It’s always a wonderful thing when a basketball player heading down the wrong path matures and begins to make the most of his talents.
The Denver Nuggets, for example, have an entire roster filled with such reclamation projects.
Chris Anderson was banned from the NBA for two years for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, but after being reinstated this year, has played with unbridled passion, energy, and enthusiasm.
Nene Hillario was a lost cause after suffering injury after injury and then coming down with testicular cancer.
Finally, given a break from the injury gods, Nene has reclaimed the energy and ferocity that made him such a promising prospect early in his career.
J.R. Smith used to be a selfish punk before tragically losing a friend speeding through a red light two offseasons ago.
Since then, Smith has mellowed out somewhat, has been less of a disaster off the court, and has begun to tap into his unlimited athletic potential.
Even Carmelo Anthony, who after last season’s disastrous playoff loss to the Lakers, claimed that he quit during the series and has turned himself around.
No longer is 'Melo solely concerned with sabotaging Denver’s offense for his own points, and no longer is he a constant distraction on the court.
Whether by maturing with age; by soaking in the trust, hard work, and leadership of the 2008 Olympic Team, or by believing in the wisdom of Chauncey Billups, this season’s Carmelo Anthony is the most mature Carmelo Anthony the NBA has ever seen.
No small wonder, the Nuggets have played great basketball because of it.
While Carmelo has been able to turn his career around, there are a number of other NBA players in desperate need of reclamation projects to save their NBA careers and reputations.
Allen Iverson—Detroit Pistons
Iverson earned a reputation in the league for being physically fearless—undaunted in challenging the paint against bigger, stronger defenders.
Sadly, in reality, Iverson is a coward who is too scared to reject the bad habits that have plagued his NBA past.
He’s too scared to sublimate his desires to over handle the basketball and make a play only for himself or by driving and dishing.
He’s too scared to focus and play disciplined defense and instead opts to gamble for steals at the expense of leaving his check wide open.
He’s too scared to sacrifice himself (like by accepting a sixth man role) for the good of the team.
And whenever faced with those challenges, he simply removes himself from the situation by blaming his coaches, blaming his teammates, or simply bailing on the team as he did in Detroit this year.
Sadly, Detroit was Iverson’s best chance to convert himself, but he didn’t want to do it.
If he can’t turn those bad habits around, he’ll go down in history as one of the most overrated stat-compilers who ever played the game.
Eddy Curry—New York Knicks
Once upon a time, Curry was a centerpiece to a team’s offense.
Too bad Curry’s always been too much of a nice, aloof guy to have a competitive edge.
And too bad Curry is perpetually lazy and out of shape.
It’s not unreasonable to think that Curry can turn himself around and become a very valuable offensive player somewhere, but—to do that, someone has to convince Curry that he can, and should jump when rebounding or trying to defend.
Andrea Bargnani—Toronto Raptors
The youngster finally began to show glimpses of talent, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that he’s slow, soft, and one of the least aware defensive players in the game.
If someone can sink into his head how to play acceptable defense, he’ll become a useful player.
But right now his defense needs help, ASAP.
Baron Davis—Los Angeles Clippers
It may be best for everyone involved (the Warriors, Clippers, Davis, Mike Dunleavy, Don Nelson, and Monta Ellis) if the Golden State Warriors reclaimed Davis as one of their own.
Rasheed Wallace—Detroit Pistons
A long time ago, Wallace was one of the baddest defensive players around, and an absolute monster in the pivot.
But nowadays, he’s too scared to battle in the pivot, to take big shots, and to play with an edge, instead, becoming an oversized three point shooter.
No small coincidence that as Wallace has wimped out, his Pistons have stopped meeting expectations.
Gerald Green—Dallas Mavericks
The kid oozes talent, but he has no idea how to play organized basketball.
Perhaps he’s simply a late bloomer who’ll flip the switch later rather than sooner, but right now, he’s nothing but a waste of talent.
Amare Stoudemire—Phoenix Suns
Selfish, petulant, immature?
All these words describe Amare Stoudemire who rejects any form of constructive criticism, rejects structured defense, and rejects practicing hard.
His recent comments regarding coaches Mike D’Antoni, Terry Porter, and Alvin Gentry suggest he doesn’t want a coach that will coach him to be the best he can be, but instead wants a coach who will strictly cater to and coddle him.
At this pace, Stoudemire will be an All Time scorer, and an All Time underachiever.
Jerome James—Chicago Bulls
Who knows if James actually has any talent anywhere in his bod; he’s constantly overweight, out of shape, and as a result, injury prone as well.
If he works hard and takes basketball seriously, perhaps...perhaps he can be a respectable end of the bench banger somewhere in the league.
All he is now is a roster formality.
Adam Morrison—Los Angeles Lakers
J.J. Reddick has proven that with confidence, a player can maximize a limited amount of talent and carve a small niche for himself in the NBA.
Too bad Morrison doesn’t even bother working hard on the defensive end, and has no confidence in his point making abilities anymore.
If some team can rehabilitate Morrison’s shattered confidence, perhaps he can be a secondary scorer on some team’s bench. Right now, Morrison is dangerously close to being out of the league.