The New York Knicks are off to a fair start. Their 7-6 record isn’t exactly what Golden State is doing, but it is also a far cry from the abominable starts most have come to expect. Moreover, there’s a true sense of optimism in the air within the confines of the fan base.
No one is expecting championship rings, but there’s that pleasant feeling of being relevant in the league and competing every night at a high-level. These are good things.
Heck, some have gone as far to declare the Knicks a potential 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. Compared to last season, that is simply astonishing. Much credit—while rather premature—should be spread around the franchise.
What happens to be strange during all of this, is the fact that all the stories being published about them have very little to do with their actual ability to win games or who should get credit for it. Instead, it is about America’s new favorite foreign-born basketball player, a man with eleventy-billion nicknames, Kristaps Porzingis.
It is understandable, too. At least to a degree. Gawdzingis wasn’t projected to be as productive as he’s been. Couple that with the idea that Phil Jackson (though, he didn’t know what he had either) and squad were initially criticized for the selection, with that and his ability to make highlight level plays every single night, and it all makes sense. We want to love him… I mean, after we hated him.
Unfortunately, we’ve gotten to the point of mythologizing him to such a degree that there’s another player who we have been ignoring. You know, the actual guy who is most directly responsible for New York’s success this season, the much-maligned Carmelo Anthony.
Melo’s biggest issues, throughout his career, have always been rooted in perception vs. reality. First he was a star, then a volume-shooter, after that a ball-hog, culminating with being considered the type of player teams would be unable to win titles with.
Some of it true. He deserves most of the criticism. Yet people have chosen to ignore all the positive aspects about Anthony, on and off the court, to help push the perception of him as some sort of selfish guy that prevents anyone around him from having success.
It goes back to Melo trying to force his way out of Denver. Honestly, hell has no scorn like a person we have nothing to do with using the power he’s acquired through his abilities to help try to better his life. Whether it was financially motivated or not, it was decided by many members of the old-guard that Carmelo Anthony was all those negative things because he did something he wanted to do.
Obviously it didn’t help matters that Melo’s tenure with the Knicks has been a disaster for the most part. Fans and media were quick to pin all the blame on him, as we tend to do that with players we once thought of as stars. But, we also chose to ignore that all the dysfunction is going on behind the scenes (Hi, James Dolan and everything he’s done), and that the roster around him has usually resembled a collection of ho-hum talent more than competent players, all in favor of continuing to push the negative Melo narrative.
Again, to be clear, he’s deserved a lot of it. However, Anthony isn’t nearly given enough credit for all the other things he’s done, been able to do, and continues to do now, even though New York is playing better than wretched hoops.
Let’s get the idea of Melo as a selfish person out of the way first. Simply because a player shoots in mass doesn’t mean he automatically qualifies as some sort of horrible person. It is odd, too, since we are in an age where we criticize athletes for not doing more or not being outspoken enough that Anthony’s contributions off the court only seem to get play from the New York media.
And, even then, it seems to go widely unnoticed by those who simply refuse to acknowledge he might be a more complicated, decent guy than the one folks are determined to remember as the dude with the backpack and weed.
Carmelo Anthony is from Baltimore. Everyone knows this. Somehow, magically even, his work going back home doing charity, standing up for rights, and things of that nature goes under-reported.
Doing such things doesn’t automatically make a person “good” or whatever. Still, Anthony could have gone the route of so many other modern day stars, remained silent on issues, trying to distance himself from a political topic as if it were a contagious disease, but he has been a consistent presence in Baltimore. He’s also done good things for his new home as well.
I get it, though. Many people don’t care to acknowledge that side of Carmelo Anthony. There’s also a population of basketball fans who simply don’t care about the humanity aspects of NBA players at all. To them, it is more about on-the-court success which determines how they view them.
In that vacuum, sure, Melo could be viewed as being historically underwhelming in the success area. Then again, no one ever brings about the context of his situations (roster around him) being the sorts of things very few players would be able to overcome.
Year after year, people have preferred to talk about the flaws in his game. Rather than pointing out his absurd, creative scoring ability, folks tended twist that into a negative: that he shoots too much. People have also been inclined to mention his not playing the 4, as if that was his fault, and some weird misconception that he doesn’t rebound the ball enough despite averaging 7 rebounds per game during his time with the Knicks.
It is there, as perception begins to creep in, where we all get a little silly discussing all players, not just Carmelo Anthony.
Everyone loves the phrase “He’s a 20-10 guy”, but how many guys actually average 20 points and 10 rebounds in a career? How about even in only one season? And we can’t mention this enough; Carmelo Anthony has had to play with very bad to only somewhat competent (mostly) teammates. No matter, he’s not afforded the benefit of the doubt that players with similar numbers, who have played with better rosters and coaches, happen to get.
I am not saying Anthony is better than Kevin Durant. I’m asking, “Why? Why is it we aren’t allowed to acknowledge the similarity in stats and, to a small degree, styles—all while failing to mention that the latter has gotten to play alongside multiple All-Star level players and Melo has played with exactly how many players that were All-Star level guys when they were with New York?”
At the end of the day, sadly, we view players through the narrow-minded lens of wins and losses. This year’s version of Carmelo Anthony, statistically, is not that much different than any other stat-line during his career. And, maybe because of that, few people are talking about Melo being the reason for New York’s relative success this season.
Make no bones with this either, though. We can talk about Kristaps being other-worldly or a plethora of other reasons/guys/horoscopes/magic tricks/etc. for New York seeming like a legit player in the East, but Carmelo Anthony is still the driving force behind where they have been and wherever they end up.
Anthony has always been a far better player than most people like to acknowledge. He’s also been a far more decent, caring person than we have covered. Honestly, he’s yet another complex guy in a world where we try to view everything in black and white. While we’ve been doing that, the ignorant way many of us have gone about painting the perception-picture of him has been not only wrong, but irresponsible.
I think it is time we start to view Carmelo Anthony through that more wide, elongated lens in which we should view all. Because seriously, let’s appreciate all the good things he is capable of before it is gone. He’s no longer a kid. Carmelo Anthony is a 31-year-old man—and he acts like it on and off the court.