Ball Don't Lie

On Carmelo Anthony, Mike D’Antoni, organizational cultures and that deep, dark, truthful mirror

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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Carmelo Anthony and Mike D'Antoni no longer have one another to kick around. (Getty Images)

I don't think the New York Knicks are going to trade Carmelo Anthony by Thursday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. Mitch Lawrence can suggest mega-deals; angry fans can jam players, salaries and draft picks into trade machines; sports talk radio hosts can rant and rave about running 'Melo out of town on a rail. But I don't see it.

For one thing, Anthony just told the world that he's "sick to his stomach" of hearing that he allegedly wants to be traded, a story first reported by Marc Berman, citing "a confidant" and "a person familiar with ['Melo's] thinking," in Wednesday morning's New York Post. You could certainly read the tweet as a non-denial denial issued for PR purposes that doesn't preclude Anthony's representation from working on an escape plan, but it seems, at least, to indicate that he's not actively forcing his way out of town.

[ Y! Sports Radio: Adrian Wojnarowski breaks down the Knicks' front-office moves ]

For another, Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni, with whom Anthony was reportedly feuding for control of the New York locker room, just resigned his head-coaching position, according to Yahoo! Sports NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski. So, problem solved! (More on this in a second, and later today, and probably forever. Obviously.)

For a third, any blockbuster move proposed at this stage of the game seems unrealistic from a logistical perspective. You need two things in large quantities when working to convince another general manager to take on $67.2 million worth of sulking 40 percent shooting — time and finesse. The encroaching deadline means the Knicks don't have the former. The last, oh, 13 years of institutional history suggest they don't have the latter.

Still, fans, writers and talking heads will continue to lash out in frustration, because the Knicks are in a tailspin, having won just two of their last 10 games to fall out of the Eastern Conference's top eight. And because everywhere you look, someone "connected to" or "with knowledge of the thinking of" a Knick is talking to a reporter about the team's roiling identity crisis. And because two ready-made suspects, Anthony and the now-former coach, stand right in front of the burning Garden, giving anyone who is looking their choice of arsonists to blame.

At this point, who lit the match matters less to most than punishing someone for how fast the building went up. Me, I'd want the cops to question the guy in charge of construction, but I guess he's nowhere to be found these days.

No matter the source of the sickness inside the New York locker room, the search for the cure will focus outside — on which Knicks need to go there, on which other teams' players would solve the problems, on what promises of salvation lie in MontanaUtah or parts unknown as the team seeks post-D'Antoni guidance.

When the question involves the Knicks, the answer always has to come from outside. Looking inward would mean taking responsibility for what's gone wrong — personally, professionally, organizationally. And because the Knicks are, as our Fearless Leader wrote on Tuesday, behaving exactly like the New York Knicksthat ain't about to happen.

Starting with the man in the mirror would mean that Anthony would have to realize that grumping his way through offensive possessions not ceded to him by birthright and giving summer-school effort on the defensive end aren't evidence of an organizational conspiracy to keep him out of the spotlight. He doesn't seem particularly interested in that; since late February, his Twitter account's avatar image has been the iconic April 1968 Esquire cover of Muhammad Ali being impaled by arrows, an evocation of the martyr St. Sebastian, which accompanied a piece defending Ali against pillory from the public for refusing induction into the U.S. Army on the basis of his religious beliefs.

(Then again, maybe Anthony just likes great art direction. He told CBSSports.com's Ken Berger that he has a blown-up version of that Ali picture in his house and that he isn't feeling persecuted; rather, that he just has feelings. "I'm human, that's all.")

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Jim Dolan, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire in happier times. (Getty Images)

It would mean that Jim Dolan, the great and terrible Oz behind the curtain of this mess, would have to acknowledge that bigfooting Donnie Walsh on the 'Melo trade betrayed the blueprint. He'd have to recognize that jettisoning the lone grown-up in the Knicks front office, the man who had fielded a young, deep, flexible New York team that had been playing the exciting brand of ball that everyone envisioned when D'Antoni was hired, was rash and ill-considered.

It would mean that someone — anyone, although it'd be especially neat if it was starting power forward Amar'e Stoudemire — would have to bust his ass for the final two seconds of a possession and get a [EXPLETIVE] offensive rebound.

It would mean that everyone complaining to buddies in the shadows about how they're not getting enough of management's ear, how they're not getting enough of the ball, how they're not getting enough respect and how they're not getting enough love would have to take two seconds out of their day, listen to Don Draper, and just go to work.

In the end, it seems the only one who actually did take that look in the mirror was D'Antoni, and when he saw what was staring back at him — a dead man walking — he made a decision. He stepped away. Had he made more decisions sooner — say, realizing that while his system was successful in Phoenix and in that brief, shining moment of Linsanity, adjusting to suit his most talented player's skill set was painful but likely necessary — we may not have arrived here, or at least not have arrived here with this level of acrimony. Alas.

It'd be really nice if all the other players involved in this badly acted drama had that staredown with the mirror, too. As a Knicks fan, I sure wish that's what would happen next. As I read and re-read all the reports this morning, though, all I could think of was something my father, a 33-year grinder with the New York Police Department, used to say: "Wish in one hand and s*** in the other, Daniel, and see which one fills up first." Everybody involved with the New York Knicks organization sure seems to have a handful right about now.

The beauty part is, D'Antoni's resignation isn't the end of this by a long shot. Maybe the issue wasn't D'Antoni at all; maybe the New York Times' Howard Beck is right and 'Melo is the one who's lost the team. Maybe everyone who reported cancerous whispers was right and, at this point, Manhattan is officially an island of misfit toys with no hope, no pride, no present and no future.

If that's the case, then Charlie Zegers is probably right — the best thing this team can hope for is another skin-of-its-teeth playoff berth, another fast and merciless first-round exit, and another round of calls for a new savior, a new drug, a new distraction. That's become the ceiling for these New York Knicks. It's the best you can expect with an organizational culture that believes today's too late and nothing's ever good enough. That's the funny thing about perpetually sailing toward horizons. You never actually reach them, because they don't actually exist.

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