It’s never a dull day when you cover the New York Knicks, but after practice yesterday, when Carmelo Anthony did his best to take the focus off of his team’s nascent winning ways, we officially reached a new level of incredulity.
Per Newsday’s Kimberly A. Martin, Anthony said “I think in the last three games, my focus was to have an energy that I haven’t had so far this season, especially on the defensive end.”
Did ‘Melo really utter those words aloud? In public? In front of the media?
Where has his energy been all season? Was it sapped by his point forward duties? Was it eclipsed by his nagging injuries? No, I think we must assume that Carmelo believes that the deposed Mike D’Antoni robbed Anthony of his energy. In fairness, the only difference over the last three games is the coach, right?
To quote Mitt Romney, I find this to be a extraordinary! Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is a player who gets paid over $18 million dollars a year to play basketball, right? Heck, isn’t this the guy who had zero problem exerting all of his “energy” in manipulating his way out of Denver? Is this not the “superstar” who has repeatedly proclaimed himself to be the “leader” of the Knicks?
But it doesn’t stop there.
“When he got the job, I told him, ‘Hold me accountable,’ ” Anthony said of new interim coach Mike Woodson. “I don’t have a problem with criticism. If I can do something to help better this team, let me know. And he’s been doing that.”
Again, call me crazy, but it sure seems like Anthony believes that Woodson has done a better job than D’Antoni at holding him accountable (he certainly hasn’t helped the small forward recapture his shooting form). I’m sorry, but if you’re holding yourself out there as one of the best players in the world, how, exactly, is it that you need someone to hold you accountable? Shouldn’t you be holding yourself accountable?
Is this where we are when it comes to “professional” athletes? They get all the praise and accolades when they successfully “do this,” but when they stumble, it’s someone else’s fault?
How about we try a new approach, Carmelo? It’s called honesty. Keep in mind, honesty is different than transparency. When you make statements about your effort—or in this case, a shocking lack thereof—we see through your words. We see that your agenda lies somewhere between shots across MDA’s bow and laying the groundwork to excuse your future failures.
Instead, why not just come out and say “I just couldn’t play for that other guy. It was either him or me, and in the end, it was him. It’s nothing personal, we just needed a change to reach our potential here, and I respect him for stepping aside. He’s a good man, a good coach, and I respect him greatly. Sometimes things don’t work out, and in this case, I take full responsibility for that, not because I want to be portrayed as a villain, but because I am being honest. I definitely learned a lot through this experience, and I am going to use this to become a better, more complete player, and more importantly, a better leader and a better example to my teammates.”
The irony about ‘Melo holding court on issues like accountability is that he seems completely unable to apply the concept to himself, himself. Making such statements, just as the Knicks may be emerging from their recent funk, only serves to further the narrative—one that I’m increasingly becoming tied to, by the way—and to encourage even more questions and criticisms.
Maybe Anthony doesn’t understand the gravity of his statements. Perhaps he was just making the same observation that everyone else already has—that his effort, energy and willingness to do whatever it takes to win is and always has been entirely within his control. The sad thing is that most of his teammates already “do this”—also known as trying—every single night.
This isn’t about MDA-people v. Carmelo-people, either. This is about calling a player out for his admission that he hasn’t played with maximum effort in the past. We can live with failure ‘round here, but we cannot accept anything less than a player’s all. Save that stuff for when you play in some NBA outpost like Charlotte or New Orleans.
Ultimately, wins have a funny way of curing all, especially here in Gotham, but by opening Pandora’s Box, Carmelo just made his effort and/or energy fair game from now on. Going forward, I hope never to have to ask him about his effort, but deep down, I probably know better.