This is all on Carmelo Anthony.
Enough excuses have been made for a so-called superstar whose one-dimensional game arrived in New York over a year ago. There has been an initial acclimation period, an abbreviated training camp, a hole at point guard, an injury and another acclimation period due to a revamped roster.
In and of themselves, those excuses had some legitimacy when they arose. But there has been one consistent thread through Anthony’s tenure with the New York Knicks: When he is on the floor, typically they don’t win.
The recent small sample is not encouraging; the Knicks were 7-1 while Anthony was sidelined with a groin injury and are 2-6 since his return, with all of the positive vibe around the team generated by Linsanity completely evaporating.
You want a bigger picture? Since Anthony’s ballyhooed arrival, the Knicks are 26-36 when he plays. That includes the playoffs, a meek four-game exit that did nothing to satisfy the thirst of success-starved fans at Madison Square Garden, the mecca of basketball.
Asked why he has been unable to mesh with a group that displayed complete cohesion in his absence, Anthony said, “I don’t know. I really can’t answer that. I really can’t put a finger on it.”
That response is unacceptable. Superstars are supposed to have a greater understanding of the game. Superstars are supposed to find ways to leave a positive imprint. Superstars are supposed to be committed to winning above all else.
And the backlash has begun. During Wednesday’s Philadelphia-Milwaukee telecast, Bucks announcer Bill Paschke called Anthony “a tall Allen Iverson.” On Friday, Kings announcers Grant Napier and Bill Walton piled on some more, targeting him for the Knicks’ shortcomings.
You can dismiss those criticisms as distant observations from outsiders not close to the team. Or you can turn on the TV at noon and see for yourself.
What you will see is a player totally disengaged unless he has the ball. Anthony runs the floor primarily for himself and rarely to create openings for others. He stations himself on the perimeter and begins walking back on defense when the ball moves to the other side of the court, diminishing his ability to make an impact on the offensive glass.
When the ball does find Anthony, the offense clearly slows and occasionally stops. Too often, his attacks ignore open teammates freed up by vacating help defenders. Misses are sometimes followed by barking at officials, only adding to his consistently poor transition defense. And he is easily baited into 1-on-1 duels with opponents that ignore the true goal and only serve his overinflated ego.
And now comes word from colleague Moke Hamilton that Anthony would be in favor of a coaching change from Mike D’Antoni to Nate McMillan, who may get handed his walking papers in Portland.
The Knicks can’t trade Anthony, certainly not before Thursday afternoon’s deadline, which would be a complete admittal that surrendering half the roster for him was a massive mistake. Even an offseason deal rationalized by a second postseason flameout would be next to impossible, given his three-year, $63.5 million extension that hasn’t even begun and the harsher luxury tax of the new CBA.
In eight-plus years of empty adulation, Anthony really has done virtually nothing in the NBA besides establish himself as the poster boy for “my-turn” basketball. And now Knicks fans are stuck with him, again left to wonder when it will be their turn.
TRIVIA: Carmelo Anthony has played 50 career postseason games. How many has he won? Answer below.
THE END OF CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT: Boston’s Rajon Rondo had the worst breakaway layup of the season vs. Houston on Tuesday – until the following night, when Washington’s Nick Young topped him.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, asked about the offensive execution of the Boston Celtics that set up Paul Pierce’s contested, off-balanced 3-pointer that forced overtime:
“I don’t know if that’s execution. That’s having a horseshoe up your rear.”
LINE OF THE WEEK: Deron Williams, New Jersey at Charlotte, March 4: 38 minutes, 16-29 FGs, 4-11 3-pointers, 21-21 FTs, six rebounds, seven assists, one steal, one block, 57 points in a 104-101 win. Williams shattered his previous career high of 42 and set a franchise NBA mark with the highest-scoring game in the league this season. Of the four best individual scoring games this season, Williams was the only one who erupted on the road.
LINE OF THE WEAK: Vince Carter, Dallas at Sacramento, March 9: 17 minutes, 0-5 FGs, 0-2 3-pointers, two rebounds, two assists, two turnovers, zero points in a 110-97 loss. This was Carter’s second donut of the week and earned him a benching the following night in Golden State.
TRILLION WATCH: Until this week, the season podium belonged exclusively to Lakers forwards Devin Ebanks (9 trillion) and Jason Kapono (8 and 7 trillion). However, they will have to make some room for a pair of recent arrivals. Now sharing third place with Kapono are Knicks forward Jared Jeffries, who had a 7 trillion Tuesday at Dallas, and Thunder guard Reggie Jackson, who also had a 7 trillion Wednesday vs. Phoenix.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Orlando at San Antonio, March 14. Is this Dwight Howard’s last game with the Magic? They won at Chicago last week but have home tests vs. Indiana and Miami before visiting the Spurs, who have become vulnerable at home.
GAME OF THE WEAK: Charlotte at New Orleans, March 12. Worst in the East meets worst in the West. It’s the No-Star Game!
