It was a long night for Carmelo Anthony.
It began with a visit with George Karl, which ended a prolonged silence with his former coach. It continued with another poor shooting night and loss with the New York Knicks, which is becoming far too common lately. And it ended with accepting the blame for the team’s troubles and remaining defiant, which is his style, on and off the court.
Facing the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night for the first time since forcing them to trade him to New York 11 months ago, Anthony needed 30 shots to score 25 points. His jumper with 1.7 seconds left in regulation forced overtime but only delayed the inevitable.
Here’s the formula for the Knicks: Make a half-hearted effort to run the offense and get others involved. Realize they don’t have a point guard skilled enough to run an effective pick-and-roll. Run isolations for Anthony, who actually tried to beat a triple-team before turning it over at the end of the first OT. Lose.
The slide is up to six games now after a 119-114 double-overtime loss that completed an 0-4 homestand. This one was a bit different, with Anthony hearing boos after some poor shot selection and the Knicks being done in by Danilo Gallinari, part of the oversized package that was sent to Denver for an overrated player who could land the Knicks back in the salary cap hell they were stuck in for a decade.
Before the game, Anthony sought out Karl, who has been critical of Anthony’s ball-stopping style and lack of commitment to defense. They managed to keep things cordial.
From Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post: “As for Anthony and Karl, these two eternally linked in the Mile High, they hadn’t spoken since Melo demanded Denver trade him, 11 franchise-changing months ago. Before Saturday’s game, the former face of the franchise spoke face-to-face to Karl, after seeking out his longtime boss. “I got up, gave him a hug,” said Karl, who became Anthony’s coach in January of 2005 and had ups-and-downs with the all-star. “We talked five to seven minutes, talked about the trade a little bit. I told him my philosophy is usually that it’s sometimes best to wait six, seven, eight months (to talk it over). I said next time we see each other we should go to dinner. And I think we will. … I’m not saying Melo and I had the best relationship but I don’t think it was ever close to what people wanted to make it out to be. We always had the ability to go and talk and get things out. … It was a lengthy conversation for an opposing player before a game. I know that (old-school coach) Chuck Daly probably wouldn’t have liked it.”
There’s no doubt Anthony wanted to light up his former team. He wanted to have a game like Gallinari, who scored a career-high 37 points – including nine in the second OT – and grabbed 11 rebounds. But teams are loading up on Anthony, who clearly is affected by wrist and ankle injuries. He missed 14 of his first 17 shots before catching fire in the fourth quarter. But he cooled off again and finished 10-of-30 from the field.
Meanwhile, Amar’e Stoudemire – you remember him, don’t you? All-Star last season, returned the Knicks to relevance – took one shot in the fourth quarter and overtimes. Nothing like a $100 million decoy, hunh?
From Howard Beck of the New York Times: “The Knicks’ offense has been shockingly poor all season, and Anthony’s dominating of the ball has been a persistent — if vaguely addressed — concern. Coaches and players have spoken generally about the need for more ball movement, without being specific, although he is clearly the main culprit on most nights. On Saturday, fans started booing Anthony’s missed shots in the second half, which was also a first. “I’m not too concerned about that,” he said, vowing that he will fulfill the grand expectations that came with the trade. Things will still be great. I’m not down, I’m not regretting anything. I’m not regretting the trade. I’m here. You want to boo me for missing shots, boo me.”
Anthony is due $82 million over the next four years, so he can keep hoisting away while blasting “Empire State of Mind” in his headphones. But coach Mike D’Antoni is in the final year of his contract and declared the Knicks a contender during preseason. His reputation as an offensive genius is being chipped away with every game, and the media is starting to wonder if it’s time for a change.
From Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post: “As much as anything, this is Mike D’Antoni’s turn. It’s his time. Should he be fired as the head coach of the Knicks? Put it this way: Personally, I haven’t reached the point of no return, but if that’s the decision his bosses come up with, I also would find it difficult to mount any strong objection. But it does sound like that’s an increasingly minority view, if the angry regulars at Madison Square Garden the past few weeks are to be believed. This probably is the more salient question: Can D’Antoni still rescue himself? Can he tip-toe his way off the abyss? Many times, these things take on a life of their own and momentum carries the day.”
In Friday’s loss to Milwaukee, there were chants of “Fire D’Antoni!” and “Phil Jackson!” from a fan base that has been waiting since 2001 for a lousy playoff game win. Every team except Portland and expansion Charlotte has won a playoff series in that span.
While D’Antoni may not last the season, it likely won’t be Jackson replacing him. He told a good friend of ours that while he likes New York, he does not miss coaching.
