You have to admit, it makes sense why Knicks fans want to believe Carmelo Anthony coming back is a bad thing. 4 Pennsylvania Plaza was ripe for an underdog story after watching 10 years of overpaid and overhyped divas running the Garden and her reputation into the ground. In the great free agency summer of 2010 they had to overpay Amare Stoudamire to come plant his flag at the “World’s Greatest Arena”. The Knicks were passed over by Lebron, Wade and others who did not want the burden of turning the storied franchise around. And then magic happened, the 2010 Knicks were off to a lightning start and just as quickly as the Garden started to sell out again, the Carmelo Anthony trade happened. To some, Melo was the next piece of the puzzle, to others; the Melo trade was a repeat of the bad decisions which had plagued the Knicks. The euphoria of the first Knicks playoff game since April 25, 2004 was palpable. If you had gone to the movies that day back in 2004 you would have seen either “The Whole Ten Yards”, “The Punisher” or lets face it, you probably would have seen ”The Girl Next Door”. Hell, even “Friends” had a month left in existence. Did they ever find out who’s baby that was? Nonetheless, the 2011 playoff series was a long time coming. And just as quickly as it came it went, along with your overpriced playoff tickets, as the Knicks were swept by the Celtics.
And then 2011 started and the strike shortened season was upon us. We saw quickly that Toney Douglas cannot shoot or pass and that germaphobe Mike Bibby covers his seats with towels but does not cover much else. Every week it just got worse. And then catastrophe hit. The Knicks, falling out of the playoffs and into the abyss, lost their two stars. STAT to his brother’s death and Melo to an injured groin. But as the old saying goes, a door closes and a window opens. And through this window Knicks fans saw their opportunity in a young, unwanted and unknown guard, Jeremy Lin.
Jeremy Lin is a lot like Knicks fans. He has had his heart broken by the NBA time after time over the last few years. Much like Knicks fans, he has been tossed around, lied to and cannot remember the last season where he was given a fair shot. And just like the Knicks faithful, Jeremy Lin loves basketball and loves to play at the Garden. And he is such a nice guy, respectful of the game, his teammates and coaches. And the couch thing? Sigh. As they say at Girls Gone Wild, this movie is filming itself. Jeremy Lin has the Garden rocking and relevant in a way that neither Melo nor STAT could pull off since they arrived.
So…anyone else see Carmelo texting on the bench during the Knicks loss to the Hornets? Or him hugging Kobe Bryant in the middle of the 3rd quarter during a Lakers timeout? Or just the fact that the game he hurt his groin he came back dressed like a high schooler instead of in Knicks warmup gear? Yes I know everyone does it. But that does not make it ok. The individualism and self branding of the NBA’s players and most of all its superstars is maddening. D’Antoni should have kicked him off the bench for any one of those slights against his team. So why would the Knicks want Carmelo to come back and ruin all this?
Take a look at the winning streak. Could it be more of an underdog story? The Knicks had an Ivy League point guard of Asian descent leading the charge. He was dishing to a plodding white journeyman who looks like an All State agent but is a dead eye marksman, yes this means you Steve Novak. Lin was throwing alley-oops to Tyson Chandler, the heart and soul defensive center for the defending champion Mavericks who discarded him because they had their eye on Dwight Howard’s impending free agency. How about the way he dished to Landry Fields, Spike Lee’s “Muddy”, who is blossoming with Melo out? Or how he made perfect harmony in pairing with rookie Iman Shumpert, who has the swagger of a young Chris Childs? Why in the world would Knicks fans want to ever see Carmelo Anthony again? Would he not make a mess of these plucky underdogs? If we don’t get to my point soon I may forget why they need him at all.
Because when the playoffs come, you need a guy like Carmelo Anthony to win games. There will be times in the playoffs when the court slows down to a grind. These were the games D’Antoni’s Suns always lost. Once the fun ‘n’ gun was slowed to an aim ‘n’ shoot as the intensity level peaked in the playoffs, the Suns were shown the door year after year. Yes it was the poor defense as well but the Suns were losing the half court game on both sides. And these Knicks play defense. But here is where the Knicks will be different, why it is logical to expect a Knicks NBA Championship in 2012, because they have Carmelo Anthony, the best off the ball scorer in the league. And boy does he want the ball when the game is on the line. Just ask a Laker fan or a Miami fan how important that is in a superstar. The best part is in crunchtime teams will have to guard Lin wherever he is on the floor, they will have to box out Chandler, they will have to come out on STAT and they will have to chase around JR. So Melo should have room to operate, and if not he is a good enough passer to find the open man. Or he won’t pass and he should have and whatever, odds are the guy will score if he gets even the slightest daylight.
A starting lineup of:
PG – Jeremy Lin. Look up a scoring record for first 8 games started and his name is mentioned with LeBron James. Except that Lin scores in all 4 quarters.
SG – JR Smith. 40% average from 3 point range over the last 4 years. Perfect for the spacing of D’Antoni’s offense. Is it me or is D’Antoni’s offense starting to make sense? Even the writers are doing a better job explaining it since Lin took over. The whole doughnut hole thing. On offense all the players set up in a circle, leaving what looks like a doughnut hole in the middle of the floor. Its pretty ingenius. Especially when you have a guard who can penetrate and make the defense collapse and players on the perimeter who can shoot a high percentage.
SF- Carmelo Anthony. The Jman brough up a great quote the other night, here it is: ”Carmelo was the ultimate team player,” offered USA Senior Men’s National Team head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “He had an outstanding summer, starting with our training camp in Las Vegas and ending with being a dominant player in the FIBA World Championship. He was a man after victories and showed how classy and mature he was in our one defeat. I love the way he plays the game, but I love the way he carries himself as a leader on the Senior National Team even better. He is very deserving of this award. With Carmelo, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James as the core of our National Team over the next two years, we have a lot to look forward to in USA Basketball.” This is Coach K, the guy who runs one of the classiest basketball dynasties in college hoops history. So maybe Knicks fans are being a bit harsh?
PF – Amar’e Stoudamire. He gets a pass on these last few games for playing so soon after losing his brother. He should still be home. He came here when no one else wanted to take a chance. Lin will be good for him. D’Antoni will need to figure out a way to make this work. Maybe a first team offense with Lin and STAT (why is this nickname almost always in all caps? is it a sabermetric thing?) and a second team offense with Melo as a point forward and Shumpert guarding the opposing PG? Maybe the other way around?
C- Tyson Chandler. This player is the key. None other than Zeke Thomas called his signing a bad move by the Knicks. So that probably is a good thing. He is vocal, which D’Antoni is not. He has a defensive presence and imposes this attitude on his teammates, which Melo and STAT did not do. And he has a ring, so everyone is listening when he talks. Dallas said getting him was the key to their NBA Championship run. New York may soon be saying the same thing.
When you add in Shumpert (top rookie in steals after Rubio), Jeffries (who has added a 15 footer to his bag of tricks), Fields (who hopefully has regained his confidence during this last run) and Baron Davis (who plays better the brighter the lights get) and you have a deep, well balanced roster which can contend with any team in the playoffs.
It is time to be realistic about Melo and all this nonsense about the Knicks being better off without him. When there are 10 seconds left in the game and the Knicks need a bucket to advance or win the Finals, it will be Melo who takes the shot. It will be Lin who started this, as a team they will continue it and it will be Melo in the end. The only question remains, will Melo have enough Jeremy Lin in him to close the deal?