As long as he's a New York Knick, Melo will forever be scrutinized.
Former Nugget and would-be All-Star Carmelo Anthony has found himself in a number of media headlines lately. First, there were accusations that Melo didn't want his Knicks to re-sign guard sensation Jeremy Lin. Then, the NBA released their 2012-13 schedule and the basketball world collectively circled March 13th (Melo's return to Denver). And finally, now that he's on Team USA in London it's clear that his game is nowhere near that of LeBron James or Kevin Durant, two superstars who play his exact same position of small forward.
To be clear, Carmelo Anthony wanted all of this.
When Melo forced Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri to trade him to the Knicks in February of 2011 (it seems like forever ago!), with it came the endless scrutiny, expectations and pressure bestowed upon all high profile New York athletes. All Tim Tebow did was take his shirt off at Jets practice the other day and a media frenzy ensued.
And thus it was inevitable that when Knicks owner James Dolan refused to match Jeremy Lin's "ridiculous" (Melo's own words) contract offer from the Rockets recently, Melo - along with J.R. Smith, allegedly - would take some of the blame for wanting Lin out of New York ... the theory being that Lin's star was too bright for Melo to share at Madison Square Garden.
While I believe that Melo is a selfish, one-sided basketball player, I don't believe that he proactively wanted Lin out. Lin's exodus from New York is a combination of stupidity on both Lin and Dolan's part. For starters, the Knicks were willing to match Lin's original offer from Houston, only to have the Rockets up the ante (considered "dirty pool" in most NBA circles) and offer Lin an outrageous balloon payment that almost forced the Knicks not to match. There are many good arguments out there as to why the Knicks should have matched Lin's contract anyway, but some of this has to fall on Lin and his handlers, too.
Nevermind the marketing prowess that comes with being a Knick (remember, as a Knick Al Harrington had his own shoe ... not shoe contract ... his own shoe!) and the huge Asian-American population there (to put this in perspective, there are 682,000 Asians in New York and Denver's city population is 619,000), but Lin's weaknesses would have been masked by having teammates like Melo, Amar'e Stoudemire, Smith, Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler. In Houston, Lin gets to pass to ... uh ... who exactly?
But should Lin (somehow) succeed in Houston and should Melo's Knicks (likely) fail to win more than a playoff game or two, the New York media will again drudge up allegations of Melo wanting Lin out. Fair or not.
Just when the Melo versus Lin rumors started to subside, the NBA released the 2012-13 schedule and the media was quick to point out that no lockout schedule can save Melo from a return to Denver this time around. Yahoo! Sports' Marc Spears has already targeted the game as the fourth biggest regular season game and CBS Sports' Royce Young put the game on his "can't miss" list, too. Spears writes:
[Kobe] Bryant gets booed strongly in Denver, but just wait until Anthony returns.
On to the Olympics, the Denver Post's Mark Kiszla (covering the games for the Post since Coloradoan Missy Franklin is sure to kick ass in London) took the time to point out what a horrible defender Melo still is, and Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski writes that Melo's many flaws are being masked by having supremely talented teammates like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. The best part of Kiszla's column is when he catches up with former Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni, currently an assistant on Team USA, about Melo the Olympian versus Melo the Knick:
"This arena has been great, let's put it that way," D'Antoni said.
So I asked D'Antoni as directly as possible: Is Melo a selfish basketball player?
"Here, with the Olympics, no. He's not," D'Antoni said.
Watching the Team USA exhibition games leading up to the Olympics and Sunday's affair against France, it's clear that Melo isn't anywhere near the class that LeBron and Durant are in. While Melo still forces contested mid-range jump shots, LeBron is getting his teammates involved offensively and playing hard-nosed defense, and Durant is patiently waiting for his moments: draining open three's, unexpectedly blocking shots, even grabbing key rebounds.
But compared to Melo, LeBron and Durant are simply on another level. They're superstars.
Unfortunately, in acquiring Melo the Knicks paid handsomely to acquire a really good All-Star who comes to the world's biggest media market with superstar expectations. If anything, Lin would have taken a lot of the pressure off Melo in 2012-13. Instead, Melo will have to lead the Knicks essentially alone, and the likes of LeBron and Durant won't be there to protect him.
On to the links ...
The good, bad and ugly from the 2012-13 NBA schedule - CBSSports.com
My friend Matt Moore points out that the Nuggets, Spurs and Lakers have the worst schedule disparity in rest versus opponent rust next season.
Mark Kiszla: Carmelo Anthony playing defense? Yeah, right - The Denver Post
Kiz catches up with Melo in London, where Melo defends his defensive prowess.
Carmelo Anthony's flaws hidden among greatness and depth of Team USA - Yahoo! Sports
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Carmelo Anthony can star for the U.S. because, unlike the Knicks, the Americans don’t need him to lead.
NBA's 2012-13 schedule: 10 games to watch - Yahoo! Sports
Marc Spears writes that the Nuggets/Knicks March 13th matchup will be the fourth biggest game of the season.
Ian O'Connor -- Don't blame Carmelo Anthony for the loss of Jeremy Lin - ESPN New York
Jeremy Lin is a Houston Rocket. So who's to blame? Not Melo, that's for sure.
NBA owners want to kill Olympic format to protect investment in international players - Yahoo! Sports
Woj writes that the NBA's best stars might never get another Olympic ring after London because the league's owners are tired of 'subsidizing' the Games.