Carmelo Anthony is at it again.
Midway through the third quarter of the New York Knicks' victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, Anthony was called for a flagrant foul after essentially slapping (punching?) Spencer Hawes in the back of the head.
Per George Willis of the New York Post, Melo was responding to what he thought was an elbow to the throat:
So maybe it was a bit of a cheap shot by Carmelo Anthony when he smacked Sixers center Spencer Hawes in the back of the head after the two tussled for position on a missed shot by Nick Young.
Anthony was eventually issued a flagrant foul for his retaliation for what he said was an elbow to his throat.
“I didn’t mean to hit him in the head,” Anthony said. “It was just one of them plays. I wasn’t mad. I was just reacting to the elbow I caught.”
Has Anthony learned nothing?
He was suspended one game for merely attempting to have a conversation with an opposing player. Why on earth would he opt to slap one in the back of the head? Because he took a cheap shot to the throat?
Given how hard Melo and Hawes were battling under the rim at the time, I don't doubt Anthony took said shot to the neck. I do, however, doubt it was an intentional one.
Even if it was, as a superstar, Anthony needs to know better.
Emotions run high during these contests; we all understand that. Anthony is a vital component to the Knicks' survival and one of the primary ambassadors for this game of basketball, so I just don't understand what he was thinking.
You like to see the commitment and grit Melo showed when fighting for the rebound in the first place. You even have to like that Tyson Chandler came to his defense so quickly. As for what Anthony did, though, it borders on despicable; it was a cheap shot.
I continue to be of the mind that Melo doesn't receive enough whistles. He takes a beating whenever he attacks the rim, and the referees do have a tendency to let an excessive amount of contact go. More often than not, he can be found repositioning his headband after incurring a shot or two to the head.
Even so, that hardly gives Anthony the right to retaliate in the manner he did. Slapping Hawes in the head was childish and, most importantly, selfish.
Anthony is now at the risk of being suspended again. I marvel at how reckless Melo was in his decision-making process knowing the Knicks had lost four in a row at this point.
New York went on to defeat the Sixers, but the team has still lost four of five, dropped to third in the Eastern Conference and is currently clinging to a two-game lead in the Atlantic Division.
With just 29 games to go and so much at stake, the last thing the Knicks need is to see their star player benched, even if only for a game.
But that's what Anthony faces—another suspension. A flagrant foul may not be considered enough by David Stern and the rest of the league. They may want to take action against someone who has now become a repeat offender.
None of them, however, resort to the callous tactics Anthony has this season. Have we ever seen Kobe chase an opponent to his locker room or team bus? Watched LeBron take a jab at someone's head?
Melo fancies himself in the same class of athletes as his prolific brethren, yet when it comes to maintaining his composure, he doesn't seem to measure up. He takes risks—unnecessary risks—that other superstars won't.
If Anthony truly felt slighted by Hawes' maneuvers under the basket, then he should have felt free to yell and make obscene gestures at the refs. He could have thrown a full-blown temper tantrum if he wanted to as well. Anything beats turning physical and potentially displacing yourself from your team.
He opted for the latter, though. In the heat of the moment, he embodied tawdry instead of common sense. We can't defend that.
Nor can we embrace it, like Melo might have us do:
“That was big time,” Anthony said. “Tyson came up and defused the situation. For him to step up at that moment ... I wasn’t going to say nothing back to Spencer. But Tyson did what he had to do to protect his teammate.”
Still, the whole incident unnerved (Mike) Woodson, who has been on his players about keeping composure.
“I don’t want to see guys get suspended or fined for throwing punches or anything of that nature,” Woodson said. “When you lose four in a row, and we haven’t done that very often, you are on edge a little bit. It’s my job as the coach to get them to relax and play and let their play dictate what happens on the floor.”
Anthony might be singing a different tune if both he and Chandler receive suspensions. As Woodson noted, the Knicks need to let their play "dictate what happens on the floor," not their emotions.
The league undoubtedly feels the same way and has for quite some time. If the NBA was prepared to chalk incidents such as these up to uncontrollable mental states, Anthony wouldn't have been suspended already this season.
Some will make the case that Melo shouldn't be suspended, that he can't be suspended because this was taken care of on the floor; it wouldn't be fair.
What's really not "fair" is watching Anthony make poor decisions. If he's not mindlessly pursuing Garnett, he's making questionable choices down the stretch that provoke the wrath of Woodson.
And now this, a sordid display of emotions.
We can't continue to defend Melo. Had Hawes even taken an intentional cheap shot of his own, that doesn't justify Anthony throwing caution and logic out the window. He has to lead by example, and it's difficult to do that when he's putting himself in situations where he may not even be allowed on the court.
Should Carmelo Anthony be suspended?
Not the Anthony that jeopardizes the outcome of a game or the ultimate fate of his team, but the one who scores 29 points, who wills his team to victory.
“Four losses will wake you up,” Chandler said. “We had to stop the bleeding.”
Except they didn't. Melo reopened an old would, one that hasn't quite healed. Now, the league smells blood.
I, for one, won't be able to fault the league should it decide to act on it.