Carmelo Anthony should stay in the Western Conference. Period. End of discussion.
By now it is clear he wants out of Denver and the chance to create his own superteam to rival that of “good friend” Lebron James. Carmelo with a superteam…to rival that of Lebron?
Awesome. I am all for it. As I have previously written, I think what Lebron, Wade and Bosh did was start a new era of NBA togetherness. An era that has to be full of superteams in order to keep competition high within the league.
There is just one little problem: Carmelo wants to go to New York.
In New York he would have a “sort of” ready made superteam featuring the newly signed Amare Stoudemire. With the two of them playing together it would be no stretch to envision their ability to draw in another young superstar to join them (Chris Paul has already expressed interest). I have no problem with Paul teaming up with Anthony, I just do not want it to happen in New York.
Would New York be good for Anthony? Marketing / money-wise? Absolutely. Career wise? Not so much. Everything depends on what Anthony wants to get out of playing basketball. Does he want to win championships? Does he want to make money (lots and lots of money) and rule New York for five years? Does he simply want to up his profile and get out of Denver to a much larger market?
No one really knows. Denver was a team built to win championships, and they had a solid young core that rocketed to the top of a very deep Western Conference a couple of years ago. Injuries, suspensions and other inexplicable cirumstances stopped them from attaining the heights that were well within reach. Could you see a team with Allen Iverson, Carmelo, Nene, Kenyon Martin and Chris “Birdman” Anderson not winning a title? (Okay, maybe not the best example…) The point is, they had a good core of role players built around a young superstar. They were more than capable of the pinnacle. So how come Denver missed out on the parade?
Anthony did not want it enough.
Flashback to March Madness 2003: the entire basketball world was focused on the usual contenders, Duke, Kansas and a deep Texas team. In NBA draft circles only one name was resonating with the general public: Lebron James. What Carmelo Anthony effectively did was put on one of the greatest performances in the history of College Basketball. From the opening tip-off of the tournament, he dominated like few others ever have. In the Final Four he carried Syracuse past Texas with a 33 point explosion. In the final he was all over the court against Kansas, and Syracuse, behind their fabulous freshman won their first ever NCAA basketball title. Anthony had one of the best seasons by a freshman in the history of College basketball – the draft had found its number two player.
I remember watching the tournament and game after game it was remarkable to watch Carmelo Anthony dominate. It was like the first time I saw Allen Iverson at Georgetown or Greg Oden at O-State. These were players who did not belong. They were too good for the college ranks. Anthony belonged with the big boys and, despite originally planning to stay at Syracuse for 3 years, he rightfully declared for the NBA draft. It made sense. He was on top of the world and had unselfishly led his team to their first ever title.
Additionally, he was a natural rival for Lebron. It helped that he could throw down dunks like this with some serious ferocity:
Lebron needed a rival it seemed, and before it really made any sense some insiders were asking: “Lebron or Melo?” Who would you take first? The answer was a forgone conclusion, Lebron is simply a better player, but at the time Melo was coming off a season that showed his promise: He was a proven winner!
The only other college sports equivelant of the 2000’s? Vince Young on the heels of his Rose Bowl performance against USC declaring for the NFL draft and going third overall. In the 1980’s it harkened back to Magic Johnson coming out after knocking out Larry Bird and Indiana State.
So what the hell happened in the NBA?
Melo has had his share of ups and downs, especially pre-Olympic Redeem Team. There was the fight and large suspension, where Anthony came off thuggish and unrepentent. His growing selfishness and tough exterior prevented his teams from reaching their potential. He was given the label dreaded by all NBA superstars: Headcase. If you watched their rookie years (LBJ and Melo) which one would you have picked to make the NBA Finals first? 99% would have said Melo. He didn’t. He is still waiting for that chance to play on the biggest stage. Now, like Lebron, he wants a superteam. Unlike Lebron it is less clear if it will work out for him.
Melo is a more typical NBA superstar than Lebron has been. He is a scorer who needs the ball, and needs shots in order to score. His a brilliant swingman who can rebound well. On a superteam he would need to sacrifice some of those shots and stats to help the team win. So far he has seemed unwilling to do so. At Syracuse his motives and goals were clear; in the NBA they have been less so. Does he want to go to a big market and become a huge star? Will he end up as the Barkley to Lebron’s Jordan ( realizes too late he wants a title but never quite wins one despite late efforts) or a Drexler to someone’s Olajuwan? Is he a great teammate? Sure, his record of backing his mates in brawls speaks for itself. Can he play with other stars?
