain more once Iman Shumpert returns.  This season, the Knicks just seem to know how to rotate better and know how to play with each other better because they have so many leaders on this team.  Whether its Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace (one Defensive player of the Year and the other, a member of the no-name Pistons squad in 04 that won the title), or Kurt Thomas on the bench, there’s so much veteran guidance and leadership and call me crazy, but maybe this was Grunwald’s plan all along: to have as many veteran voices on the bench to plead with Carmelo to play more defense and play more efficiently on offense.  

This win also speaks to the play of Pablo Prigioni.  Last year’s clear weakness was point guard play.  No doubt it contributed to the hype that Linsanity got and maybe inflated his value, but this year, the trio of Kidd, Felton and Prigioni have been such a better unit that its hard to remember the last time the Knicks got this kind of production from the position.  Prigioni, since preseason, has been doing that sneaky steal atleast twice a game and he again got a key steal and fed Carmelo for an easy two.  Every member of that team is confident with Prigioni in there and now with Felton out for four to six weeks, you don’t feel as uncertain.  Yes, I understand the concern people have with playing 35 and 40 year old point guards major minutes in games in January, but the hand has been dealt.  Its interesting that the Knicks have been experimenting with Shumpert at the point.  Perhaps getting youthful legs in there will be helpful, but having him as a primary ball handler is all good and well, but he has to be an instinctive point guard, otherwise he’s just another Toney Douglass: the full five second too late point guard who just never had the feel of a point guard.  Are the Knicks going to pay for playing these guys major minutes like this?  I’m sure.  But the fact is this is what they have to do and the Knicks just have to make do.

BTW, does anyone object to the whole JR Smith as our third most important player?  After Carmelo and Tyson, JR’s contributions off the bench- and its becoming nightly, are a reminder of how much of a luxury it is to have a guy that can create his own offense and can also spot up and score.  You can sit Carmelo for stretches when JR is going the way he is.  Does he have a ton of irrational confidence?  Sometimes.  But to play this game and to be good you have to.

Carmelo scored 23 but the most encouraging sign of his maturity came in two ways.  He was actively looking to pass out of double teams and rarely made a bad decision when he did and even if the relationship between he and Amare may be a forced partnership, its easy to see how comfortable and assured he is that he is the franchise cornerstone and he makes the Knicks go.  He tried desperately to get Amare involved in the offense in one series in the fourth, while the Knicks were building up their lead, passing it inside to Amare, who continued to do the fifteen pump fakes before putting up the shot that usually gets blocked (which is an indicator that he’s getting old and has lost most of the athleticism that made him a star), getting the rebound and then throwing it right back to Amare.  That comes from a confidence within that this is in fact his team and there’s no real threat there and I’m glad.  The only way for this to work is for Amare to understand his role on this team and that he’s going to be a third or fourth option depending on the set.  I do like that second team of offense that comes in behind the starting five when the Knicks bring in Novak, Prigioni, JR and Amar’e into the game.  Then you add in the stretch five of Rasheed and you certainly have the makings of a deep ten man rotation that could be formidable, depending on health, come May and June.

Rex Ryan tattoo of Mark Sanchez january 4And then there’s Rex Ryan.  The Daily News this morning published a picture of tanning Rex on a beach in the Bahamas sporting a tattoo of a woman (presumably his wife) sporting a Mark Sanchez jersey and….nothing else on his right arm.  This article in the Daily News is sure to make the rounds in the talk show universe today and adds another level of weirdness to this whole Jet soap opera.   Gary Meyers of the Daily News talks out all the problems that can arise from having a specific player’s name tatooed on the arm.  Mark Cannizzaro of the Post lists several enticing candidates for the Jets GM job and lists Tom Gamble the Director of Player Personnel of the San Francisco 49ers as the guy the Jets and Korn/Ferry should target to lead the Jets.  Finally the Pro Football Writers of America are ok with the fact that the Jets will only meet with the media on January 8th as opposed to the usual schedule of 7 days after the season ends.

