Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Bucks 101, Knicks 98: Harshing My Melo

I mean, what’s left to say?  Certainly nothing useful, or particularly insightful, or even marginally comforting.  The Knicks are not only a bad basketball team but the worst kind of bad basketball team: the kind that is good enough to invoke sporadic hope but sufficiently inept to ensure that it’s promptly and consistently crushed.  The kind without a draft pick or a young centerpiece or a long-term plan beyond “make money, spend it on ‘marquee’ players, don’t let the haters get you down.”

This paragraph will be the only place that I mention Mike Woodson, who regardless of the amount of blame to which he’s entitled is at best entirely incapable of doing anything about any of a great number of the issues plaguing this team.  It will be the only place that I mention Ray Felton, who appears physically outclassed by his counterpart with such regularity that it’s almost pointless to continue cataloging his frequent shortcomings.  It will be the only place I mention Tyson Chandler, from whom I expect more, or Amar’e Stoudemire, from whom I sadly do not.  JR, you were good tonight, now for the straightforward but daunting task of simply doing it again and again.  Shump, there must be another gear — find it.  Timmy, shake this one off.  Pablo, if only you were a few years younger; Jeremy, perhaps if you were a few years older.  This paragraph is for all of you and here you’ll all stay because I need to talk about Carmelo Anthony.

It’s hard to remember it now but there was a time way back at the beginning when, for those trying to build a narrative around the young 2003 NBA Draft Class, LeBron James was the “individual stats” guy and Carmelo Anthony was the “team success” guy.  James was Rookie of the Year and the latest, truest heir apparent to the Jordan Throne, but his 2003-04 Cavs won just 35 games.  Melo, on the other hand, was an NCAA champion and his Nuggets were playoff-bound from the start and he polled a now-surprising 40 of 118 first place ROY votes, no doubt from the same types of people who now want you to believe that that Peyton Manning’s legacy was forever tarnished on Sunday night at Giants Stadium, because #rangz.

You know the rest of the story: LeBron’s ascent – both individually and in terms of team success – has been meteoric, his stardom unimpeachable, and while the narratives circled him like sharks after his move to Miami angered the Hot Take gods, two titles and an unprecedented run of all-around greatness have reduced their shrieking to a low hum and generally left his viewing public — while still divided on whether to root for him — in near-unanimous awe.

Carmelo’s path has been more checkered, his improvements more subtle, his value more hotly (and intelligently) debated, his labeling more elusive.  Certainly, though, and despite an unblemished streak of playoff appearances, the idea of Carmelo-as-paragon-of-team-success is long dead — words like “one-dimensional” and “selfish” and “egotistical” follow close at every turn, having climaxed with his self-orchestrated trade to New York and, unlike LeBron, heretofore unsoothed by the salve of championship success.  And all of this has brought us to a place where, for all but the most delusional of Melophiles, the very premise of these last few sentences — which is to say a side-by-side discussion of James and Anthony —  seems trivial at best, misleading at worst.

But I guess my point is this: the perceptions of many are colored by narratives which are shaped by the impressions or impulses of few.  And the color and the shape of Carmelo Anthony’s career arc in the minds of the multitudes have never been able to shake the fact that his journey has been intertwined, since the moment of its origin story, with that of the most supremely gifted human being ever to play Carmelo’s position.  Which is not to paint Anthony as a stutter-stepping Salieri to LeBron’s Wolfgang Amadeus, but rather to ask you the following question and beg your introspection and candor: When you say it’s silly to compare James and Anthony, as you surely do, aren’t you still sort of doing exactly that somewhere in the recesses of your subconscious?

Another question: had Melo’s time and place been reversed with that of his childhood hero, would Anthony be the beloved folk hero and Bernard King the prodigal son whose gifts had been squandered, his flaws laid bare under the dazzling light of a contemporary who seemed to have none?

Anthony is a long way from perfect but to obsess over his failings — as player, teammate, person — is to ask too complex a question and settle for to simple an answer.  To call him one-dimensional is to reduce all the elements of offensive basketball — boundless in their breadth, depth, and nuance — into a single elementary rating.  To say that he is selfish or lazy or disloyal or uncaring is simply to announce that you have not been watching the Knicks this season.

