Carmelo Anthony: For the Knicks, he’s no franchise player
Thirteen months ago, New York Knicks owner James Dolan traded for his franchise player: Carmelo Anthony. On Wednesday, Dolan’s franchise continued its predictable implosion. Even for this forever soap opera of a club, this was a wild 24 hours, full of screaming headlines, finger pointing, supposed trade demands, media denials and the eventual resignation/”mutual-decision” departure of coach Mike D’Antoni.
Except for a beautiful few weeks of Linsanity, most of which Anthony was out with an injury, the Carmelo era hasn’t produced much. Players have been run off. Executives dumped. Now half the coaching staff has quit under duress.
Carmelo is the forever happy-go-lucky, passive-aggressor who really just wants to spend his days shooting a basketball. Give him 18, 20, 25 shots a night and he’s smiling. It won’t get you far in the playoffs, but that was obvious during his days in Denver.
Dolan didn’t care and dealt plenty of assets to get Anthony anyway. Then he handed over a $65 million extension and, really, at that point, did anyone doubt all this was coming?
It’s long past time for NBA owners who like to talk tough and bold about top players during labor negotiations to redefine what an actual franchise player is. It’s time for them to stop wilting under the star power. It’s time to acknowledge their brutal decisions.
And, conversely, it wouldn’t hurt some of the players to consider what the job entails either.
[ Related: Mike D’Antoni resigns as Knicks coach ]
Whether Anthony’s act in New York or Dwight Howard’s flip-flopping in Orlando, it’s obvious that some players are brilliant talents and others are brilliant talents who truly can lead a club.
A franchise player cares about the franchise, cares about making his teammates better, cares about helping whatever supporting cast comes and goes (and role players are always coming and going) mesh to the best of its abilities.
Carmelo Anthony wants to play basketball the way he always has played basketball, as the unmitigated star of the team that remains option Nos. 1, 2 and 3 on the offensive end. The guy can score. He can score in the clutch.
This mentality made him one of the best players in the world, earned a kid from hardscrabble Baltimore untold millions and delivered what appears to be a rather content life.
It just doesn’t make him a franchise player.
Dolan fell for this. He brought a guy in who had a clear track record of how he would behave. Now that he has behaved exactly the same way as he always has, it goes back to the owner.
This also isn’t fun for Carmelo. He wants to be loved. He didn’t come to New York to get ripped in the tabloids and booed at the Garden. He’s finding out the hard way that the grass of free agency, especially the grass in the biggest of markets, isn’t all that green. Dwight Howard might want to consider that.
[Y! Sports Radio: Adrian Wojnarowski dissects the Knicks’ front-office decisions ]
The Knicks won with Jeremy Lin running D’Antoni’s offense with aplomb. It was a glorious stretch and, sure, it wasn’t going to last – opposing players would slow Lin and the competition would stiffen – but this at least was a team to enjoy and believe in. Lin needed players who knew their roles, and Carmelo Anthony is no role player.
Forget all the talk in this drama – no one is telling the whole truth. The results, the body language – the fact the Knicks fell apart as fast as they had come together – explain the entire situation.
Anthony needed to be reined in, coached up, pushed into places he didn’t want to go. Instead he was empowered with money and influence. Chauncey Billups was discarded. Donnie Walsh was dumped. Not even the power and energy of the Lin-led win streak could show Carmelo there was a different way – or give D’Antoni the juice to convince his supposed franchise player to buy into the plan.
D’Antoni always has had a reputation as a coach that avoided direct confrontation. He’s not entirely without fault here, either. He’s a player’s coach, the guy with the system that everyone enjoys playing. There’s a core of Knicks who came to play for him and now must wonder what comes next.
It’s likely to be more of the same.
The franchise owner made the fatal flaw of handing over the title of franchise player to someone that lacks – other than supreme talent – almost every known characteristic of the job.
Either the franchise or the player has to change. Neither the Knicks nor Anthony did. This is what James Dolan built, this is the drama he all but assured.
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