This morning’s commute was extra  hilarious because of this story and usually when silly things like this happen, it makes radio and sports personalities very happy because it gives them a chance to be silly and boy do Boomer and Carton love doing silly.  Look, there’s nothing left to say about this except that the Jets look to be targeted by the media and they give them every reason to be targets.  In what universe could Rex think getting a tattoo of his wife ONLY wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey was a good idea?  There’s not a good enough explanation that you can have and one that I hope that we will hear come that very anticipated January 8th press conference.  For those wondering, I think if you were to rank what the Jets brain trust should be questioned about, it goes:

1. Why Mike Tannenbaum was fired and not Rex?

2. What were they thinking about with Tim Tebow and why, in their minds, were they not successful with him?

3.  How confident are you that Mark Sanchez can be fixed?

4.  Rex are you brain dead?  Why would you get a tattoo of your wife in a Sanchez jersey?

Those should be the first four questions out of the media’s mouth come January 8th.  How its anything else is beyond me.  Anyway, I hope Korn/Ferry is a PR firm as well because the Jets could use some good advice. 

Meanwhile, not so far off Crazy Island, the Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was apparently walking around like a crazy man as he described in this interview with Mike Francesa.  Antrelle Rolle apologized for the Giant letdown of a stretch run this season.

Its always fun to see Tom Coughlin red in the face, screaming from the sideline but I totally understand his pain and frustration when having to answer questions about a team he has seen time and time again come through in big games, not be able to even offer a whimper when it truly mattered.  Like any Giant fan, I expected a win against the Ravens and I expected it to be competitive against the Falcons who I don’t think scare anyone in the NFC.  The Giants should have never been in this position and who knows if this collapse by the Giants means that Washington was just meant to win this year or if this is a seismic power shift in the NFC East and that the Redskins are coming of age so quickly under the guidance of the young padawan, RGIII.  Regardless, these are the kind of final weeks that make a team look deep into its soul.  Certainly there is the talent to win atleast 10 games a year but the up and down show of effort leaves you wondering sometimes about whether the players are either understanding the situation they are in or even motivated to play a football game late in December.  Its crazy to think that this team, this unit wouldn’t know how to handle themselves in those situations but it happened.  Which makes Tom Coughlin crazy.  Which makes Jerry Reese crazy.  Which should make every Giant hoping to return back to a championship core very very scared.  

Finally, what to watch for tonight:  Bulls at Heat on ESPN at 8, Nets at Wizards on YES at 8 (just kidding).

Later today, I’m posting my AFC/NFC Wild Card weekend Previews

For your viewing pleasure…

Enjoy everyone!

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Thoughts on the Knicks start, why its all one guy, and how the Olympics shaped it.

Knick fans woke up this morning again to the news that their team was 4-0 and probably assumed this was an eerily too real dream that they would rather be asleep for.  Lord only knows how wide awake they were for those Isiah teams and those that played to the tune of no defense and not enough offense that left the Garden faithful talking up the team’s what ifs rather than what actually happened.

But the dream isn’t dead yet.  Your Knicks may be this good.  At the very least, we know this: when the effort is there, this team can and WILL compete in the Eastern conference.  A conference that should you believe conventional wisdom is the Miami Heat and then everybody else.  But conventional wisdom didn’t have the Knicks as the last undefeated team in the NBA either so let’s hold to what we’re seeing.

Currently the Knicks are holding opponents to the fewest points per game (87.5),  have a point differential (+17) that’s a shade under 9 points better than the second best (+9.5), holding opponents to the worst shooting percentage in the league (.407), and are third in forcing turnovers (18) while being number one in terms of turning over the ball (only 11.3 a game.).