I’m focusing on all of this, and choosing to do so today, because of what is happening a few months from now and its connection to what happened last night.  Pushed to the brink by a team that loses four or five times as often as it wins, the Knicks stopped — as they so often do — and looked to Melo.  And time and again, he carried them away from the edge.  And time and again, his teammates and his coach undid his work before his eyes through an almost impressive combination of blithering incompetence, sleepy apathy, and general disarray.  In the end, his efficient and timely 36 and the yeoman’s work of his own personal Sancho Panza were not quite enough and despite my general disdain for cliches about one team “wanting it more” it was hard not to look at the young Bucks last night and commend them for simply being more deeply invested than their spectacularly uninspiring counterparts in blue and orange.  I would need to pick both hands up from the keyboard to have enough fingers to point at the culprits so instead I’ll just point one and I’ll point it at the team writ large and, while I’m pointing it, I’ll say this to Carmelo Anthony:

Carmelo: this is what you have to work with.  Take a good, long look at the team and the people who built it.  Where can you take it?  What more can you do than what you did tonight against the very worst team in the NBA?  Look past the men in jerseys to the people in suits.  What is their next move?  How are they going to fix this?  What’s their track record and why do you think it’s going to change?  If you leave, there will be a price: people won’t like that you pushed your way through the door and then walked back out when the outlook seemed stark.  They won’t like that you left without an NBA or Eastern Conference title, and they will absolutely hate that you bailed at the end of such a disappointing season.  Make no mistake: there will be a price.  But what is the price of staying?  What is your ceiling with this franchise, what is it’s ceiling with you?  Will you keep your wagon hitched to this star just because you’re determined to clean up any mess as long as it’s a mess that you embraced with your starry, 26-year-old eyes wide open?

This spring, Carmelo Anthony will decide what team he wants to spend the rest of his prime with.  No matter his decision, some will criticize him, some will support him.  Surely he will have moments of regret and moments of triumph in the months and years to follow.  And at the very end, when we write the story of his legacy in permanent ink over the oft-erased pencil marks that have told it until now, judgment will be passed on what kind of player he was and what kind of decisions he made.  But, at this moment, I sit here trying to look with Carmelo Anthony’s eyes at the task that lays before him in New York and at the green grass of the unknown in parts distant.  And as much as I want to see it differently, the only conclusion I’m able to reach is this: leaving this group is not an act of disloyalty, it’s an act of self-preservation.  Sticking it out, despite the daunting promise of seemingly endless futility?  Such is the province of only a deeply devoted personality.  So when you judge Melo this spring, as surely you will, don’t ask yourself whether he quit on this team despite all it’s offered him.  Ask instead whether he has embraced it and claimed it as his own despite the moments, like last night, when he gave it everything that was in his power to give and it failed him all the same.

63 comments on “Bucks 101, Knicks 98: Harshing My Melo

  1. chrisk06811

    Any chance Denver would take Felton and Beno for Andre Miller? Felton has 3 years, Dre has 2, but Dre makes more, and they won’t even talk to the guy right now. They’ve got such a problem at PG right now, they would need to hope 1 of these 2 guys can step up. I know i’m reaching.

  2. Owen

    Yep, very good post….

    I think if Melo went to a team with championship hopes and took a decent discount to do it he can thread the reputational needle. Maybe Chicago. He can sell it as, “I want to win, I can’t do it with Dolan, and I am sacrificing big to make it happen.”

    That is the move I think. Because the writing is on the wall for the next few years at MSG. No cap space. No young talent. No picks. Dolan.

  3. Marc R

    This is, unsurprisingly, some terrific writing. At the outset, I want to agree that Carmelo has played very very well this season, except for his maddening unwillingness to pass down the stretch of tight games.

    That said, Carmelo isn’t exactly blameless in the situation that NYK finds itself. If winning is the most important thing to him, he has some control over that now and before. His forcing a trade rather than signing as a FA undoubtedly cost NYK many assets, even if this year’s 1st rounder was late (like THJr.). Plus, he can easily choose to accept a smaller contract this summer a la LBJ (or not opt out) to allow NYK room to provide help. (Don’t even get me started on his rumored involvement in swapping Lin for Felton.) I will NEVER begrudge an athlete for making as much as he can during his all-too-short career. And I understand if Carmelo doesn’t trust NYK brass to wisely use the money he would be foregoing, though you can’t blame them for agreeing to his demand to be traded to NYK. The point is, Carmelo is not blameless for this mess.

    As for whether Carmelo would be beloved like Bernard if their time eras were switched, I don’t think so. First, Bernard actually grew up in Brooklyn and starred in high school there. He loved talking about it and it rang true. Most people didn’t think about Carmelo being a New Yorker. Second, and more importantly, Bernard played with a ferocity that was perpetually etched on his face. He looked like a bad mofo and played like one. Carmelo is certainly tough, but Bernard was terrifying.

  4. DRed

    We didn’t lose to the worst team in the NBA because we weren’t as deeply invested as the Bucks. We lost because we missed shots we’d normally make and because we’re coached by a guy who does not know how to efficiently allocate minutes among the players he has. It’s the same shit that’s been costing us wins all season. It’s a game that says nothing whatsoever about Carmelo. Who gives a shit about Carmelo’s legacy? I want the Knicks to win. I’d like Carmelo to leave, but only because I think we’d wind up badly over paying him to stay, and I’d like to see the Knicks win.

