The New York Knicks locker room must be what it is like to be eight, with parents who fight all the time despite being the types who like to pretend the kids do not notice.
There is no screaming. There are no ugly words. There is just this cloud of dysfunction and tension hanging over everything that happens, revealing itself in pregnant pauses and a complete lack of honesty on any topic and, mostly, specifically on the subject of what is wrong.
Something has gone terribly wrong in New York, as evidenced by the Knicks’ abbreviated Texas swing. And losing in Dallas and San Antonio was only part of the problem.
The Knicks have a Carmelo Anthony problem, and not the one so many pretend they have.
The problem is not that he is a bad teammate. Whether he is or is not is beside the point anyway. The problem is he is not getting enough touches, or at least not consistently. Here is your best player and he was sitting on the bench for a good hunk of the fourth quarter in the Dallas loss Tuesday.
In fairness, the Knicks were making a run. But we are talking about their superstar, their “The Guy," and I just do not see how whatever it is the Knicks are trying to do works without him.
Yet his six-point performance was being billed as a ‘Melo problem, as is the Knicks’ 2-5 record since Anthony returned from injury, as is the slow decline of Jeremy Lin and Linsanity in that time frame.
This is the dysfunction I am talking about and it was on display in the aftermath of the Knicks’ loss to the Mavericks. The locker room was this crazy dance as everybody tried to avoid the elephant in the room — Linsanity and Melodrama have been struggling to develop chemistry together.
‘Melo left without talking to media.
Instigative journalism, a term lovingly coined by The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, awaited him. “Dirk Nowitzki was struggling down the stretch and the Mavs kept feeding him, isn’t that what needs to happen with you?” Or so the questions went. He mumbled something about trying to fit in.
“I think any time you go from the early part of the season, just having the ball and me just having the ball and being the distributor, and now just running the wings and waiting for the ball to come to me, that’s quite an adjustment for myself,” ‘Melo said from behind tinted glasses that hid his level of displeasure with this reality.
My guess is it’s a high level, and rightfully so.
The Dirk point is a fair one, even if there was no good way for ‘Melo to answer the question. The NBA is all about comparables. Their games are not the same but their value to their respective teams is. As good as Lin was and as much insanity as he inspired, this is not his team. Amar’e is great but he is older with cranky knees.
So the guy is ‘Melo.
I know, I know all of the complaints. ‘Melo doesn’t do enough when the ball is not in his hands. He is the rare species of shooter who shoots better after he has handled the ball for a few seconds. He does not create his shots or cut to the basket. These were all true before the Knicks signed him. None of this is new. This is who he is and good teams figure out how to work with what their best player does best. I really believe ‘Melo is trying to fit in — and Linsanity has boxed him in, politically, even if he were not so motivated — and so he’s not demanding the ball enough.
What has to happen is Lin and ‘Melo need to learn to play together. To share, as I like to tell my 3-year-old. This is not easy, this coming together, even for the greatest players in the world as LeBron and D-Wade have demonstrated for the class. This is not a Lin problem.
He is trying, too. The reality is this is a huge challenge.
What the Knicks are trying to do takes time, and time is the one thing the compressed schedule has very little of. So the kinks will have to be worked out on the floor. And, yes, ‘Melo will have to go to the basket more.
Not too much more, though.
This is his team, and the dysfunction is caused because nobody will say so.