All those stats show the obvious proponent of this current hot start: their defense.  But the real reason for it may be that their superstar Carmelo Anthony’s has a newfound dedication on the defensive side of the ball.  Its easy to draw the conclusion that because the Knicks are being coached by Mike Woodson, a defensive oriented head coach, his influence is rubbing off on Carmelo.  But in reality, whats happened could be traced back to the Olympics when Carmelo was able to watch the newly minted champion Lebron James work his way up and down that locker room and hold court as the best player in the league.  Its obvious that this Olympic experience was far different for Carmelo from the perspective that he knew the focus of many people’s interest would turn to him, as he’s the final member of that famed quartet from the 2003 draft class still without a ring.  Wade has 2, Lebron (finally) has one and so does Chris Bosh.

Much like Lebron in 2008, Carmelo’s Olympic experience was more about his own personal growth as a basketball player.  Watching Kobe Bryant get up at 6 AM and work on his craft, having won 3 championships at the time (and on his way to 4 and 5), and yet still working on his craft as if he were ringless.  The bar Kobe set was high, but perhaps that’s what was needed for Lebron to realize what he had to do in order to accomplish his goal of winning an NBA championship.  Remember, also that Kobe had just come off a Finals loss to the Celtics, and was determined to get back and ultimately would and win back to back championships that year and the following one.  That Olympics shaped and transformed Lebron.  Remember, it was that Olympics that many conspiracy theorists believe that he, Dwayne Wade and Bosh decided to team up and come together in 2010.  Lebron, Wade, Bosh, Carmelo and CP3 were good friends but became very close on that trip and yet, Melo and CP3 were left out of that super team.  Of course that’s because Carmelo could only become a free agent the year after and CP3 was still only 2 years into the league and locked into his original rookie deal, but for anyone in a similar position, it could feel like you were being left out.  That may explain CP3’s half joking/half serious intimation that he, Melo and Amar’e (who had signed a 5 year $100 million deal with the Knicks that summer) would band together as well to form their own super team at Carmelo’s wedding, days after Wade, Bosh and Lebron had revealed their plan to the world.  But much like Lebron, this Olympic experience may have shaped his mind.

In 2012, he saw his close friend Lebron realize his dream of being a champion and yet Carmelo could only watch as he took his rightful place at the top of the game.  There was no discussion any more.  This was Lebron’s league and finally, to some, we could get to the business of cementing his legacy with a run of championships.  The vultures had left South Beach and were headed Melo’s way.

But the talk circling Melo has always been far different from Lebron.  Lebron has always been viewed as having the skillset to be the greatest ever, a discussion that will certainly heat up with all the hardware he accumulates.  Melo is seen as just a scorer.  The comparison would be Clyde Drexler and Michael Jordan.  In the Dream Team book written by SI columnist Jack McCallum, Clyde Drexler expressed his belief, at the time, that he was as good as Michael Jordan.  Drexler wound up winning a championship in Houston, but history shows that it was never as “the man”, that would be Hakeem.  Michael, of course went on to win 6 championships and change basketball for the generation we’re watching now.

But I started thinking about Melo and, what sometimes could be perceived as, his steadfast stubborn nature to accept generally held beliefs about him.  Case in point, when the idea was suggested to Carmelo that he should move from the 3 to the 4 where his athleticism and body could handle and overwhelm other 4’s, he responded as if someone had made the suggestion that he couldn’t play the 3.  Despite overwhelming evidence that his game would benefit tremendously by playing in the paint, its come with Carmelo kicking and crying along the way, no way to act for a guy trying to shake the reputation that he’s NOT a team player.

But Carmelo has come out of the gate being aggressive and judging by some overly handsy defensive that resulted in some foul trouble, its clear that he’s still not completely comfortable.  But I’ve forgiven Melo because its clear that his effort is turned up and he’s completely tuned in because of the offseason the Knicks had.  It became clear why Carmelo is all in with Coach Woodson.

This offseason, fans were confused by the number of “veteran” players the Knicks brought in.  Guys who were perhaps well past their primes.  While Los Angeles added 2 superstars, and OKC was subtracting one, and Miami was adding stars, the Knicks went a very different route.  They cut ties with their super nova point guard, Jeremy Lin and watched him go to Houston.  They traded for point guard Raymond Felton who enjoyed his time in NY enough that he forgave the team for trading him for Carmelo in the first place.  They traded for Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, signed Ronnie Brewer and stole Jason Kidd from the Mavericks.  None of these moves really rocked the basketball blogosphere except for the excess of material for NBA writers to use to poke fun at the Knicks, an unusually favorite past time for most national reporters.