  5. Kevin McElroy Post author

    @4

    A whole lot of valid points. I don’t have a ton of time right now but I’d like to respond to some of them. Basically we’re on the same page about a lot of them but I think many can be read in a couple of different ways.

  6. Hubert

    BigBlueAL
    February 3, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    If the Knicks lose this game I swear to God we should all boycott watching this team for the rest of the season. Eventually enough has to be enough.

    It wouldn’t do anything.

    But I’ve a theory about something that might.

    Somehow, James Dolan has largely been spared by the MSG crowd during his rule. He can show up in style, hang with supermodels, katie holmes, rasheed wallace, whoever he likes.

    But if every time he went to the Garden, 19,000 people were chanting “Do-lan Sucks” with the same fever we chanted “De-fense” in the 90’s, he would be humiliated enough to do something different.

    It’s just a theory. Even if I’m wrong, it would be fun. I dream that one day “Dolan Sucks” reverberates throughout the city. So, if anyone wants to help me carry this out, let me know.

  7. DRed

    I dream that one day “Dolan Sucks” reverberates throughout the city. So, if anyone wants to help me carry this out, let me know.

    If there was a way to do it without actually going to the Garden I’d be on board.

  8. flossy

    Very nice (and very depressing) post. It’s hard to let go of the part of me that still blames Melo for some of this. Like, every brick Andrea Bargnani throws up is punishment for Melo having forced the team to give up Gallo in the trade, every time Raymond Felton dies on a pick it’s pennance for Melo having stood by idly as Jeremy Lin was run out of town.

    But really, it’s not Melo’s job to force the ownership and management of a pro basketball team to act in their own best interests. It’s hard to see how–even if Melo had waited for free agency, even if he’d been willing and able to share the spotlight with Lin–an organization this rotten and incompetent could possibly have avoided fucking it up some other way.

    I wouldn’t blame him in the slightest if he bailed at the end of this season, and to be honest, I hope he does. I hope he does because he deserves better, I hope he does because I can’t handle another 5 years of mediocre (at best) Knicks teams slapped together around his super-max contract, and I hope he does because it will utterly humiliate James Dolan, who richly deserves it.

  9. er

    I see ppl bringing up Melo v Lin. To me this was more of a fan and media conflict. When NY radio hosts say things like Lin is a better player than Melo and fans go along with that, it becomes a problem. When fans and media openly choose one of their own over another after a few weeks it becomes a problem. Then add on top of it the contract hou offered and the idiot owner that Dolan is. That’s what u get

  10. DRed

    Dolan needed to save his money so he could give it to the worst player in the NBA. That’s not Melo’s fault.

  11. Hubert

    On the one hand, I hope he escapes, too.

    On the other hand, if he goes to the Bulls, I have to hope he fails terribly. Because that’s still the Bulls. And if I have to watch our former superstar, paired with the superstar I spent a whole year fantasizing we’d win the lottery and draft, driven by an extraordinary center chosen with our draft pick, coached by a guy who cut his teeth on our team with Van Gundy and who wanted to coach here, form the basis of another title-winning team for the Chicago fucking Bulls…. I will be displeased.

    (By the way, Chicago isn’t done benefiting from our largesse. Don’t forget they traded our draft pick, Tyrus Thomas, to Charlotte for a likely lottery pick in the next 3 years.)

  12. Frank O.

    Felton is abysmal.
    I keep saying, we need to trade Melo. You will lose him otherwise.
    And when you trade him Felton must go, too. 1-7.
    He is the worst PG starter in the game. Tim to give Murry a real shot.

  13. Frank O.

    Melo would be fantastic on the Bulls. Thib would make him even better and he’d have a very good point.

  14. JK47

    There’s no risk to Melo’s “legacy” if he leaves now. I personally think it’s a little ridiculous to talk about the “legacy” of a player who is basically a latter-day Adrian Dantley except not as good, but this is where we’re at I guess.

    If Melo leaves and the Knicks get nothing in return, the narrative isn’t going to be “selfish Melo leaves Knicks high and dry,” it’s going to be “stupid Knicks fucked up again, LOL Knicks ha ha ha.” The Knicks are perceived as the punchline of a joke for very solid reasons, and that’s going to be the story when Melo bolts.

  15. Hubert

    Melo would be fantastic on the Bulls. Thib would make him even better and he’d have a very good point.

    How do you even type that without vomiting on your keyboard?

  16. domiknick

    I know we say it a lot, but after looking at the list of current starting point guards in the NBA…I think it may be a fact that Raymond Felton is the worst starting point guard in the NBA.

    http://espn.go.com/nba/depth

    The only other names that jump out at me are potentially Augustin in Chicago and B. Roberts in New Orleans? But I’ll be honest, I’ve never even heard of B. Roberts until looking at that list, so maybe he’s better than I think he is. Lol.