From SheridanHoops staffer Mark Heisler, writing for the New York Times: “The city remains so special to Jackson that his girlfriend, Jeanie Buss, the daughter of the Los Angeles Lakers’ owner, is always wondering whether he will end his career where it started in the 1960s, when he was the Knicks’ resident hippie. And, she is quick to note, there are hourly nonstops between the two coasts. But all that will matter only if Jackson decides he does want to sit on the bench again, despite his age and his aches and pains. He has always wanted to make the break from coaching and, after two tries, has never been happier than he now is in retirement No. 3. Here, the sky is blue, the temperature is in the 60s and the beach is five blocks from the 10-table bistro where he ate lunch Thursday. “I have no desire to coach,” he said. “You never say never, right? I mean, there’s always something that might change my mind — but I just don’t see it.”
Things could be worse for the Knicks. They could be the Nets – a lame team in a lame-duck city hoping to catch two bolts of lightning in one bottle.
Playing out their final season in beautiful downtown Newark, the Nets fell to 1-5 at the Prudential Center with an 84-74 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
From Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: “Deron Williams can’t crack the cold and uncomfortable Rock, so he’s waiting for a better home in Brooklyn. After another horrendous shooting night for himself and the Nets in Newark, Williams expressed displeasure with the team’s stopgap home court at the Prudential Center, essentially calling it inadequate for basketball. “I don’t like this arena one bit. It’s a good thing it’s not our arena next year,” he said matter-of-factly after shooting 5-of-18 in an 84-74 loss to the Thunder Saturday night. “Even last year, it just doesn’t feel like our home arena, I don’t know why. It just doesn’t have good visual. The depth perception is not there.”
Hard to say whether Williams was voicing another reason to flee the Nets after this season; he was smart enough to say “our” and “next year.” But his less than ringing endorsement becomes more fodder for Dwight Howard, who is believed to be in no hurry to join the Nets via trade because he doesn’t want to miss the playoffs.
The numbers seem to back that up. In six games at Prudential Center this season, the Nets are 1-5 and shooting 38 percent from the floor, as opposed to 43 percent in their 10 road games.
Finally, we go to Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who first chastised those partaking of hallucinogenics, then appeared to join them.
The Heat pulled away from the Philadelphia 76ers for a 113-92 victory, improving to 6-0 without Dwyane Wade, who sat out again with multiple injuries. Before the game, it was mentioned to Speolstra that a Twitter account labeled #withoutwade had been started, suggesting the Heat were better without the 2006 Finals MVP. Speolstra called the notion “theatre of the absurd.”
Then Spoelstra apparently lost his mind, claiming that when he looks at the 76ers, he is looking in a mirror – suggesting that they are very much like the Heat.
From Ethan Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: “Erik Spoelstra keeps saying that when he peeks at Philadelphia, he feels as if he’s looking in a mirror, because of the defense-stressing, pace-pushing way Doug Collins’ team plays. And there is much to admire about the deep, Atlantic Division-leading 76ers, about the balance of the attack, about the promise of the youth, especially Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. And yet, that mirror in which the Heat sees the Sixers? Rear view. Spoelstra’s team beat Philadelphia seven of eight times last season, including four of five in the playoffs. Then the Heat beat Philadelphia here again Saturday night, 113-92, for much the same reason, in much the same way. Even when the Heat is down to two stars, as it was again in Dwyane Wade’s absence, those two stars help it pull away against a squad still relying more on the collective approach.”
Right, Erik. They’re exactly alike, except for those three superstars Philly doesn’t have.
- The Hawks trounced the Cavaliers, 121-94, to improve to 5-1 without Al Horford. The Cavs, who are nothing like the Heat, have lost three in a row by a combined 76 points.
- The Pistons squeezed out a 94-91 win over the suddenly slumping Trail Blazers, who have dropped five of seven.
- The Mavericks announced Dirk Nowitzki will miss four games to work on his conditioning, then managed an 83-81 road win over the Hornets, who have lost seven in a row and 12 of 13. Big sale! NBA team! Everything must go!!!
- The Bulls played without Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and John Lucas III and still registered a 95-89 win over the Bobcats to improve to 7-0 at home. Point guard Mike James, picked up off the D-League scrap heap last week, had nine points and 10 assists. Charlotte point guards D.J. Augustin and Kemba Walker combined for seven points and five assists.
- The Rockets notched a 105-102 win over the Spurs, who rested Tim Duncan because they were playing their fourth game in five nights. Matt Bonner started for Duncan, but Tiago Splitter came off the bench for a career-high 25 points and 10 boards.
- The Grizzlies share the NBA’s longest current winning streak with the Rockets at six games after their 128-95 destruction of the Kings. Written off by many after Zach Randolph went down with an MCL tear, Memphis is now in first place in the Southwest Division.
- Remember last week, when Kevin Love tweeted his distaste for the officials by hoping one day the Wolves would get some respect? Apparently, they’re still waiting. In a 108-98 loss at Utah, Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour spent the final seconds yelling at the refs while the ball was in play.