It might have seemed weird, but it became clear the message that GM Glen Grunwald was sending, and who he was sending it to.  He was telling Melo that this was indeed his team and that the collective talent he had assembled was there NOT to take away from Melo’s star, but to make it shine brighter.  No offense to Amar’e Stoudemire, the lone free agent from the famed 2010 free agent class, to sign with the Knicks, but it was an obvious nudge to him in the ever present power struggle that the two super stars wage to win over New York.

But it matters not.  The average NBA fan knows who the better player is and finally Carmelo is getting his chance.  Too many times his reputation was limited to: “great offensive player, but not willing to play within the construct of the team.”  Through four games, he’s given his team points and more rebounds but also given his team a head turning statistic as well: blocks.  This was his second game in the span of three that he’s blocked two shots, a statistic that if he allows it to trend will ultimately get him the kind of recognition that his Olympic teammate Lebron did: MVP.  Finally we can begin to assess Carmelo fully and not just through the lens of just an offensive game.  We can begin to take him seriously as a leader, and as one of the best players in the NBA.

Clearly the effort is there, and the record is there, the recognition will be soon to follow.

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Daily Rounds 12/26/2011 Part 1

So there’s plenty to get to.  Giants.  Jets.  Knicks.  Opening night of the NBA.  Christmas.  Plenty.  And we’ll get to them all.  This is Part 1.  Part two will be up later tonight as I break down the Giants/Jets game and where I feel like both teams are going from here.

In their regular season opener, the New York Knicks defeated the Paul Pierce less Celtics 106-104 at the Garden.  Marc Berman writes that Carmelo Anthony saved Christmas for the Knicks.  “I made a game-plan mistake,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “We didn’t go get the ball out of Carmelo’s hands and I thought we probably should have.”  That was an excerpt from Frank Isola’s piece in the Daily News this morning including more in depth analysis of Carmelo’s amazing 4th quarter.  Jonathan Lehman of the Post wrote about Tyson Chandler and the Knicks defensive effort in the fourth quarter limiting the Celtics to 7-20 shooting including two critical stops in the final minute.  Mike Vaccaro writes that despite all the things that went wrong for this team yesterday, they responded.  Howard Beck of the New York Times writes that for one game, the Knicks were better.  

Ok, let’s put everything into perspective here.  The Knicks won.  A “w” is a “W”.  Can’t complain about who was and who wasn’t there.  BUT, there were several things that need to be pointed out about this game that should temper expectations about this Knick team.  Yesterday, if there EVER was a reason when the Knicks needed some semblance of a reasonable point guard effort it was yesterday.  Toney Douglas was ineffective and Iman Shumpert has a green light to shoot it seems everytime he touches the ball.  Then there’s Mike Bibby who was out with a back spasm but was available to play but wasn’t available if you catch my drift.  Then there’s Baron Davis who won’t be eligible to play until a month from now.  The Knicks didn’t have ANY answer for Rajon Rondo.

Part of the problem was their transition defense.  NOBODY leaked out once the rebound was snared, and we’ll get to the rebounding as well.  NOBODY rotated to Rondo who went uncontested atleast 5 times on the other end for easy layups.  Rondo had 30 points and for the first time I kept thinking to myself, WOW, the Knicks need a good point guard.  Who i STILL think could be Iman Shumpert but he needs to look for others more than his own.  Yesterday, if Rondo had a competent jump shot (Which he did shoot 11-19) he would’ve been unstoppable.  He was a one man wrecking crew with a little bit of help from Brandon Bass who has historically given Amar’e Stoudemire fits because of his size and thickness down low.