  17. KnickfaninNJ

    It looked like they all took the chance to go out and party as soon as they got to Milwaukee after being stuck at home for two and a half weeks. This made them start the game with no energy. Then three quarters through the game they woke up and thought “Oh s***, we’re losing”, but it was too late then since they still couldn’t get enough stops. Carmelo did try and made a difference towards the end of the game, but it wasn’t enough either.

  18. DRed

    I think it may be a fact that Raymond Felton is the worst starting point guard in the NBA.

    Toney Wroten is really pretty wretched. And sadly, you could probably make a case for Brandon Knight if you eliminated the games he played against Ray Felton.

  19. JK47

    And sadly, you could probably make a case for Brandon Knight if you eliminated the games he played against Ray Felton.

    If only Ray Felton could play against Ray Felton.

  20. johnno

    “We didn’t lose to the worst team in the NBA because we weren’t as deeply invested as the Bucks. We lost because we missed shots we’d normally make and because we’re coached by a guy who does not know how to efficiently allocate minutes among the players he has.”
    The Knicks did NOT miss shots that they normally hit last night. They actually hit a lot of shots that they normally miss. On the year, they are shooting 44.3% from the field and last night they hit 43.6%. On the year, they shoot 37% from 3 and last night they shot 44.1% from 3. They hit 15 3s, which is well above their season average. Face it – they lost because they gotten beaten down the court repeatedly, they didn’t hustle after loose balls, they didn’t rebound worth a damn, they didn’t contest shots, they let Zaza Pachulia outmuscle them. they didn’t fight through picks, they didn’t play hard, they didn’t act like they gave a crap.

  21. flossy

    Remember how Felton was such a breath of fresh air for a minute after two years of Chris Duhon starting at PG? Go look up Chris Duhon’s advanced stats c. 2009. Felton is now just as bad, maybe worse. It’s really unbelievable. It’s like there’s something in the NYC drinking water that turns mediocre point guards into unadulterated garbage juice or, if they have an ounce of talent, either drives them insane (Marbury) or repels them from the team (Lin).

  22. thenamestsam

    I know we say it a lot, but after looking at the list of current starting point guards in the NBA…I think it may be a fact that Raymond Felton is the worst starting point guard in the NBA.

    http://espn.go.com/nba/depth

    The only other names that jump out at me are potentially Augustin in Chicago and B. Roberts in New Orleans? But I’ll be honest, I’ve never even heard of B. Roberts until looking at that list, so maybe he’s better than I think he is. Lol.

    It pretty much says it all that the only “starting” PGs whose sucktitude is worthy of being compared with Raymond are actually backups thrust into starting roles. The really interesting question is how many teams backups are better than Felton. I’d say it’s between 15 and 20.

    As for Melo, this was a nice piece that I think really got to the essence of his choice. A year ago I would have said that his only real chance to build a legacy (because I don’t think he’s anything more than a historical footnote at this point) was to stay with the Knicks and build something here. Even if they never won a title he would still become one of the best players in Knicks history and be a beloved franchise icon who could bring Knicks fans to their feet even 30 years from now. That’s what a legacy is.

    But this season has completely changed my mind. I really don’t think there’s anything good for him here. If he stays the relationship will only get more and more toxic – because not only can the team not give him what he wanted in a championship level supporting cast, but he can’t give the team what they wanted, which is Lebron or his equal. I think it’s probably healthier in the long run for everyone if he leaves after this season and finds a team where just being Melo will be enough, and we either embrace the reality of our current situation (haha….no) or foolishly chase another short term fix (ding ding ding).

  23. danvt

    “On the other hand, if he goes to the Bulls, I have to hope he fails terribly. Because that’s still the Bulls. And if I have to watch our former superstar, paired with the superstar I spent a whole year fantasizing we’d win the lottery and draft, driven by an extraordinary center chosen with our draft pick, coached by a guy who cut his teeth on our team with Van Gundy and who wanted to coach here, form the basis of another title-winning team for the Chicago fucking Bulls…. I will be displeased.”

    Wow, beautifully put. I’m gonna kill myself now (not really) but that’s what I thought as I read it.

    I think Dolan will figure it out. I mean,he has to, because he sure doesn’t have to sell the most valuable franchise in the league. He’s gonna figure it out, though. Because no matter the colossal idiot, being an owner is easy. You just stay the fuk out! If he had gotten Donnie and then out of the way, but that’s history. One of these days he’s going to get it right. It may be 15 years out, but if that malignant malfeasant moron, Steinbrenner, could do it, so can Stoopid Jimmy!

    Kevin, that was such a beautiful summation of the tragedy that it is this team.

  24. DRed

    On the year, they are shooting 44.3% from the field and last night they hit 43.6%. On the year, they shoot 37% from 3 and last night they shot 44.1% from 3

    Against the second worst overall defense in the NBA, and the defense the worst in opponent 3 point %. We’re a decent long range shooting squad-we should shoot well against a sorry ass team like the Bucks. Tyson was 1-something bad from the FT line etc. Saying one team wanted it more is as trite as it gets.

