His wife already has one. Beginning on Tuesday it will be Carmelo Anthony’s turn at reality television. 5 teams will try to convince Carmelo to take a pay cut for the singular purpose of playoff success. Their plea to him is one of inclusion. He won’t have to go it alone anymore. He won’t have to be on a scoring island all by himself. He won’t have to shoulder all of the blame and responsibility. In Chicago he would play alongside Derrick Rose and Joaquim Noah. In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant and Julius Randle would be his teammates. In Dallas he would be reunited with Tyson Chanlder, and-most importantly, Dirk Nowitzki would relieve him of the scoring burden. In Houston there would be stars at each position: James Harden at guard, Carmelo at forward, Dwight Howard at center. In New York he would make the most money, that would have to act as a second teammate, it would have to bring comfort. Expect fierce competition among the teams as they disparage the other while promoting themselves as the best option. Four will lose one will win.
This is why 5 teams want Carmelo Anthony. Having him on the roster does two things. First, it hand delivers a bona fide scoring star, someone who can get his shot whenever he wants it, regardless of the defense, regardless of the breakdowns, regardless of the situation. He can score with his eyes closed. Second, Carmelo Anthony gives teams a talent, one who is difficult to defend, someone who opposing coaches try to stop but can’t. He makes the game easier.
It seems like a farfetched idea to ask Carmelo Anthony to leave $30 million dollars on the table, leave New York and start over. Especially since there are no Carmelo secrets anymore. After 11 years we know who he is. He is a beautiful scorer. He is a shot maker. He is absent of fear, his excellence in the last minutes of games outshines his peers. Both teams he played for, the Denver Nuggets and the NewYork Knicks, he carried on his back.
And that is the other not so secret about Carmelo Anthony. He carries teams with his offense. End of story. For all of his offensive talent, and scoring binges and brilliance and last second shots, he has never been in the conversation for MVP, he has had little playoff success, he has not been close to a NBA title. Carmelo has been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs more than Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined. All four were in the same draft class.
But in 7 out of 11 seasons Carmelo has effortlessly averaged 25 points a game. He was the leading scorer in the league, once. In a remarkable stretch of games in 2013 he had 50 points against the Heat. The next night he had 40 in Atlanta. Not tired, the next game, he had 41 against the Bucks. His matchups against Lebron James have been epic as if he is trying to prove a point. In 2010 Lebron had 43 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists. Carmelo had 40 points, 6 assists and 7 rebounds. With 1.9 seconds left in overtime he hit the game winner over Lebron. All it did was end the Cleveland Cavaliers 13 game winning streak.
But he dominates the ball, the Carmelo haters say. He is in the top 5 in usage rate. When was the last time Carmelo made another player better? He was on a team with Allen Iverson and they won 50 games but lost in the first round of the playoffs. It was an embarrassing exit because the Nuggets were swept which was only the second time in NBA history a team with 50 games was swept in the first round of the playoffs. So this is the Carmelo Anthony truth: he has been the face of an organization and yet he has never led an organization anywhere.
Like sunlight, his talent is so overwhelming it is intoxicating to teams. They just cannot resist. Perhaps Carmelo has been miscast all along. Perhaps he cannot be the best player on your team. Perhaps he cannot be the highest paid. But he can be the best scorer, the most popular. Maybe you need to look elsewhere for a leader. You need to look elsewhere for a defender. You need to look elsewhere for a facilitator.
If basketball players are evaluated by 5 tools, similar to how baseball players are judged, and those tools are scoring, rebounding, assists, leadership and defense, Carmelo only has three, the first three. Because the last two have always been, for him, a work in progress, he is not considered in quite the same stratosphere as Lebron James or Dwyane Wade. Scoring comes easy to Carmelo, maybe too easy. The rest of it- not so much. But perhaps that doesn’t matter because he won’t be alone if he goes to another team. He will have someone to share the responsibilities with. But if he stays in New York it is the same movie twice. This year all over again.
Acquiring Carmelo may be worth it but it can also be complicated. The Bulls have to amnesty Carlos Boozer and possibly trade Taj Gibson, something they don’t want to do because the loss of Gibson hurts the Bulls identity of defense, energy, effort and hustle. Adding Doug McDermott in the draft was an upgrade, another shooter to pair with Carmelo, to give options to Derrick Rose.
The Lakers, free of salaries, can sign Carmelo and luxuriate in the idea of Carmelo playing alongside Julius Randle in the front court. Julius in the post, Carmelo on the wing would be a heady combination for front court defenses.
The Mavericks, even with Dirk Nowtizki taking a $10 million dollar pay cut, still have to make one more roster cut to pay Carmelo in the $15 million dollar range which is far less than what he can make in New York.
The Rockets have to move Jeremy Lin before signing Carmelo but they still have the issue of their deplorable defense on the wing. James Harden is the league’s worst defender. Chandler Parsons isn’t much better. The Rockets could start Patrick Beverly, that would help, but it would also mean the two best defenders on the team would be the point guard and the center. In a loaded Western Conference, with shooters everywhere, that may not be enough.
The Knicks have the lure of money and that is about it. Derrick Fisher is a rookie coach, who, like all rookie coaches, will have to learn on the job. Their roster isn’t much. Perhaps they can add Pau Gasol and in the East, a healthy Pau, Amare and Carmelo, can make the playoffs. But Pau and Amare have not been able to stay healthy the past two seasons. Carmelo wants to stay in New York but the Knicks may make it impossible.
Earlier this year Carmelo scored 62 points against a good defensive minded Charlotte Bobcats team. He scored in every way possible. With jump shots and drives to the rim and three pointers. He tutored the Bobcat defenders who rotated on him with no luck- it was demoralizing. He just is a beautiful player to watch score, especially when it is one of those special nights. That is who is being recruited on Tuesday.