What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Everyone knows that, certainly the NBA players who frequent Sin City — and the hopefuls whose Summer League exploits so often fail to translate to the league’s 29 official cities.
A more pressing question for Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks is this one: Will what happens in London stay in London?
The hunch here is, yep, probably will.
How well Anthony manages to turn the success and image-polishing he’s experiencing in the 2012 London Olympics into a reboot of his NBA career and reputation was analyzed in full Wednesday by Ken Berger, lead NBA scribe for CBSSports.com. Berger lays out all the evidence, makes some fair (some might say too kind) assessments of Anthony’s first nine NBA seasons and presents it all as a challenge to the Knicks’ ball-stopping scoring star to find another gear and fit himself more into a team concept from this 2012-13 season forward.
By emphasizing what’s next for ‘Melo, Berger is able to have his cake and eat it too. That’s appropriate — this is, after all, the media guy who sent a message during the lockout from a Manhattan bakery up to the luxury hotel suite where owners and players were haggling over their millions and billions. Berger points out most of the flaws in Anthony’s play and career to this point, yet sidesteps the juvenile, ad hominen response that he might be what too easily is labeled a “hater” of this player:
Before you fly off and call me a Melo hater and whatnot, understand this is a hopelessly optimistic perspective that I harbor about Anthony. A hater would say we already do know who and what Melo is — a selfish, one-dimensional scoring machine who doesn’t have the leadership ability, work ethic or commitment to an all-around game to be recognized among the truly elite players in his sport. So by saying we don’t know this about Anthony yet, I am presenting a hopeful scenario in which he still has time to figure it out.
It is beyond dispute, however, that he is running out of time.
Let’s take it a step further and suggest that it is perfectly acceptable to “hate” Anthony’s game without “hating” the man. Frankly, though, it’s such an ugly, lazy, hyperbolic word that we’re done with it now; we’ll stay in the realm of criticizing, disliking and not being a fan of, because that’s really all this is.
To this point — nine seasons in — Anthony has shown himself to be self-absorbed as a basketball player with delusions of grandeur about his place in the league’s galaxy of stars; no, he is not on the same level as LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, with whom he was drafted in 2003, and surely not Kobe Bryant, to whom Melo relates as a conscienceless scorer.
He has been and is very much what Berger laid out: A one-dimensional player whose dimension is very valuable but also one that doesn’t blend easily into a team concept. He is a great end-of-quarter, end-of-game shooter — I want him in any HTB pool, whether the game’s in London or Los Angeles — but his diva tendencies are real. To me, he is much more Tracy McGrady or Vince Carter.
He has gone to the playoffs nine times (to his and his teams’ credit) yet advanced past the first round only once. He ranks sixth all-time in usage rate (31.25), an estimated percentage of team plays he “uses,” but 55th in player efficiency rating (PER). Anthony never has appeared to be completely in shape — as Berger notes, he lost 12 pounds for Team USA, apparently carrying them through the Knicks season – and his off-court narcissism and trade drama made the Denver Nuggets happier without him.
As recently as this season, Anthony — in fighting the phenomenon of Jeremy Lin, to the point that both Lin and the coach who inspired it, Mike D’Antoni, are gone — essentially put his individual good before his team’s. Our guy John Schuhmann, with his briefcase full of decimal points and geometric logic, recently exposed the Knicks’ X&O woes as a disjointed bunch.
And by the way, much of the rest of the nation finds great amusement in the allegedly sophisticated New York hoops fan base drools so over this double-edged pseudo-star. It’s like a theater full of film critics who should know better clamoring for more Adam Sandler flicks. Berger gives Anthony benefit of the doubt, spreading some blame to his New York co-stars, director and producer before issuing the challenge:
Whatever the case, Anthony has reached a crossroads in his career at these London Games, a time when his star must finally shine and not be extinguished when he boards the plane back to the states after Sunday’s gold medal game. He must venture into the post and dominate there, the way James finally has learned to do. He must defend at an elite level, every possession, the way an athlete of his caliber and conditioning should be able to. He must do this for 82 nights next season with the Knicks, and must do it in the springtime for more than one round.
And rather than simply deflect the criticism and ridicule the uninformed opinions of his detractors, Anthony must embrace this turning point in his basketball life. He must react to this moment the way he responded to that shot below the belt Monday, clenching his fists and barking toward the heavens in defiance.
How ’bout this? All Carmelo Anthony has to do is play up to the reputation he’s crafted in his head and produce the results whose absence he typically explains away with excuses.