I was a bit disappointed in Stat who scored a very quiet 21 points.  He was comfortable in playing the one on one isolation game a little too much and never tried to get involved in the flow of the offense.  He was the definition of a ball stopper and that HAS to stop.  For the Knicks to be successful both Melo AND Amar’e have to carry the team and do it in tandem.  Bass outplayed Stat in many ways and looked like the tougher player.  HOWEVER, I did like Stat’s determination on defense.

Look, I liked the Knicks opening statement on defense.  Yes there were spurts where it looked like nobody knew where to rotate at all and there were times where this team played excellently.  They showed emotion and communicated well.  They had an idea on who was guarding who and where they should leave spacing.  They had an identity and a game plan.  The Knicks have the ability to have a few one on one defenders and its clear that teams on the pick and roll will try to switch up and get Amar’e.  That’s the match up that teams will play and try and until Amar’e gets comfortable D’ing up then teams will continue to force the issue.  What I feel comfortable in knowing is that guys who are crazy athletic like Amar’e and who are naturally gifted in basketball like Carmelo (also the two guys who get the most blame for their deficiencies on d) can learn on the fly and rely on their natural abilities to make offenses pay.  They can learn how to do that.  As opposed to guys who don’t have that kind of natural ability like say a Jared Jeffries who looked as if he had suffered that injury during warm ups.

Eventually the Knicks will put together more than just sporadic 15 minute shifts on defense and will put in a total 48 like the Celtics do.  I think that the shorter regular season puts them in the fire more and because they have guys like Carmelo and Amar’e who can score whenever they want, they WILL win games on the strength of that, but they can also get better on defense much quicker thanks to the grueling schedule.  The thing is, the Knicks don’t have depth and we saw that yesterday.  Iman Shumpert is out 2-4 weeks and thankfully not longer.  I thought that was an ACL tear and from reports that are coming out, its just an MCL sprain which is a much lighter injury.  I think during rehab, the Knicks can focus Iman on becoming a better ball distributor.  What my fear is that he comes back and Baron and Mike Bibby are in, where does he go from there BUT become a combo guard in the mold of an OJ Mayo.  While I would be fine with having an OJ Mayo on my team, I think his athleticism suits us best if he were becoming a pass first point guard.  He has the ability to cut into the paint area and his vision has to improve.  From everything I’ve read about the kid he is a willing student and loves getting advice.  I’ve seen Baron Davis give him advice as well and he’s always willing to listen.  I hope he uses that and becomes better at his court vision.  IF he becomes a better ball handler, he’ll have much more wide open looks because teams will have to close out passing lanes leaving the middle of the paint wide open.

I have this crazy belief that Iman Shumpert CAN be that great point guard we need.  Ok, maybe saying great is getting ahead of myself.  I’m just saying that the Knicks need a guy who has athleticism, can push the ball and can get inside the paint area and allow guys on the Knicks to cut.  Douglas doesn’t have that yet and his first instinct is to shoot it.  Maybe that’s part of the D’Antoni offense.  Maybe that’s his own decision making which again would be an area where he would have to improve.  Douglas needs to be pass first but I feel like his ceiling is as an on the ball defender.  That’s where he’s best.  He disrupts passing lanes.  He is active on the defensive end and that’s what I love.  He needs to work on his corner three.  If he can develop those strengths I think he’d be a better fit.  That’s a more realistic ceiling in my opinion of Toney Douglas.

Did anyone see Landry Fields?  I mean I could’ve swore he was introduced last night.  I could’ve swore I saw him on the court last night.  Man, his sophmore swoon started after the Melo trade and its continued.  He couldn’t fit through screens, he was taking the wrong route and he was lucky that Ray Allen was having an off night shooting.  He just looks lost and its unfortunate.  I dont want to see anyone succeed more than Landry.  At this point he’s in the starting line up as a default, just like Keith Bogans was in the line up for the Bulls, just like Mario Chalmers was in there for the Heat, just like Derek Fisher for the Lakers.  These are guys that are occupying roster spots because they HAVE to not because its a decision that the team feels they are fit to be starters.  If they could find better players they would.  That being said, I’d take any of those guys over Fields right now.  His mind just isn’t there and he isn’t enjoying himself.  He’s overwhelmed by the moment.  Its one thing to play for a team with no realistic expectations but its another to play AT the Garden, for a team that’s expected to contend.  The fact is, Landry needs to see the Wizard of Oz or just man up and play like he did the first half of last season.  I mean Spike Lee is still rocking your jersey, at some point he may switch to Iman who has gotten the rookie confidence meter on high.

