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HOOPS EVERY DAY
StraightHoops Is The #1 Basketball Blog On The Web - Hoops Every Day
June 14, 2014
By Anthony J. Fredella
NEW YORK, New York - Reports are out that Carmelo Anthony is opting out of the final year of his contract with the New York Knicks to test free agency. Why is this news? Didn't he say he was going to do this like six months ago? Well, it's news because the media loves the Melo story, and the fact that it involves a New York sports team certainly makes it that much more interesting. And now to add a little more juice to the story, it's been reported that the Miami Heat are going to take a shot at the Carmelo Anthony Sweepstakes. Put that all together and you get massive sports media headlines and talking points, not to mention unfathomable social media buzz. So why don't we take a stab at Melo Mania, too.
First, let's discuss why everyone loves to talk about Carmelo - it's because he can put the ball in the basket, like a lot. He's a scorer, and Americans love scorers, no matter the sport. Americans love exciting, fast paced, up and down, back and forth, high scoring athletic events. It's why soccer still hasn't caught on here like it has all across the rest of the world. We don't like 1-0 games after 90 minutes of non-stop play. We like to see the Golden State Warriors score 157 points. We like to see Tom Brady throw five touchdown passes. We like to see Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire hitting 66 and 70 home runs in a season. And yes, we like to see Carmelo Anthony drop 62 on the Bobcats. That's the American way, when it comes to sports at least. And Carmelo Anthony throws touchdowns. He hits a lot of home runs. Hell, he scores a lot of goals (didn't forget about you hockey). And yes, he makes a lot of baskets - 27.4 ppg this season - good enough for 2nd in the NBA. So when a guy like that wants to become a free agent, everyone likes to get all up in arms over it. Hey, Melo's gonna go there. Melo's gonna come here. He might go there even. It's exciting. But here is something that Carmelo Anthony really doesn't do - win basketball games. Sorry, but it's true.
In 11 seasons in the NBA, Carmelo Anthony has advanced past the 1st round of the playoffs twice. He's made it to the Conference Finals once, and has never played in an NBA Finals. Do you know why? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but it's mostly because he shoots too much, he's not really a "team first guy," and he plays absolutely no defense - like none. Call me a Melo Hater, call me anti-Knicks, call me whatever you want, but don't say that I'm not speaking the truth. Carmelo Anthony shot the ball a league high 21.34 times per game this past season and yeah, I know, the Knicks don't have anyone else on the team to shoot the ball. Well neither do the Minnesota Timberwolves, but Anthony took 3 more shots per game than Kevin Love did this season and Minnesota's next best player is Kevin Martin. Oh, and the T'Wolves won 3 more games this season than the Knicks did, and they play in the much tougher Western Conference. Just face it, Carmelo likes to shoot, so he does - a lot. No matter if it's working for the team or not. And therein lies the major, major problem with Carmelo Anthony - he plays his game, and that's it. He's not one to adjust his style of play if something isn't working. Maybe after 11 NBA seasons you would realize that the iso-Melo play is not going to win you a chip. Team play and defense wins championships, not one-on-one jump shooters. Don't believe me? Maybe you should watch the NBA Finals and how guys like Manu Ginobilli, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Boris Diaw are dismantling LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat with their ball movement. I know that it's not sexy, but it works, and it wins titles. And that's what it's all about right? Winning championships?
