Perhaps the most jarring aspect of Thursday night's Celtics/Nuggets tilt, despite the incredible amount of missed layups, was the candid aside Nuggets coach George Karl gave to TNT regarding former Nugget Carmelo Anthony(notes), and his dodgy defense.
The opening salvo:
Shocking words for people who have never seen Carmelo Anthony play basketball. He stinks on defense. That's never been in question.
But for Karl, even while pointing out Anthony's good points (George has coached over 1,700 NBA games, so to be "the best offensive player" Karl has ever coached is a pretty good thing), this seemed a little needless. And in the wake of half a year's worth of soap opera nonsense regarding Anthony's non-demand trade demand, the comments came off as sour grapes.
Or sour snakes. Let's let Anthony's Twitter reaction tell his side.
I've never heard that one before, Carmelo, but this gets even better.
Friday, the New York Daily News' Frank Isola caught up with Anthony at Knicks practice, and got a reaction longer than 140 characters:
"That's him. That's George Karl so I don't really try to pay too much attention to that. I know what I've done there in the 7 1/2 years I've been there; going to the Western Conference Finals. Last year, we were top five in a lot of categories. All that stuff, I don't know where it's coming from. I try not to pay too much attention to it."
Anthony might be referring to field-goal percentage defense or some such twaddle in his "top five" defense, but the real mark of a great team defense is points allowed. And because teams play at disparate paces, you have to account for possession counts, otherwise you'd think that the 1996 Cleveland Cavaliers were the best defensive team of all time. And Anthony's Nuggets, back in 2009 when they made the conference finals, were eighth in points allowed, pace-adjusted. That's pretty good. That was a tremendous basketball team, with Anthony and new Knick Chauncey Billups(notes) leading the way.
Still, Denver dropped to 16th in defensive efficiency (points allowed per possession) last season and 20th this year. And Anthony stinks on defense. And nobody is coming out of this looking good. Especially when you confuse "cease" with "seize," Carmelo.
That's the story now, though. There's no shame in having some pretty raw emotions after what Anthony and the Nuggets have just been through.
New York and its Knicks? They couldn't care in the slightest, so long as Carmelo keeps pumping up 27 points on three hours rest. This team is a few years removed from counting Jared Jeffries as a major acquisition, so it'll take the defensively iffy All-Star, warts and all.