Recently Coach Jim Boeheim made waves in the media by essentially calling Carmelo Anthony’s New York Knicks teammates a bunch of jabronis (my word not his). He went on to say that a second scorer would allow Anthony to reach the NBA Promised Land and that contrary to some media opinions; he is in fact a winner. Is Coach right? Let’s look at three of his more pertinent comments and delve a little deeper.
The Syracuse coach said that people who say Anthony isn’t a winner “don’t understand history” because Anthony won in high school, at Syracuse and with the Olympic team.
Everyone in the NBA wins in high school, so let’s count that out. But Anthony did win at Syracuse, as a freshman and as the best player in the country. On the Olympic Gold Medal teams he was the Go-To guy. That’s impressive considering the amount of talent and alpha dogs on that squad. Even his peers know he has what it takes to close out games and perform in big moments. So in this regard, the Coach is absolutely spot-on.
Boeheim asked rhetorically if the Knicks as currently constituted had that second “guy,” implying that J.R. Smith didn’t fit the bill of other traditional second stars like Scottie Pippen and Dwyane Wade.
Clearly J.R. Smith is not Pippen or Wade. But for the majority of his sixth-man of the year season, Smith did a pretty good impersonation of a second option on a championship caliber team. Then in the playoffs, he completely disappeared. His scoring dropped by four points per game and shot nine percentage points below his already low 42%. 33% and 14.3 ppg from your second option is not going to cut it and is basically the opposite of what your second option needs to give you. Again, couldn’t agree more with Coach.
“I believe he’s good enough to win an NBA championship but I believe he needs another guy with him.”
Ah, the meat and potatoes. See, I agree with coach Boeheim, but there’s a deeper issue lurking here. Yes Anthony is talented enough to win, and yes with a solid second scorer he’d have a better chance of winning. BUT, and this is a huge BUT, his isolation style of play will not translate into a championship.
In today’s NBA teams that move the ball and hit open threes win. It’s that simple. Just look at our most probable Finals matchup: the San Antonio Spurs, the organization that basically started this change of direction; taking on the Miami Heat, the team with the most unselfish superstars in the league that always finds the open man.
The isolation days are over. Carmelo has had second scorers before. He had Iverson and he had Amar’e Stoudemire while he was still playing at a high level. Neither player meshed with Carmelo because of how much he dominates the ball.
Even Kobe Bryant learned to share the ball and won two titles with Pau Gasol has his running mate. And let’s face it; Anthony isn’t as good as Kobe was in isolation during his peak years.
Anthony needs to look no further than Dirk Nowitzki’s 2011 title. Dirk had two of Melo’s teammates, Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler, and then Jason Terry as a second option, who is extremely comparable to J.R. Smith. The rest of Dirk’s cast featured an aging Shawn Marion and Caron Butler, which wasn’t that much better than Melo’s crew – consisting of Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton, and a revived Kenyon Martin.
Melo had a comparable roster. But Dirk’s team moved the ball better. Dirk averaged 27.7 ppg in the playoffs that year off of 18.9 attempts per game. Carmelo averaged 28.8 off of 25.8 shots per contest. That says it all.
Look, Melo needs better play from his cast. Coach Boeheim was absolutely right in his criticism of the Knicks. As a whole, the team played very poorly in the 6-game loss to the Indiana Pacers. But as the superstar, it begins and ends with Carmelo. He needs to find that balance between scorer and playmaker that other stars like Tim Duncan, LeBron James, and Dirk Nowitzki have mastered. He needs to learn to pick his spots like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan did. He needs to evolve from a scorer into a basketball player.
Scorers like Bernard King, Dominique Wilkins, Alex English, Adrian Dantley, Allen Iverson, and Karl Malone had great careers. Yet, not one held the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Jordan, Bryant and Dirk learned how to focus on defense and how to get the most out of everyone on their team. That’s the next step in the evolution of Carmelo Anthony.
When that transformation occurs, he’ll get his championship.