Carmelo Anthony is a Marxist. Groucho, that is, the guy who once said, “Hello, I must be going.” Which is essentially what ‘Melo has been saying for lo these many months.
But precisely where is Anthony going? His preferred destination is New York, but the Nyets have initiated another round of discussions with Denver’s too-young and too-greedy front office.
Amid all the rumors and the suppositions, perhaps the most important question is this: Is ‘Melo a good enough player to justify all the hullabaloo?
Here’s what his game looks like:
There’s no doubt that ‘Melo is the most versatile scorer in the league. At 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, his combination of size, strength and quickness are matched only by LeBron James. But Anthony is a better pure shooter than LBJ, his range is superior and he’s a more accomplished post-up scorer.
However, scoring is just about the only item on Melo’s menu. Yes, he can pull-and-shoot left or right, his crossovers are quick and tight, he can fade and flip and he can dunk in the collective faces of hostile big men.
What can’t or won’t he do when the Nuggets have the ball?
• Set or utilize screens, which makes him a bad fit with Amar’e Stoudemire in New York.
• Make snappy decisions with the ball. Indeed, ‘Melo is more comfortable putting the ball on the floor to create his shots than he is in catch-and-shoot situations. Wednesday night against Milwaukee, his teammates became passive spectators while he massaged the ball before making his move. Another characteristic that doesn’t fit with Mike D’Antoni’s speed-ball game plan.
• Pass, unless he’s double-teamed or otherwise under duress.
• Move without the ball, unless he makes a backdoor cut in anticipation of turning a lob pass into a dunk.
• Play hard, unless the rock is in his grasp.
He turns his head, lets himself be bumped out of rebounding position, never boxes out, and would much rather switch than try to maneuver his way past a screen. On one third-quarter sequence against Milwaukee, Anthony had a driving layup unceremoniously blocked and the Bucks were off and running. Instead of hustling back on defense, ‘Melo pouted in the backcourt while Milwaukee eventually scored on a 5-on-4 semi-break.
His total of 12 rebounds against the Bucks is at first glance impressive, yet at least half were captured with nary a white jersey in the immediate vicinity.
What makes his lack of effort on the uphill end of the game so disappointing is that ‘Melo certainly is capable of playing lights-out defense. He proved this by handcuffing Kobe Bryant in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals in 2008. Ah, but then ‘Melo’s encore in the two subsequent games was to disappear.
On Wednesday, he registered 38 points on 16-of-30 shooting as Denver bested the scoring-challenged Bucks. That’s 17 more field-goal attempts than any of his teammates could launch. All well and good since the Nuggets won.
But just the other day, Anthony tallied 50 points as Denver lost in Houston.
In sum, Carmelo Anthony is a multidimensional scoring machine who casually waltzes through the game whenever one of the other nine players on the court has the ball. As such, his numbers are spectacular, but he’s much too selfish and his game plan too incomplete for him to ever be the biggest wheel on a championship team.
• Back in the day, guys who played against Jerry Sloan would end the game with numerous scratches and bruises on their arms and shoulders. Although Sloan never inflicted bodily harm on anybody once he became a coach, his stubborn competitiveness still was in evidence.
Indeed, coach Sloan was so competitive that he demanded his players execute his disciplined offenses with flawless precision. And he was so stubborn that he was reluctant to change his offenses. With only minor adjustments, the Jazz of recent memory ran essentially the same half-court offenses that were designed for Karl Malone and John Stockton.
Too bad Deron Williams is not Stockton. D-Will is an inferior passer, not quite as quick, and has a slightly lower basketball IQ. As such, Williams needed more freedom to do his thing — something that Sloan‘s micromanaging attitude resisted.
When a coach coaches his system and doesn’t coach his players, then sooner or later his players simply tune him out.
For sure, the players knew about Sloan’s longevity and the history of the Jazz reaching the Finals. But most of the players were prepubescent when Utah lost to MJ and company in the 1997 and ’98 championship series.
And what had Sloan done lately? Gone 33-46 in the playoffs? Big deal. Not exactly overwhelming accomplishments that justified his iconic status.
It was a big deal that Sloan was honest to a fault, believed in the enduring verities of the game and refused to compromise his principles. But he should have retired two seasons ago.
All that’s left to say is this: Goodbye Jerry, and thanks for the run.
• What we mostly saw in the fourth quarter of Boston’s win over Miami last Sunday was Cleveland redux. There was LeBron dominating the ball and looking to win the game single-handedly. Which would have been OK if he had gotten the job done.
Unfortunately for the Heat, LBJ missed his last three shots: a 9-foot fade with 6:09 left in the game, a midrange jumper at 2:39, and a driving layup at 2:10. Plus his bricked free throw with 12 seconds left prevented the Heat from tying the score, thereby altering the entire endgame strategy of both teams.
It’s hard to imagine either Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant coming up so short-armed with such a critical contest up for grabs.
• Credit goes to Erik Spoelstra for making a gusty call at the end of that Miami-Boston game, calling Mike Miller’s number to be the designated tie-or-lose shooter at the buzzer. For sure, Miller (40.5 percent lifetime) is clearly a vastly superior 3-point shooter than LBJ (33 percent), and the well-executed play did create an open look for Miller.
On the other hand, Miller had been bench-bound for the entire fourth quarter, hadn’t taken a shot in more than 14 minutes and was in and out of the lineup a total of five times during the last 18 seconds of the game. Meaning that Miller was out of sync when the game was placed in his hands.
Still, the miss was a “good” one, i.e., perfectly centered but off the back rim, so Spoelstra’s decision proved to be right-on, even if Miller’s shot was off.
• As if any further evidence was required, in winning the game under discussion the Celtics proved that they are by far the best team in the East. They are incredibly resourceful, versatile, confident and eager to do whatever it takes — rebound, score, pass, box out, rescue a loose ball, make a timely defensive rotation, screen, curl or cut — to register a W.
In other words, even with Paul Pierce shooting blanks (0 for 10), Boston beat Miami because the Celtics know how to win.
• How wonderful to see that Paul Silas, a genuine good guy, will return to coach the Bobcats next season.