The Carmelo Anthony-Kevin Garnett Sub-Plot We've All Been Waiting For
If you're expecting to catch even the slightest hint of bitterness or animosity leaking out over the final days before the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks battle it out in the Eastern Conference's opening round, prepare for some disappointment.
Surely the conversation will come up, and it will probably reach an exhausting level.
Because even in the absence of hope that either Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Garnett will address their previous on-court altercation that nearly spilled over into the parking lot outside Madison Square Garden on January 7, the media have to ask the question.
The incident will likely reach an infamous level before the series even starts; that is, if it hasn't already.
It started out innocently enough. Physical for sure, but certainly a scene that Boston and New York fans have grown accustomed to over the course of the cities' storied rivalry.
The pair's tussle for post position was more substantial than what fans have come to expect from an increasingly softening NBA. But the battle was well within the realm of possibilities any time the Celtics and Knicks take to the hardwood.
As for where the tiff turned after the initial contact, well, that's where this whole thing took on a new life.
Garnett allegedly set off Anthony when he likened the taste of Melo's wife, La La, to a popular cereal brand (via Marianne Garvey, Mitch Lawrence and Bill Hutchinson of New York Daily News).
A seething Anthony then reportedly tried to confront Garnett outside of the Celtics' locker room (via Nate Taylor of The New York Times). When that didn't work, Anthony stalked the Celtics' team bus parked outside of the Garden with New York City police, team security and even Knicks coach Mike Woodson present to keep the event from completely boiling over.
Things have allegedly cooled considerably since then.
Anthony, after some time to collect his thoughts, admitted that he "lost [his] composure" that fateful night. He didn't apologize for any of his actions, but added that he was able talk to Garnett after the fact and the "situation [was] handled," (via Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com).
But will that meeting of the minds linger through the suffocating atmosphere of playoff basketball?
Garnett already knows he can get under Anthony's skin; the Knicks' star admitted as much. If he perceives any sort of advantage coming by way of his trash talking, Garnett's history suggests that he'll have no issues with opening his mouth again.
But the implications that this series holds for both franchises will put the focus solely on Garnett and Anthony's on-court battles.
Melo knew this day was coming, embraced it even. His desire to become the face of New York City basketball led to him orchestrating his departure from the Denver Nuggets in Feb. 2011.
That day has certainly arrived, perhaps bringing along with it more individual responsibility than he could have ever imagined.
Anthony, freshly crowned with the first scoring title of his 10-year career, led the NBA with a 32.2 percent usage rate (via ESPN.com). And he shouldered that burdensome offensive obligation when sharing the floor with a number of front-court teammates that may or may not be ready when this series tips off.
Garnett was not one of the three players that Celtics coach Doc Rivers tabbed for Anthony's assignment in the series: Paul Pierce, Jeff Green and Brandon Bass (via Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald).
But as the anchor of the league's seventh-stingiest defense (44.1 field-goal percentage allowed, via ESPN.com), Garnett will undoubtedly draw Anthony's number over the course of the seven-game series. Even if his one-on-one matchups are few, he'll surely see numerous drives and post isolations from this more efficient version of Melo.
Fans and media members will enter this series with the images of Anthony and Garnett's last clash.
These two stars will rise to the forefront of this series.
But don't expect their on-court battle to lead anywhere other than the second round.
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