TWO MINUTES: Ricky Rubio’s torn ACL really hurts Minnesota’s playoff chances because his absence forces Luke Ridnour to play point guard instead of shooting guard, where he has provided consistency that Wes Johnson and Wayne Ellington have not. With J.J. Barea sidelined with a sprained ankle, Ridnour has to run the offense. After consecutive double-digit games, Johnson was scoreless in 25 minutes in Saturday’s disconsolate home loss to New Orleans. That is what the Wolves are up against. GM David Kahn has until Thursday to upgrade the roster and has a nice trade chip in Michael Beasley. … Amid the Magic’s maddening inconsistency, which saw them lose to Charlotte and win at Chicago in consecutive games this week, Orlando somehow is 9-0 when leading after three quarters on the road. … There is no one who needs a change of scenery before Thursday’s trading deadline more than Andray Blatche, who has become the scapegoat for an awful season by the Wizards in which there has been plenty of blame to go around. He has never endeared himself to fans with his poor shot selection, terrible defense and questioning of authority, and earlier this season used his Twitter feed to criticize then-coach Flip Saunders and fans. After missing more than a month with a calf injury, Blatche returned this week and heard boos upon checking into games. Afterward, he admitted it was getting to him. “You’re home and people that’s supposed to have your back don’t have your back,” he said. “Instead of encouraging you to get better, they push you down and hope you do worse. Every time I touch the ball, I’m second-guessing. I’m trying to avoid the boos, trying to play a perfect game so I don’t have to hear it so I can help my team win.” Blatche has three years and more than $23 million left on his contract. … When Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden all scored at least 30 points in the Thunder’s win over Phoenix on Wednesday, it marked the first time the franchise had a trio of 30-point scorers since Tom Chambers, Dale Ellis and Xavier McDaniel did it for Seattle in 1988. As an aside, one of the few times in NBA history a team has had three 30-point scorers and lost occurred in Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game. … Utah’s Al Jefferson has been pretty much a black hole since entering the league in 2004. Until this season, he never had averaged more than 1.8 assists per game and has more career turnovers than assists. But he has been making an effort this season, averaging 2.3 assists. Earlier this week, he had consecutive contests with a career-high seven and five. “I’m trying to get Al Jefferson in the Skills Challenge,” Jazz point guard Earl Watson cracked. “Did you see him out there? That’s why he’s my client. I’m going viral with the campaign.” For his part, Jefferson knows that passing is a part of his game that could stand some work. “Hey, it’s taken me eight years to realize that if I pass the ball outside and guys hit open shots, it helps free me up,” he said. “I guess better late than never.” … This summer’s free agent class could include big names Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Gerald Wallace, Chris Kaman, Chauncey Billups and Antawn Jamison. It also will include Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova, who is becoming quite a player. The native of Turkey has either 15 points or 10 rebounds in his last 11 games, averaging 20.8 points and 11.8 boards during that stretch. The Bucks have over $38 million committed next season to Andrew Bogut, Stephen Jackson, Beno Udrih and Drew Gooden and have a huge extension looming for Brandon Jennings in 2013. Ilyasova is making $2.5 million and will command four times that in free agency. … The Suns are still on the fringes of the West playoff race, just two games in the loss column out of the final spot. One reason they are hanging around is health: In this unforgiving season, Phoenix has lost just four man games to injury, by far the lowest total in the league. The training staff, headed by Aaron Nelson, previously has been credited with revitalizing Shaquille O’Neal and prolonging the careers of Nash and Grant Hill, both of whom are still effective as they inch toward 40. It is doing the same with Michael Redd, who has had two torn ACLs. … Two long 3-pointer streaks ended Wednesday. Boston was 0-of-8 from the arc at Philadelphia, ending a run of 238 games with at least one triple dating to Jan. 22, 2009 at Orlando. And Miami was 0-of-10 vs. Atlanta, the first time in 455 games since April 6, 2006 vs. Detroit that the Heat was shut out from distance. … Philadelphia’s Evan Turner made just 14 starts as a rookie, when he averaged 7.2 points and heard some “bust” whispers as the second overall pick. He began this season on the bench behind shooter savant Jodie Meeks but was elevated to the starting lineup this week when coach Doug Collins felt a need to shake things up. In his first start at Milwaukee on Monday, Turner shot a horrific 1-of-12 but did contribute 12 rebounds and four assists. Things went much better from there as Turner had a career-high 26 and nine boards vs. Boston and 16, 12 and six assists vs. Utah, both wins. “He worked his tail off to be a better basketball player in the offseason and he was when he came back,” Collins said. “When he didn’t start, I know a part of him said ‘I should be.’ But he didn’t say anything. Evan has extreme confidence. He thinks he’s the best player on this team.” Now Collins has a different dilemma – a starting lineup that includes Turner, point guard Jrue Holiday and All-Star forward Andre Iguodala, who leads the team in assists. All are at their best when they have the handle. “Evan needs the ball,” the coach said. “He’s a totally different player when he has the ball. I have to find the right fit. I have to see how those guys play together over an extended period. They are our future.” … In Friday’s win over Portland that was pretty much garbage time for the last 30 minutes, Celtics center Greg Stiemsma managed to shoot 0-of-9, commit two turnovers and foul out. In case you’re wondering, he was ineligible for Line of the Weak because his team won. … Veteran Jerry Stackhouse spent the first month of last season with the Heat, when they were still sorting out the whole “Big Three” mix. Now with the Hawks and never one to bite his tongue, Stackhouse isn’t overly impressed by Miami and doesn’t believe the hype. “They put that team out there as a world-beater,” he said after the Hawks – missing starters Joe Johnson and Al Horford and reserve Tracy McGrady – pushed the host Heat to the final possession. “We came in here and competed with them just as well as anybody else and we felt we should have won the game.” Atlanta won at Miami in early January and lost a triple-OT game at home to the Heat three days later before taking a 20-point home beating in February. It would make for an intriguing playoff matchup. … When Rockets coach Kevin McHale was asked if his team’s slump could be attributed to the unrelenting schedule, he refused to give his players an excuse. “We’re playing basketball,” he said. “We’re not doing an eight-hour shift or 12-hour shift in the mine.” The Hall of Famer was born and raised in Hibbing, a mining town in the Mesabi Iron Range in northeast Minnesota.
Trivia Answer: 16. … Happy 33rd Birthday, Elton Brand. … Judging from his Twitter posts, J.R. Smith’s lack of professionalism has reached its bottom.
Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear Wednesday and Sunday. You can follow him on Twitter.