Why All Eyes Will Be on Carmelo Anthony for New York Knicks Entering 2012-13
I think it was Machiavelli who said that...maybe the "z" was a mistranslation of the original Italian.
In any case, the musings of a West Coast savant ring true, even for someone as entrenched along the Eastern seaboard as Anthony is. The fates seem to be conspiring at every turn to make the 2012-13 NBA season the most pressure-packed of Carmelo's heretofore-polarizing career.
Not that Anthony hasn't had a hand in the shaping of his own circumstances. After all, he wouldn't have wound up back in the Big Apple had he simply accepted the terms of an extension with the Denver Nuggets back in 2010 instead of pushing for a move back to his hometown.
In that sense, Carmelo's current circumstances with the Knicks are very much his own doing. He must've known, to some extent, what he was getting himself into after Amar'e Stoudemire (following Chris Paul's lead) toasted to Anthony's future in orange and blue at Carmelo's wedding in July of 2010.
True, 'Melo wasn't the one who inked STAT to that $100-million deal during the "Summer of LeBron" (more on James later). Nor is it his fault that Stoudemire's body and game have deteriorated to the point that the two don't seem to work well together on the court.
And, no, it wasn't (entirely) Anthony's decision to essentially swap out Chauncey Billups for Tyson Chandler last December, though 'Melo's malignant defensive effort practically necessitated the addition of a rim protector to mask his multifarious mistakes.
But, at the moment, it appears as though those two might not be joining Carmelo on the court for the start of the season. Stoudemire is expected to miss two-to-three weeks with a ruptured popliteal cyst in his left knee, while Chandler remains day-to-day with a bone bruise suffered in the opening moments of the Knicks' preseason win over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.
All of which leaves 'Melo entombed on a team that was fashioned around him and that he, in turn, had a prominent part in putting together. It's no secret that Anthony hurried Mike D'Antoni out the door in favor of Mike Woodson; that he did much the same with Jeremy Lin to bring Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd on board; and that J.R. Smith, his buddy from his Denver days, is in New York, in part because of 'Melo's influence within the organization.
Now that everything is set up FHBH (For Him By Him), Carmelo will be judged (fairly or otherwise) on his ability to produce results (i.e. signature moments and big wins). There will be no more excuses for the 28-year-old in-his-prime 'Melo, who now has a veteran cast around him and a green light to take over whenever it pleases him to do so.
As such, Anthony's destiny with the Knicks is in his own hands now. We'll see if he can handle getting what he wished for.
What he never asked for but wound up with anyway, though, was an unbreakable historical tether to LeBron James. They went head-to-head in high school, nearly went one-two atop the 2003 NBA draft, played together on three Olympic teams, and still man largely the same position.
Yet, James has sprinted ahead in recent years, winning three MVPs, appearing in three NBA Finals and claiming his first title in June. While Carmelo remains "just" a superstar—a perennially elite player still lacking championship credentials.
And now that LeBron has finally stripped the proverbial monkey from his back, Carmelo seems like the most likely target onto which it'll latch. He's arguably the biggest name in the NBA who's yet to win a title of his own.
But, unlike some other notable ringless stars (e.g. Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant), Anthony's currently trapped on a team that's still a ways away from title contention.
Which ringless star is under the most pressure to win this season?
That could all change in 2014. Like LeBron, Amar'e, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh (among others), Anthony will have the option to terminate his contract after the next two seasons. At that point, he may well decide that New York isn't the place for him anymore, and that he'd rather chase championships elsewhere.
For now, though, Carmelo is with the Knicks, who, in turn, are all his for the time being. Whatever his motivation, he might as well make the most of his situation, and make the most of what could be the best year of his already-noteworthy career.
Or, as that great philosopher might've once suggested, Anthony should do what he's always done and "live the life of a boss playa."
Whatever that means.
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