Sunday, July 13, 2014


By: Connor Glowacki

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      Just a few hours ago, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony finally agreed to stay with his current team by reaching a 5 year deal worth around $122 million. In a statement, he said, "this organization has supported me and in return, I want to stay and build here with this city and this team". In any other year, he would have been the biggest free agent and this story would have received the largest amount of attention around the sports world.
      With LeBron James' decision to come back to play for his (nearby) hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, Carmelo's decision to return to New York, where he grew up, has become secondary news. And in all honesty that has how his career has shaped out.
     Carmelo Anthony has always been in LeBron James' shadow. In 2003 as a freshman at Syracuse University, Carmelo won the national championship and was the best player in the country. Usually that would net a player the first overall pick in the draft. However, Carmelo was taken third in the 2003 NBA Draft behind LeBron and, surprisingly, international player Darko Milicic.
      Throughout his NBA career with the Denver Nuggets and the Knicks, Carmelo has averaged a remarkable 25.3 points per game and has shot over 45% from the field. Impressively he has made the playoffs every year since being in the league, outside of this past season. It took LeBron longer just to make the playoffs. But where the two stars differ is postseason success. While LeBron got Cleveland to the NBA Finals in 2007, and later the Miami Heat to four straight finals appearances with NBA titles in 2012 and 2013, Carmelo has only gotten out of the first round TWICE in his 11 year career. Those being when he led the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals in 2009 before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers and to the second round with the Knicks in 2013 before being quickly disposed of by LeBron and the Heat.
       Before the 2013 season even began, Carmelo was mulling over free agency and how he had always dreamt of being courted by different teams. After a disastrous 2013 season for the Knicks, Carmelo went on a countrywide tour to visit several teams, similar to what LeBron did in 2010. Up to 6 successful teams had gauged interest in Carmelo, but it was eventually whittled down to the Knicks, the Chicago Bulls, and the Lakers. Both the Knicks and Lakers would be part of rebuilding projects.
       The Knicks utilized new President and NBA legend Phil Jackson to try and convince Carmelo that with new coach Derek Fisher, they'd be able to utilize the triangle offense to wonders in New York and get him more help in the 2015 free agency period. The Lakers attempted to woo him by getting across the idea that he could player with Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and forward Pau Gasol to form their own 'Big 3'. However with no other viable player options on the roster, the Lakers would still be a rebuild. The Chicago Bulls, arguably one explosive scorer away from a championship, believed that Carmelo would be the final piece of a championship puzzle and be paired with star (but oft-injured) point guard Derrick Rose, center Joakim Noah and one of the best coaches in the league, Tom Thibodeau.
       The Knicks and Bulls were the final two teams left in the sweepstakes and it basically came down to this: have a chance to win a title now with the Bulls OR potentially struggle for another season in New York, but make 50 MILLION DOLLARS MORE. Having a ring vs. Having his cake. And today Carmelo decided to have his cake.
       While Carmelo is in desperate need of a championship to help his legacy, this was not a bad decision that he made. He will make much more money in New York and will have one of the greatest coaches of all-time in Phil Jackson making executive moves to help turn this team into a title contender in two to three years. Jackson is reportedly already targeting Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol for 2015 free agency. But it is important to point out that while LeBron received almost unanimous praise from sports fans for returning home to play for Cleveland, Carmelo is getting none of that for returning to play for his hometown New York Knicks. Why is that?
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        Even though LeBron won his two titles in Miami, he still has two titles and is a champion. He also plays basketball in a way that makes his peers take notice. Incredible passing ability, tenacious defensive intensity, efficient offense and explosive athleticism. He makes the other players on his team(s) better and is able to get players from around the league to play with him. Carmelo is purely known for his offensive scoring abilities. He's not a prolific passer, usually plays one on one isolation dribble basketball and has been accused of being an extremely lazy defender. We are still unsure if Carmelo makes his teammates better and for all of these reasons, he continues to remain in LeBron's shadow.   Granted, he has had an interesting array of teammates around the years that include, trigger happy guard J.R. Smith, inconsistent point guard Jeremy Lin, injured and aging center Tyson Chandler and consistently injured forward Amare Stoudemire.
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      But what Carmelo has on his side finally is a guy in Phil Jackson, who is a winner and knows how to put winning teams together. Jackson will have to figure out which players he needs to put around Carmelo so that he can succeed as the focal point of the Knicks offense as well as make his teammates better and want to fight for him. Carmelo Anthony is 30 years and now has all the money he could possibly want out of playing basketball. There is still time for him to win a championship and define his legacy. But instead of what Carmelo does on the court, it might be more on how well Phil Jackson does behind the scenes.

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