    And the Knicks have been getting beaten down the court repeatedly all year. It’s because the team is slow and employs a lot of bad defenders in a scheme that doesn’t fit them. Or do you think we just haven’t been trying all season long?

  25. ephus

    Bernard played with a ferocity that was perpetually etched on his face. He looked like a bad mofo and played like one. Carmelo is certainly tough, but Bernard was terrifying.

    +1.

    Great write-up.

    It looks like the sports media is going to spend the next twenty days trashing Sochi for being unprepared for the Olympics. As a Knick fan, I’m not shocked to learn that a plutocrat throwing vast sums of money at a problem behind a media blackout and no feedback loop for candid criticism is a recipe for disaster.

  26. BigBlueAL

    I will say this about Melo. For the first couple of seasons after the trade I was pretty ambivalent towards Melo (oh yeah check out the fancy word I used). Last season he won me over but I still didnt feel the same towards him as I did many players of the 90’s Knicks. I respected Melo more than ever but I still didnt feel that emotional attachment towards him.

    This season so far has been the most miserable, brutal Knicks season to watch ever for me. Even worse than many of the Isiah teams. Yet my respect and admiration for Melo is at an all-time high. I never wanted to re-sign him to the full max (and I still dont) but for the first time Im having a hard time seeing him in another jersey. I now would hate to see Melo leave, mainly because I dont trust this front office to put together a good team if he leaves anyway so at least if he stays every game he plays I will always have the hope that the Knicks can win entirely because of his presence and the chance he has one of his amazing games (low standards I know but what can you do).

    I would actually be happy for him in a way if he leaves and would root for him to do well in his new team (unlike Robinson Cano lol) because of the respect I now have for him. Melo has been a lightning rod since he has arrived (especially on this board) but if by now he hasnt at least earned the respect of every Knick fan than I dunno what else he can do.

  27. ephus

    More on the Bernard vs. Melo comparison:

    1. Bernard was absolutely considered “the prodigal son” when he came to the Knicks. He had squandered his time with the Nets and hit rock bottom during his lost season with the Jazz.

    2. Bernard did not have an outside shot like Melo. He did not attempt shots outside the 3 point arc. Even if you normalize for the change in shot charts from 1984 to today, Bernard was much less of an outside threat than Melo.

    3. Bernard was a much better finisher at the rim. He had an explosive dunk on rebounds and through traffic. No way that Hibbert stops Bernard on a dunk.

  28. DRed

    Bernard did not have an outside shot like Melo. He did not attempt shots outside the 3 point arc. Even if you normalize for the change in shot charts from 1984 to today, Bernard was much less of an outside threat than Melo.

    In Bernard’s first season as a Knick there were 4 guys in the NBA who took more than 100 3’s. Last season there were 171. Steph Curry personally took more than twice as many 3’s last year as all but one team in the NBA in 1982.

  29. ephus

    In Bernard’s first season as a Knick there were 4 guys in the NBA who took more than 100 3?s. Last season there were 171. Steph Curry personally took more than twice as many 3?s last year as all but one team in the NBA in 1982.

    True, but even when you normalize for era, Bernard shot the 3 much less often and much less effectively than Melo. Bernard literally made 1 3pointer during his entire career as a Knick. He attempted 20 3pters during his entire Knick career.

    I am second-to-none in my love for Bernard, and I can tell you that his range was 19′.

  30. max fisher-cohen

    It’s so strange to me that on the one hand you have a lot of articles like this (beautifully written) article about how Anthony has no obligation to stay with the Knicks and how he almost has to leave if his legacy is important to him. But then there’s some reality distortion field blocking people from even considering the possibility that the Knicks will trade him. I mean, has there ever been a more perfect set up for a team to trade a superstar?

    Here is an old team that is now projected to miss the playoffs in a conference that will set some kind of record for futility. This team has zero potential to improve next season. In fact, it should get worse with guys like K-Mart and Prigioni at that age — like Camby, Rasheed and Kurt Thomas last year — where skills and health tend to vaporize. Here is a superstar facing 30 years old and in his 11th season — years older than other stars who recently left better, younger teams — entering free agency. There may never have been in the history of the NBA a team that had more clear signals that it was time to trade its superstar. Every sports section in every paper in the country should include an article about the imminent trade of Carmelo.

    And yet, all the trade rumors are about guys like Rajon Rondo, whose team has five extra future first round picks — enough to build a contender in one fell swoop — and Pau Gasol, whose team will have buckets of cap space if they just let him expire, in addition to some other lower profile players who, yes, need to be traded.

    The fans seem to be on the same page. You can have a 200 comment reddit thread full of speculation about what trades will happen by the deadline without a single mention of Anthony.