46-37, 54-56, and 41-31, the opponent’s rebounding total is the first number and the Knicks rebounding total is the second.  So far they have been outrebounded 141-124 and its pretty disappointing.  This is not on Tyson Chandler, but this is an indictment on the Knicks overall ability to rebound.  They seem more intent on getting back on defense rather than contesting a rebound.  The Knicks need to do a better job rebounding.  I cant begin to explain how important it is to give Amar’e and Melo more opportunities to score.  If they get in a rhythm and knock down shots, trust me there will be few teams that can compete with the Knicks.

Melo, there really isn’t a word anymore to describe him.  Talent personified.  He’s on the verge of having such a stranglehold on this city.  Lord help him if he hits a game winning shot during a huge playoff series or leads his team through a series.  This city will go goo goo over him.  They already are.

If only the Knicks had a competent backcourt player who could distribute the ball.  Having Melo as the point forward while it being an awesome position would wear him down as the season progresses.  That’s a lot of pressure.  Melo needs to get his offense in different ways.  Melo can and Melo must.  I’d rather have Melo play point forward during stretches rather than the whole game.

Boston fans can only wonder what Rondo COULD BE if he had a jumpshot.

By the way, in case you were wondering: Boston wins by 8 if Paul Pierce is in this game.  He plays his best at MSG and with that Rondo run where everything came so easy for him, Boston would’ve erased that 17 point lead and would’ve been up 15 themselves.  They just didn’t have enough offense from Jesus Shuttlesworth and KG to sustain them.

At some point KG is going to realize that NOBODY buys his tough guy act.  He’s a great player without all his bullshit.  Please stop.  Nobody is afraid of you.  He’s a skinny tall guy.  If he werent black, we’ be making Shawn Bradley jokes about him.  True story.  But he’s a good player with some athleticism.  Hence he’s black and he is a good player.  That wasn’t racist enough for you was it?

I dont know how pissed Rondo IS at Celtic management.  All I can say is, for that contract, he’s the guy you rebuild around.  The guy has a motor.  He’s aggressive and he’s tough.  He’s Tyronn Lue back in that Laker/Sixer series, only with ACTUAL talent.  He’s the agitator but with real skill.  Real potential.  I can’t begin to explain how badly I want to see Rondo injured because of how good he plays.  He seems to come up with huge plays in almost every game and I think everyone is realizing that without his maturity and growth the Celtics DONT win that championship in 08 and his development doesn’t go ten notches faster without KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce there to guide him.  They have needed him just as much as he’s needed them.  If the Celtics are going to rebuild after this year, I wonder what that does for Rondo.  That’s why I felt the Celtics handled this poorly.  Now the Celtics HAVE to rebuild with a guy that they openly left out to be traded.  I get that the guy they wanted was a better player in CP3, but they need to smooth over that situation if they ever want Rondo to sign another extension.  Rondo is the key for their future and the guy they will build around but let’s see how much of a willing participant he will be.  His contract expires after the 2014-2015 season.  By then he’ll be the last of the big four left.  Hmmmm

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The Star problem

I decided that instead of doing a sports roundup for today I’d address a pretty major relevant topic this morning in a ranting format.  ESPN’s TrueHoop blog which has become mandatory daily reading for me,  has an article up written by Henry Abbot, who I began reading daily thanks to his excellent lockout coverage and most of all his common sense perspective, in which the title and point is that stars act like stars because they are…wait for it, STARS.