But then maybe Phil Jackson can change Carmelo Anthony's game. Maybe he can get him to buy into the team play, the triangle offense, maybe he can even get him to D up. Phil is the master, right? But then again, that's only if he can first convince Carmelo to re-sign with the Knicks, and that's a big "if." The Knicks are an absolute mess right now, yes even after hiring Derek Fisher as the new head coach. Fisher is only the first step down a long, long road. The Knicks should be in a rebuilding mode right now, but they don't have the ability to re-build. They have no money to spend and no draft picks in 2014. They are coming off of a 37-win season and next year does not look any brighter. The only enticing aspect of re-signing with the Knicks right now for Melo is the financial factor - the Knicks can offer him the most years for the most amount of money. So, if he's just looking for money, then the Knicks are the logical choice. If he's looking to win, well, then Phil Jackson has some convincing to do. Jackson will need to convince Carmelo Anthony that the Knicks are committed to winning as well and that they will use their available money in the summer of 2015 to bring in some much needed help, like Love, or Rajon Rondo, or Kenneth Faried, or maybe even go after Kyrie Irving or Tony Parker - guys that will all be free agents next summer (although some will be restricted free agents). But to sell Melo on that idea, he'll first have to accept the fact that 2014-15 will probably not be any better than 2013-14. Maybe a few wins better, maybe even a low playoff seed, but definitely not a contender.
Now, let's look at some of the teams that will try and entice Carmelo Anthony to flee the Big Apple and come and play for them this summer - most notably, there's the Lakers, Rockets, Bulls, and now, the Heat. We already told you last year why Melo teaming up with Kobe Byant in LA to play with the Lakers would be an absolute disaster. All those reasons still ring true. I just don't see either playing with the other for a long stretch of time. Both are scorers, but Kobe plays with a fierce, intensive desire to win that, to date, Melo has not shown. That'll be an issue if they're on the court together. That's why it's just not a good idea.
As for the Rockets, well, they already have a guy that loves being the guy, and loves to shoot and not play defense in James Harden. Do they really need another? With Harden, Anthony and Jeremy Lin on the same defensive court, the Rockets could possibly give up 200 points in a game. But then again, that's what people want to see, right? SMH. The Rockets also already have a guy that loves to get all of the attention and tries hard to disrupt the team chemistry in Dwight Howard. So I really don't see the Melo fit in Houston either. And financially, I'm not even sure the Rockets can make it happen.
What about the Heat? Could "The Big Four" be a possibility? Not likely. I think Pat Riley is way too smart of a team executive to make any real effort to bring Carmelo Anthony in. If you haven't notice while watching the NBA Finals, the Heat's deficiencies right now are point guard play, defense, and rim protection. Carmelo Anthony solves none of those problems and even helps to worsen one - defense. The Miami Heat have no problems on the scoring end of the floor, so why bring in a guy that only adds scoring to your roster? Plus, there would need to be some serious restructuring of contracts for Melo to be on the Heat next season. And even with those restructurings, the Heat could still not offer Melo anywhere close to what other teams can offer monetarily wise. So, it's a great talking point and a great issue to argue and give an opinion about, but it is not a reality. Melo will not be taking his talents to South Beach this summer.
That leaves the Chicago Bulls. In my mind, the Bulls are the most interesting of the potential locations for Melo, and the most likely landing spot should he choose to leave New York. For starters, he fits into their scheme there. Yes they already have Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, but those are the exact types of players that Anthony needs around him to flourish. A highly skilled and intense defensive big man in Noah, and a star ball handling guard that can score in Rose. Think about it: what better way to open up the floor for Melo then to have a guard with Rose's ability to get to the basket? And with Noah and PF Taj Gibson behind him, and SG Jimmy Butler on the perimeter, Melo's lackadaisical defensive skills can be shielded nicely. In order to bring Carmelo Anthony in, however, the Bulls will need to convince him to accept less money than he can garner from the Knicks, and they will then need to amnesty Carlos Boozer and get rid of Mike Dunleavy. That should be enough money there to keep Melo paid. All in all, I think Carmelo Anthony fits in better with the Bulls then he does with the Knicks. And if he is interesting in winning a championship as quickly as possible, well then Chicago is the place for him.
The ultimate decision will obviously be up to Carmelo Anthony and his family, and it will probably depend on what he actually wants: does he want the money, a chance at a ring or just some headlines? The answer to that will define where he chooses to play basketball next season. No matter the choice, Melo will continue to grab home run hitting headlines - it's the American way.