  31. Owen

    “It looks like the sports media is going to spend the next twenty days trashing Sochi for being unprepared for the Olympics. As a Knick fan, I’m not shocked to learn that a plutocrat throwing vast sums of money at a problem behind a media blackout and no feedback loop for candid criticism is a recipe for disaster.”

    +1

    that was funny….

    Here is an old team that is now projected to miss the playoffs in a conference that will set some kind of record for futility. This team has zero potential to improve next season. In fact, it should get worse with guys like K-Mart and Prigioni at that age — like Camby, Rasheed and Kurt Thomas last year — where skills and health tend to vaporize. Here is a superstar facing 30 years old and in his 11th season — years older than other stars who recently left better, younger teams — entering free agency. There may never have been in the history of the NBA a team that had more clear signals that it was time to trade its superstar. Every sports section in every paper in the country should include an article about the imminent trade of Carmelo.

    The Knicks should trade him, without question. But realistically, who can they move him too who has the right assets and would do this without an extension inked? Who wants a rent-a-melo?

    The trade machine is not my strong suit but I feel like there aren’t that many options…..

  32. Marc R

    #31

    You couldn’t be more right that it makes all the sense in the world for the Knicks to either trade or seriously consider trading Carmelo.

    But EVERYBODY knows that will not happen. Not because it doesn’t make sense. But because of the star-obsessed owner of NYK. When your owner considers himself a lead singer, attends the Golden Globes as Harvey Weinstein’s guest, attends the Howard Stern Birthday Bash, and makes a bigger deal about Celebrity Row than the team’s W-L record, it’s pretty clear that he’s not going to willingly trade a player whose status he considers equivalent to LeBron or Durant.

    It’s miserable to think of it this way, but it’s clear that the conductor of the NYK train has very different priorities than those of us who analyze and agonize for success.

  33. lavor postell

    @mfc

    Again I think it’s because Melo actually doesn’t have that many options in free agency. The teams that have max cap space currently aren’t really places I’d imagine he’d want to be long term if he wants to be known as more than just an awesome basketball player. Additionally the Western Conference is fucking brutal so even if he were to go to Phoenix let’s say are they really going to be better next season with Melo than OKC, SAS, LAC or POR? They certainly could be, but it’s not really that apparent.

    If he stays in the East it might suck to stay with the Knicks for another season of futility, but 2015 sets itself up very nice for the Knicks to make a quick rebuild if they do more than sit around with their thumbs up their asses and wait for the season to play out. Chicago would be an option, but again they must trade Gibson this season for expirings and even they are left with a potential STAT 2.0 situation in D-Rose, which cannot be understated given how this worked out for Melo. If there was ever a time for Dolan to panic and make some fucking trades now is it. The pieces we absolutely should move are Chandler, Shump and Felton.

    The number one priority should be to acquire an upper half of the league point guard as well as draft picks. To me that situation isn’t all that different from Chicago’s except the Knicks are set to be real players in the 2015 free agency bonanza. Chicago would have the advantage of a Joakim Noah, but they would be saddled with three big contracts in Rose, Melo and Noah along with an owner who’s shown a strong inclination to avoid paying any sort of luxury tax. If you can even get a point guard without moving Chandler this season that’s a deal that should be made now.

    None of this will happen though because we’re the Knicks.

  34. DRed

    Ephus, I just found it interesting how radically the game had changed in my lifetime. Players like Bernard don’t exist anymore.

  35. JK47

    The pieces we absolutely should move are Chandler, Shump and Felton.

    You can’t get an asset for Felton– I mean, why would anybody want Felton? His contract runs through 2016 and his value on the court is just about zero. As a backup PG, he’d be a downgrade for most teams in the league. You can find players of Felton’s caliber without having to take on a contract that runs for two more full seasons at around $4m per year.

    Shump doesn’t have much trade value either, and I think it’d just be smarter to hold onto him and see if a different coach can figure out how to get some production out of him. Imagine if JVG became coach– doesn’t it seem like JVG could probably figure out ways to correctly deploy Shump as a defensive weapon? I think the odds of a Shump renaissance are probably better than the odds of getting a usable piece in return for Shump.

    But Chandler should absolutely be traded. He could be an impact player on a true contender, and should be able to net the Knicks a few assets.

  36. bobneptune

    I, for one hopes Melo walks at the end of this season, not because Melo “deserves” to be on a top team , but because it will do the only thing that wakes rich self absorbed people like Dolan up; namely hurt them in the pocket book. I can’t wait to see the Garden PR spin for next season without Melo to sell tickets. 4,000 attendance and awful TV ratings is the only thing that will force Dolan to put the franchise in the hands of a professional.

    Melo is like the Menendez brothers throwing themselves on the mercy of the court because they are orphans…. the team is in the disarray roster wise today because Melo forced the trade at the deadline, rejected/failed to embrace Lin’s emergence and the subsequent moves (Bargs) aimed at patching holes that Melo’s selfishness caused.