The Chris Paul furor on twitter/radio/national landscape has been unbelievable.  I admit I’m a Knick fan first and foremost.  I admit also that barring Imam Shumpert is the second coming of Isiah Thomas*, the Knicks don’t have anything remotely resembling an enticing package to trade to New Orleans for Chris Paul.
*= Where by I would argue then that the Knicks shouldn’t trade for CP3 and should focus on who I believe SHOULD be their primary target and that’s Dwight Howard. 

Ok, I get all that.  But why all the hatred?  The entire twitterverse has been raging over on beat the Knicks down testosterone as if the competition hasn’t been doing that for years.  Its these same know it all critics that confidently pointed out that the Knicks didn’t have enough to trade for Carmelo Anthony* and well we all know how that turned out.  I’m not saying they are wrong here.  I’m just alarmed at how angry these fans/”objective journalists” get when they talk about the Knicks having no shot at getting Chris Paul.
*= Which I STILL think was a mistake because now we’re here.   

Aside from the no-assets argument, they say that Chris Paul would NEVER leave money on the table, a reported $26 million if he doesn’t sign with a team that owns his Bird rights.  But this was all a reaction to a Yahoo Sports report that his agent, Leon Rose who also represents Carmelo Anthony for CAA, notified New Orleans management including GM Dell Demps that he would not sign an extension in season and requested a trade to the K nicks.  Suddenly groans were being bellowed and sarcastic (and actually funny) remarks were being made that Melo had orchestrated this whole thing and that all the leverage that the owners talked about taking back had just been virtually erased with one fail swoop from a superstar’s agent.

What?  The owners didn’t destroy their leverage, they worked on getting more of it with this new CBA.  The whole point of this was to gain competitive balance which is a hypothetical fantasy land filled with fairies and gnomes.  That place only exists in the minds of those who read numbers and conjure up arguments to support that case.  Competitive balance is the understanding that a system is in place that allows EVERY TEAM To fairly compete in an economic landscape.  But our society in general doesn’t have that so why should sports be any different?  If we relate NBA teams to everyday status roles, the Knicks and the Lakers are the rich kids while the Hornets are the orphans and Oklahoma City is the middle class.  New York and LA will always hold major advantages over other places because they can.  They have the most financial opportunity.  They have the most wealth and its not even close.  If its a competition why should New York and LA forego their advantages because everyone is throwing a hissy fit?

But now, Chris Paul is the latest superstar diva trying to screw over a small market team with his grandiose dreams of making it in a big city.  So, if I have this straight he SHOULDN’T leave money on the table to go and play for a team that employs one of his best friends but he’s also a scumbag because of how he’s deserting a small market?  Huh?  Come again?

Make up your minds.  He’s either a greedy person and stays with the Hornets currently owned and operated by all 29 franchises.  Or he’s not greedy and is destroying the NBA by creating a superstar alliance of his own in New York.  There’s a good/bad side to everything I guess.

Somewhere, signals got crossed and this became a moral argument.  It began with Lebron and ended last year with Carmelo and begins anew with Chris Paul.  And its a wonder why they are such close friends.  Suddenly superstars were beholden to teams and supposed to stay in their lanes.  No one would’ve had a problem with Lebron staying in Cleveland.  I’m not absolving him from how he announced it and I agree that it didn’t help his public image.  But he did something even greater than all that albeit in spectacularly stupid and insensitive fashion.  He let the NBA and his fellow superstars know that THEY, and not the powers that be that run their teams or the CBA have the power.  If you are willing to give up a little in terms of compensation from your teams, you can dictate the terms.  That’s real power and that’s real forward thinking.

