It's no secret that this season has not gone well for New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony. Off the court, he created an unnecessary media firestorm with his declaration in the New York Observer that he wanted to become a free agent after the season.
On the court, Melo has yet to come close to the guy who won the NBA scoring title last year. He has struggled to find a rhythm on offense, and his team has struggled to overcome the loss of perhaps its most irreplaceable player—Tyson Chandler—who will be out for more than a month with a fractured leg.
Just how "off" is Melo at the moment? Let's compare his per-36-minute statistics to those of perennial punching bag Andrea Bargnani.
Now, Bargnani has shot surprisingly well thus far, but Melo is supposed to be a superstar in this league, the kind of player around whom a team can build a contender.
It seems that quite a few NBA executives are starting to doubt whether he has what it takes to lead his team to the promised land.
In this ESPN Insider article (subscription only), Chris Broussard interviews four anonymous NBA executives on the subject of the Knicks star. And the results aren't glowing.
One executive characterizes Melo as a "winner" but believes he developed too many bad habits early in his professional career.
I like Melo. I like that he competes. He obviously can score at a high level. People forget that when he got drafted by Denver, the Nuggets had won 17 games the year before. And he immediately turned them into a playoff team and took them to the playoffs every year he was there. He took a 17-win team and led them to 43 wins. So he can win and make a team better. I think his problem is that he went to Denver, which was a dysfunctional franchise at that time, so he picked up some bad habits and didn't learn what it takes to really win in this league. If he had gone to a better organization with a truly professional environment coming out of the gate, he would have learned and been more professional. He won big in college (leading Syracuse to the National Championship in 2003). He won big in high school at Oak Hill. He's been a winner all his life.
The other three executives were far less complimentary of Melo's ability to win in the NBA.
From Exec No. 2:
He's a great player, but he's also a selfish player. That's just how he is. I don't think he'll look at himself in the mirror and say, "What am I not doing? What am I doing that's keeping us from winning?"
From Exec No. 3:
I actually think that, for whatever reason, Melo's always gotten a pass. At the end of the day, he's been in the league long enough where, if he was really a winner and about winning, he'd have figured it out by now. He's had enough time to do that now.
From Exec No. 4:
I love him as a player. I just don't think he's your alpha male. He can't be your No. 1 guy. He's kind of like Clyde Drexler. As the alpha male in Portland, Clyde never got over the top. But when he went to Houston and was the No. 2 guy to Hakeem Olajuwon, he won. Melo's too much about himself to be the No. 1 guy.
For a Knicks fan, is there any insult worse than comparing the team's star to Stephon Marbury?
Yes, there is: Comparing the Knicks star to Eddy Curry.