When Carmelo Anthony was traded to the New York Knicks a couple of seasons ago, fans and even some in the media pegged it as the move that made the Knicks an instant threat. Melo, they said, was the superstar New York needed to carry them deep into the playoffs and back to respectability.
But so far, it has not panned out. There is no real need to rehash every little detail. The Knicks gave up all of their decent role players to acquire Melo, leaving them with no real support system. They put Anthony, a game-grinding, slow the ball down, isolation player on a team coached by Mike D'Antoni, the "seven seconds or less" offense guy. And they spent a lot of money on players that did not quite work so well with one another.
So D'Antoni's out, a few new players are in, and everyone is going to have to make some adjustments.
Carmelo Anthony, an All-Star at small forward, played arguably his best basketball at power forward last season.
But if it's up to him, he won't be playing there much this season.
"Right now, we have guys in that position. We want to keep it like that," Anthony said Monday when asked about playing more power forward this year. "I'd rather play my natural position then go down there and play the 4, the 5 and things that I don't really want to do. So with the guys that we have now, I find that we're definitely that much more effective."
When asked if he meant that, as long as his teammates remain healthy, his preference is to play the wing, Anthony said, "Absolutely.
One of the bright spots of the post-D'Antoni offense was Carmelo posting up a lot more. He is quicker than a lot of fours trying to guard him. He is a threat to draw bigger players away from the basket, thus opening more space for everyone, and he is just plain good on the block.
Yet, in typical, unrelenting Carmelo Anthony fashion, it is not about the team. It is about Melo getting the glory of being a wing guy.
And isn't that what the move to New York has always been about? Melo's glory? Melo joining his perceived rightful place along side LeBron and Kobe and Durant as the league's few megastars?
Melo was not the only big name asked to play a position he was not used to last season. Boston's Kevin Garnett made a much-publicized switch from power forward to center, and that just so happened to coincide with a 24-10 post-All Star Celtics run, and a post-season that didn't end until Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
I hate the five spot,” Garnett said, as if on autopilot. “You put me anywhere on the floor I’m going to play it to the best of my ability. It’s not a preference of mine but it’s something my team needs so I don’t think about it.
I hate it, but I will do it. No roundabout "you'd better not do that to me" messages through the media to his coach. No "but what about these guys?" types of comments. It's just a flat-out "I've been given my orders, so I will execute them to the best of my abilities."
With Doc Rivers’ system, it’s much like Cuba. You really don’t have a lot of say. It’s the Doc Rivers show and if you don’t like it, then you find another show to be a part of. I understood it from day one that I got here, so if he needs me to play the five — it’s my dislike and things I don’t like — but I’ll do anything for him. He asked me to play the five and he thought it would be better for our team, so that’s what it was.”
Garnett has all sorts of clout. He has been the highest paid player on the team. He is one of the best players in NBA history. His absence absolutely destroys the Celtics chances of winning. If anyone could make waves, be difficult, and dictate how things would work, it is Garnett.
But he doesn't. Because Doc Rivers, GM Danny Ainge, and the ownership group do not play that game. Doc is in charge. There is no question about that.
Back to New York… Does Mike Woodson have the kind of stroke needed to keep Melo in check?
I will wait for you to stop laughing,
Of course he doesn't. Because the Knicks front office and ownership has been a farce. Even when a competent individual did manage his way into the driver's seat, ownership's meddling negated it all. Now, a guy like Melo can whine his way past his coach and put pressure on him from both ends to keep him happy. If he didn't, then Mike D'Antoni might still have a job.
No, Carmelo Anthony will not play power forward this year because he just doesn't wanna! And if Uncle Mike makes him, he will just hold his breath until Daddy Dolan comes down and makes it all better.
The Knicks have a talented group of guys. They have an opportunity to make a run, grab a middle seed, and be one of those dangerous playoff teams that can get really hot and do some serious damage. But it is going to take a team effort. It is going to take personal sacrifice for the advancement of the whole.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, their star player cares more about the spotlight and how the credit is doled out than doing everything necessary for the team to win. Playing more minutes at the four makes sense to everyone, except to the guy they need to actually do it.
(Photos: Getty Images)