    Melo and Dolan can both go to hell as far as I am concerned.

  37. ruruland

    Melo’s game used to be very similar to Bernard’s. Not as efficient, of course, but Melo didn’t take 3s either.

    He was a darn good finished in his early ’20s (at least when he was in shape, which wasn’t the case for half of his second year and his second year with Iverson).

    Melo’s been healthy much of the year and we’re seeing his efficiency continue on the upward trend even without his usage dropping.

    He’s turned into an absolutely lethal 3-point shooter, which is one of the biggest reasons I figured his efficiency would improve past normal prime years (of course, there are a lot of other reasons to think that, too).

  38. bobneptune

    “…rejected/failed to embrace Lin’s emergence…”

    People still think this?

    Yes, ruru…. many non Knick insta-nuthuggers and non Melo fanbois think this. Interestingly enough, there were many also who thought Bargs was a sucky player before he bounced his first ball as a Knick.

    I would refer you to the definitive piece in the NY times a year or so ago which broke down how Melo intentionally cheated in from his assigned place in the offense to intentionally sabotage Lin and D’antoni.

    But there is no sense wasting time on those so blind that they will not see.

  39. D.

    You guys gotta be kidding me, what are we, like 2 games out of the 8th spot and we’re worrying about a 2 point loss to the worst team in the league. Yawn!!

  40. BigBlueAL

    I was unfortunately too young to remember Bernard King. His time with the Knicks is talked about with such great fondness yet his teams werent exactly great. In his 2 full seasons with the Knicks they won 44 and 47 games. They did make it to the 2nd rd both seasons though. They lost twice to the eventual champs (swept by the 76ers and took the Celtics to 7 games) and his performance in the 1st rd win over Isiah and the Pistons I know is epic.

    But he only played 206 games with the Knicks. He averaged 2.8 asts/g and 5.2 rebs/g with the Knicks. I assume if this blog was around when he played his game would get criticized as much as Melo’s is lol.

  41. flossy

    But he only played 206 games with the Knicks. He averaged 2.8 asts/g and 5.2 rebs/g with the Knicks. I assume if this blog was around when he played his game would get criticized as much as Melo’s is lol.

    He had a usage of 30+ and a TS% of .591 with the Knicks. I think he’d do okay around here.

  42. BigBlueAL

    But flossy the real question is did BK make his teammates better?? :-)

    BTW Im not taking a shot at BK at all, hell I wish I was old enough to have watched him play because I love watching guys who can just flat-out score and he did so super efficiently as you mentioned. Its just that nowadays it seems scoring is not that important anymore, its all about “making your teammates better.” Im pretty sure his game today wouldve been super nitpicked just like Melo’s is. I mean BK scoring 60 was an amazing game (despite the Knicks losing that game) and all his 50 pt games are talked about with such great fondness. Yet Melo scores 62 in an easy win (along with grabbing 13 rebs) and many people nitpick the fact he had 0 asts and the Knicks suck so who cares.

  43. flossy

    I don’t know, did anyone other than the usual blowhards in the fake sports news industrial complex really give Melo a hard time for 62 pts and zero assists? I think even THCJ was in bow-down mode after that game, and rightly so.

  44. d-mar

    That whole “well he’s good, but he doesn’t make his teammates better” thing is a little tired. Besides LeBron, Durant and maybe Paul, which players really make their teammates better? Derrick Rose when healthy? Not really. Westbrook, possibly, but he’s really more of a scoring guard. Love? No. Griffin? Not really. Parker, no. Paul George? Dirk? Nope.

    All tremendous players, but IMO their team’s success is based more on their individual abilities and being surrounded by competent players than some undefined ability to elevate the play of their teammates.

  45. Owen

    Nate Silver thinks Melo makes other players better. Or did before he came to NYC anyway.

    I haven’t really noticed the Melo effect since he has been here. Maybe it’s there. Idk, I don’t watch the games, except on my spreadsheets, in my mom’s basement….

    Seriously though, I don’t think anyone was knocking Melo for his lack of an assist. It was just kind of ironic all things considered….

    I think some sort of reasonable consensus has finally been hammered out on this board about Melo. Everyone agrees he has played very well this year and last while falling well short of the standard set by the truly elite players in the league. No one is excited about paying him the max for his decline phase.

  46. BigBlueAL

    “Everyone agrees he has played very well this year and last while falling well short of the standard set by the truly elite players in the league.”

