Soon after “Linsanity” hit the Big Apple, the buzz changed from being simply about the rise of Jeremy Lin to being an indictment of Carmelo Anthony. As Melo nursed various injuries, all the talk was about how he would mesh with Lin, and a drumbeat began that cast him in a negative light.
Suddenly, without having played one minute with Lin, Anthony was transformed from one of the best pure scorers in the NBA to a ball-stopping black hole. The talk was not about the match-up problems that Anthony creates, but chemistry problems he would cause upon his return.
I suppose every story needs an antagonist, and in this case, Melo was chosen for that role. Never mind that according to various sources, it was Anthony pushing for Lin to be given playing time, it is always easier to place blame than give credit.
Now, with Mike D’Antoni’s sudden resignation, the hounds are really baying at Carmelo. The media and Knicks fans are looking at this situation and have decided that all the blame rests on the shoulders of Carmelo Anthony.
Sure, D’Antoni will get some scrutiny, but most people are focused on one two-week stretch of the season as the norm and ignoring the other months as though they are the aberration.
But I believe that neither Anthony nor D’Antoni should be seen as culprits in this situation. From where I sit, the fault lies directly at the feet of Knicks management.
After the Knicks signed Amare’ Stoudemire, a media cry went up that the team needed two superstars to win.
Who is to blame for the Knicks struggles this season?
Some based it on the conventional wisdom that all the recent championship teams in the NBA were led by two star-caliber players, while some looked at the Dwyane Wade-LeBron James pairing in Miami as the hot trend.
Whatever the reasons, when Carmelo said he would like to play in New York, the Knicks nearly fell over themselves to make a deal for him.
However, team management never stopped to consider how Melo would fit into the system that D’Antoni wanted to implement with the team. As much as everyone calls him an offensive genius, Mike D’Antoni’s offense is built around the most basic offensive play in basketball: the pick and roll.
In that case, the Suns had two star caliber players in Nash and Stoudemire, but there was something with them that the Knicks didn’t consider when they made the move for Melo.
While both players were All-Star level players individually, Nash and Stoudemire were totally complementary: Nash was the set-up man, Stoudemire was the finisher.
With the pairing of Stoudemire and Anthony, the Knicks basically put two finishers together, gave away their distributors in Raymond Felton and Chauncey Billups, and asked D’Antoni to make them fit his system.
That pairing was never going to work, and plenty of basketball experts were screaming just that from the proverbial rooftops. And Mike D’Antoni knew it.
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard and Ric Bucher, D’Antoni was against making the initial trade for Anthony because he realized that Anthony’s style of play would not mesh with his offensive system.
However, it seems that Knicks management was so enthralled with making a big media splash that they ignored the concerns of their head coach and traded a good portion of their roster to acquire Anthony’s services.
After a decent start, the Knicks managed to squeak into the playoffs last season, but their stay was very short (first-round sweep), and the appearance looks more like fool’s gold every passing day.
Maybe if the management team had listened to D’Antoni last year and concentrated on finding the right pieces for the system, they would not have had such a disappointing season to this point.
That two-week stretch of success was achieved with D’Antoni playing his style of basketball without having to fit Melo’s square game into his round offense. Again, that is not an indictment of Carmelo, simply a fact anyone who knows the game recognized right away.
The Knicks were so caught up in landing the big name that they have managed to put the team right back where they were before hiring Mike D’Antoni: rebuilding.