However, I have been avoiding the biggest question of all: where should Melo go and who should he play with?
New York Knicks – Carmelo’s preferred destination where a superteam is on its way to coming together with Amare Stoudemire already in place. The city would also give Carmelo the higher profile he seeks (as well as giving his wife a chance at more of a career) and is the largest market in American sports. New York has the cap room to bring in Melo and another star and the new regime appears committed to winning even if they have insane methods (such as an impossible to explain allegience to Isiah Thomas). Who else could join the high profile team? Chris Paul wants to join very, very badly. New Orleans is very, very hell-bent on this scenario not happening. Melo, though, should not do this deal for one simple reason: Staying in the Western Conference will be much better long-term.
New Jersey Nets – Another Melo destination (and if the news is to be believed the closest to happening thus far) where he would have been miserable. Why? New Jersey has a couple of good players (Brook Lopez) but this is a rebuilding team that Carmelo cannot win a title with at present. They have little cap space for players other then him. While the new owner is probably building a winner, it would be after Melo has finished his 3 year deal. Additional reason not to go there: Not in the Western Conference! (My reasoning will be explained soon, but let’s face it, if you have made it through 1300 words you will probably stick it out to the end at this point)
Chicago Bulls – The most attractive destination for any superstar looking to build a superteam. In fact, this may already be on the way to being a superteam. The Bulls boast Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer (eventually, fingers crossed), Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. Adding Melo to that mix (subtracting Deng at the least) would make a potent team ready for greatness. If I was a player, I would want to play in Chicago. Tough to pass up, but they do not have the trade bait Denver requires (since Noah is off limits) so it is unlikely Anthony will end up there. Also…yup, Eastern Conference (why does this guy want out of the West so badly???)
Why not the Eastern Conference? Simple: they already have their superteam. Where should Melo go? Pick one:
Los Angeles Clippers
Golden State Warriors
New Orleans Hornets – (waiting patiently for the laughter to subside) While it would take a couple of years, any one of these teams could become the Superteam Melo craves so desperately. Take LA – the biggest market, something Anthony wants – they have a solid young core. Yes, their ownership is atrocious but given all the lottery picks this team has stockpiled in the past decade at some point it statistically has to pay off. That time is fast approaching. Blake Griffen and Eric Gordon are for real…add Melo to the mix and you have a playoff team that could make a deep run. In a couple of years? Hell they could be in contention: build up the Clips while the Lakers erode from age and when the torch needs to be passed, Carmelo becomes the new Kobe. Just like in the Godfather. Also, once that Baron Davis contract comes off the books – hello new star! Paging Chris Paul? Golden State is a tougher sell, but it is still in California and how would the North Cal v. South Cal battles play out? Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry are both good and they could dump some other players to bring in another forward or shooting guard. Maybe even a power forward. Utah? Deron Williams is better than Chris Paul (so they say), teaming with him would give Utah their best chance at a title since the days of Karl Malone and John Stockton. Melo and Williams could bring a killer pick and roll, I am salivating already and this is only theoretical! New Orleans already has Paul but little cap room. Melo and Paul however could help rejuvinate the city like the Saints have. If Melo goes there and plays his heart out, he will be a hero to an entire state.
Bottom line: Stay out of the East. Please. There are already more stacked teams in that deck than needed. If you add to it, someone loses. The Heat should (fingers crossed) rule the conference for a few years to come and battling with them in the playoffs every year will be absolutely exhausting. You might as well hand the title to the Lakers or Thunder. Keep some superteams for the West! Instead of giving us an awesome Eastern Conference Title Series every year give us an awesome title game! That is what we have been waiting for since Lebron and Carmelo came into the league together. We want to see them in a seven game series, facing off. Maybe then they would finally ignite a true rivalry like that of Bird and Magic. Sure those two were friends off the court, but once the ball was tipped they might as well have been USSR – USA. The NBA needs a Melo vs. Lebron superteam final because if there is a lockout, that is what the league will need to bring back fans.
So stay West Melo, and give us that Finals we have wanted. It may take a couple of years to dethrone the Lakers but it will be worth it. The Heat will be waiting.