Watching the Knicks Bulls game the other day I commented to my father, “Carmelo is giving me Marbury flashbacks,” going one on one way too much, refusing to play within the offense, and showing up teammates with poor body language. I did not know how right I was. Chris Broussard wrote an article today on ESPN.com leaking sources close to the team fingering Carmelo as a bit of a coach killer, another one of Steph Marbury’s famous traits.
Today the Knicks and head coach Mike D’antoni went their separate ways. Throughout the season I have made a habit of yelling at the TV about the poor defensive schemes and lethargic offensive production that I usually attribute to D’antoni. Things changed though when Carmelo found himself hurt and on the bench. All of a sudden Landry Fields was cutting to the basket and breaking down defenses. Steve Novak was draining threes. Tyson Chandler was an alley-oop machine. Even Jarred Jeffries looked somewhat offensively competent. And some no name point guard Jeremy Lin became an overnight superstar. The Knicks transformed into the most exciting team in basketball, fast breaks, alley-oops, and even good defense. They beat true playoff contenders like the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Knicks looked like a true contender, possibly a top three team in the east, with a bright future. Commentators around the Knicks mentioned how well the team got along comparing their camaraderie to that of a High School team. It seemed like in a blink D’antoni went from lame duck coach to offensive genius, but nothing lasts forever.
Carmelo returned to the Knicks, 7-1 in his absence, hosting the besieged New Jersey Nets and promptly lost. Conceding 100 points, something they hadn’t done in Carmelo’s reprieve. The loss registered only as a bump in the road. The Knicks had their swagger back, and adding a potent offensive weapon like Carmelo could only help. Nope. The Knicks reverted to the ball stopping, bad shots, and worse defense they became known for in the beginning of the season. Contested threes replaced Alley-oops, stagnation replaced fluidity, defensive complacency replaced defensive intensity and back biting replaced camaraderie. The Knicks morphed from rising Phoenix back to total disappointment. I found myself yelling at the TV the same things I yelled a month earlier, “PASS THE BALL”, “GET A STOP”, and “STUPID FOUL”. Carmelo refused to space the floor, defer to hot teammates and work hard on defense. In Carmelo’s ten games back the Knicks have gone 2-8.
Now I am not a Mike D’antoni apologist. He’s defensive prowess can only be described as non- existent and the Knicks were never going to win a championship with him at the helm. But, I do have a problem with players who torpedo their teams and hang their coaches out to dry like Carmelo did, since his return. It reflects a willingness to lose and the capability of abandoning your teammates. If your best player displays those traits, it is impossible to win a championship. In the end D’antoni’s blood is on Carmelo’s hands. Carmelo got his way, no more Lin Chandler alley-oops, no more Steve Novak threes, no more Landry Fields’ drives to the basket; it’s all Carmelo on the elbow, Carmelo pulls up from three and Carmelo on the block. No more D’antoni to point the finger at, It’s all on Carmelo now and I suspect Carmelo will be exposed as what he is, a selfish, overrated, playground player, at best. He came to the Knicks a star but may leave a joke. Let me make it clear, I am not rooting for this outcome; but as a Knicks fan it’s starting to feel like Marbury déjà vu.