    Besides LeBron and KD, who are these other truly elite players whose standards are well above Melo’s the last 2 seasons?? Chris Paul is great but his team couldnt even get out of the 1st rd last season and he has missed a bunch of games this season while the Clippers havent missed him much at all. Who else?? Paul George who wasnt very good at all offensively last season?? Kevin Love who was awful and injured last season and this season while playing great again his team will probably miss the playoffs like they have every season of his career. Wade was great and still is at times but he is breaking down and his future is looking pretty bleak. Who else, Steph Curry I guess. Tony Parker?? Dwight Howard?? James Harden?? Blake Griffin?? All great players who I would take in a second but Im not sure they are so truly elite and well above Melo especially these past 2 seasons.

    I mean again I know Melo isnt in the same stratosphere as LeBron and KD but nobody else is either (Chris Paul being the closest). The same way I never faulted Ewing for not being as good as MJ Im not gonna rip Melo for not being as good as LBJ or KD.

  47. er

    I’m with you Al. It’s to the point where Melo is underrated. I say that and ppl laugh but it’s true. He led the league in 3p% in jan. Is the top rebounding SF and has had an overall great season. I would love to see someone provide a list of names of who is having a better season individually. For instance harden and george are NOT on that list

  48. max fisher-cohen

    The only place where Melo might be underrated is on this board. To the vast majority of fans, Melo is a top five player. You’re arbitrarily disqualifying players like Love and Paul and giving Melo a pass on all the flaws that he has.

    Last season, Lebron, Durant, Paul, Parker were all distinctly better than Melo with Curry, Harden, Griffin, M. Gasol, Duncan, Kobe, George and Westbrook all similar. Melo was probably the 7th-10th most valuable player last season, better than George, Harden and Griffin IMO.

    This year, with Love, Anthony Davis, George, Nowitzki and perhaps even Dragic and Lowry pulling ahead of him, he’s probably been more in the 11th-18th range. Since adding the three pointer to his arsenal, he’s been really really good. That doesn’t mean the trade to get him was smart (who knew he’d become an elite three point shooter, transforming himself into an above average efficiency scorer?), nor does it mean the knicks should keep him. It does mean though that he’s sort of player a team with cap space and a good surrounding cast would be thrilled to have. The Knicks just aren’t that team.

  49. er

    Idk where you got all of that from my statement. I was just making the point that in my eyes he’s slightly underrated. I never mentioned overlooking flaws of anyone. I just think he’s solidly a top 10 player

    I don’t think George or Dragic or Lowry are ahead of him from your list. George’s efficiency has been plummeting from his red hot first month. I haven’t studied the other two as much

  50. stratomatic

    A lot of the controversy about Melo depends on how you value Points Per Game/tough shot making vs. efficiency/intelligent shot selection, defense, play making, defense, rebounding, positional adjustments etc… Since we never agree on that, let’s focus on the actual issue.

    Can you build a true championship contender with Melo making 24m next year (and rising) in a league where there is a strict salary cap and guys like James, Wade, CP3, Durant, Love, Griffin, Curry, Howard, Harden, all the aging stars on San Antonio, and young upstarts like Anthony Davis etc… are making less?

    If you answer “yes” to that question, you have a level of optimism that probably borders on delusional.

  51. Owen

    I was going to make a long list but it would just rile everyone up.

    I think Durant, Lebron, Love, Paul, George, Curry, Lowry, Griffin, and Dragic have all been better (and that’s with Paul missing 11 games.) Dragic has led the Suns to 29 wins and the closest thing they had to a household name before the year was Channing Frye, because of his heart surgery.

    I don’t think Lowry and Dragic are emerging as all time greats but they have been great so far.

    After that there are probably about 20 guys in a scrum that I would put Melo in the middle of. At this point you can point to win shares and say Melo is the last guy in the top ten. But when you account for defense and other factors it becomes very hard to distinguish him from the pack.

  52. er

    Please explain how George has been better besides Defensive rating? Its terrible measuring stick IMO. The whole pacers team basically has the same rating

  53. johnno

    Melo is the only star player whose defense the media and fans criticize incessantly. Griffin, Love, Nowitzki, Curry and a whole bunch of other players that people on this board seem to love are lousy at defense. On top of that, Nowitzki is 7 feet tall and has never averaged double figures in rebounds and, for his career, has averaged 8 rebounds. He also has averaged 2.5 assists a game for his career. But he’s great and Melo stinks. OK.

  54. pablopilot

    On booing Dolan: Probably the MSG police state would eject anyone who started such a chant.

    On Bernard King: no one could do today what he did then. Team defenses are just too strong for one man to carry a team in the same way. Bernard was a one-man fast break in the half court set, consistently getting near or to the rim and finishing strong. With modern zones and quasi zones, he could only possibly do that against… the Knicks… who have no real team concept and switch pointlessly all the time.

    You have to be a 3pt threat to score consistently from the wing anymore. Someone please tell me who the exceptions to this rule are today.

    Could Michael score the same as he did then? I don’t think so. But he could have and did at the end of his career greatly improve his outside shot. So he would have adapted no problem. Probably, so would have Bernard.

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