We were all kind of blind to the situation when it happened but I get it now and moreso when Carmelo asked for a trade.  His intent to go to the Knicks was known and it became front page news in Denver and New York when it leaked that his destination of choice was New York.  He had roots there and wanted to play under the bright lights of a big city.  He was exercising his God-given right to do what he pleased and you want to know why the Nuggets listened?  Because he’s a superstar.  Because he holds weight and if he says he wants to go somewhere he will find a way to get that done regardless of whether it makes sense.  Its that kind of power that makes Kim Kardashian continue to have her show picked up by E!  Its their talent and ability to draw that gives coked up former Hollywood heavyweights the ability to continue making million dollar deals.  No matter what, you can’t ignore talent and can’t tell talent what to do if they know they have the leverage.  And players have always had the leverage and always died to exercise that leverage and no one of Lebron’s stature had done anything close to what he did when he made the Decision.

But the NBA and namely David Stern has been creating this beast slowly but surely over the last 30 years.  The NBA moreso than any other league is star driven.  You don’t come to see the Lakers, you come to see Kobe play.  You don’t come to see the Heat, you come with your Lebron Haterade filled signs and come to see Lebron and D-Wade.  Stars run this league and rightfully so.  Would you pay the high ticket prices to come see Eddy Curry?  No.  You’d ask the Knicks to pay you to see that garbage.  Stern has enabled players to become the superstars and earn the high priced endorsement deals outside of basketball and has given them unseemly amounts of leverage.  It was a calculated risk that worked in the 90’s and its working today in albeit a different form.

The problems ratifying a new CBA this year was linked to Lebron’s Decision from last year for the following reasons: small markets were complaining that this new precedent and formation of super teams would make it impossible for them to convince their star players to stay.  But let’s study the real facts here.  Lebron was drafted by Cleveland in 2003.  Took it to the Finals in 2007.   Got them the number one seed twice in the East.  Gave them seven transcendent seasons and it became a problem that he was leaving.  Seven seasons of dominant basketball, no title, no sign of cap space to sign an extra piece and yet this was Lebron’s problem?  Dirk Nowitzki proved this season that if you surround your superstar with enough good talent you will win.  Lebron’s late game heroics aside, the Cavs only came close ONCE.  Did Lebron quit the last two seasons in Cleveland during inopportune times and did he shrink during the Finals again last year?  Yes.  But the fact remains he does not get the lions share of the blame for him wanting to explore his options.

But it became an even bigger issue when Carmelo Anthony, another 2003 product and close Lebron ally, told Denver management that he wanted to be traded.  The Nuggets as a team have never preached defense during their time and only ONCE did they find a team capable of escaping the first round of the playoffs and yet the blame was laid on Melo’s lap because that’s the gift and curse of the superstars.  In their failures they are given the blame and during their best times they are given the credit.  But for seven seasons with no change in sight suddenly Melo was wrong in wanting a scene change to somewhere he’d rather be.  And now CP3 is asking for virtually the same thing.

I don’t get the villainry angle that is slowly emerging.  Why are they wrong for wanting to do what they want?  Would you be blamed for wanting to better your situation?  Wouldn’t you find it odd that people criticize you for wanting a job at a bigger company?  Are you supposed to be at the same company you were at from the time you entered the workforce forever?

Stars sustain this game no matter how you want to look at it or love it.  The Knicks will always have the advantage of being from New York.  Their failures like the Heat will be displayed on billboards for all to see.  This country loves its underdogs yet it doesn’t remember that they are the big dogs.  They are the world’s bullies.  In much the same way, the NBA’s small market teams like to see itself as underdogs in this situation when they were the bullies that almost torpedoed the season and wound up costing the fans, vendors, local businesses 16 games worth of experience and revenue respectively.

The point is, this whole argument against a player wanting to exercise his lawful right to explore his options is beyond hypocritical.  If you want to criticize someone, do it because Chris Paul is poisoning his team.  He isn’t.  He’s working out with his teammates and trying to keep a level head.  Don’t heap this all on his head and make him the face of this new NBA where players still have the leverage and proclaim it to be a bad thing.

He’s either greedy and a loyalist for staying with the Hornets and taking the biggest contract possible OR he’s another spoiled rotten superstar who gave up the largest possible contract to play for considerably less but be where he wanted to be.  So he’s damned if he does and damned if he don’t.

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