New York Knicks forward and perennial NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony is one of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim's former players, and like most good coaches, Boeheim is loyal to his guys. But Anthony is obviously much more than that. He's the player chiefly responsible for Boeheim's lone national title in the legend's 37-year head-coaching career. His number hangs in the Carrier Dome rafters. He's also a significant donor to the men's and women's programs; his $3 million donation helped Syracuse build a 54,000-square foot, $19 million practice facility that opened in 2009. Its name: the Carmelo K. Anthony Center.
In other words, Boeheim having Melo's back sort of goes without saying. Of course he does, right? Even acknowledging as much, though, the coach's comments to the Syracuse Post-Standard following the Knicks' Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night went above and beyond the call of duty. They're also pretty hilarious. To wit:
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim maintains little hope that former Syracuse star Carmelo Anthony can win an NBA title with the New York Knicks.
"Not on that team," Boeheim said. "He did what he can do. He played very well the final game. Everybody's killing him but Tyson Chandler just didn't try to catch the ball. He threw him the ball and Tyson Chandler went like this (Boeheim dodged in a chair in his office in the Carmelo K. Anthony Center). He was wide open. He should have been looking for the ball right here. Kenyon Martin should have been looking for the ball. They both went like this (Boeheim dodged again). Carmelo gets turnovers and the announcers aren't smart enough to even think, 'Well, the guy should try to catch the ball.'"
The mental image I have of Jim Boeheim impersonating Tyson Chandler dodging a pass is ... well, it's spectacular, frankly. It's also kind of endearing! Boeheim may be a Melo fan first and foremost, but he sounds like your average Knicks supporter, crankily tossing recriminations in the wake of another disappointing playoffs performance in an otherwise promising season.
For whatever it's worth, Boeheim also has it right, at least in the macro. He talked about the difference in talent level between the Knicks and the Heat, where LeBron James' next-best options are Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen, all of whom are likely to be Hall of Famers. Anthony, on the other hand, dug into the playoff trenches with an ailing, aging Chandler, a Jason Kidd who suddenly lost all ability to put the ball in the basket, a reclamation-era Ray Felton, a basically useless Amar'e Stoudemire and a supposed go-to second scorer (J.R. Smith) who spent a decent portion of the playoffs either struggling or being publicly called out for "clubbing" by Rihanna.
Anthony, meanwhile, averaged 28.8 points per game in 12 playoff appearances. Because he plays in New York, the focus on some of his fourth-quarter struggles will be massively amplified, but I think we can all agree he wasn't the sole reason the Knicks lost to the Pacers. Far from it.
Of course, all of these arguments -- much like the mess surrounding Derrick Rose's return -- merely serve as pleasant distractions from the unpleasant fact that Anthony, while very good, isn't LeBron James, because no one is. Until James decides to stop making the Eastern Conference his personal plaything, everyone else is playing for a spot in the conference finals. This is the NBA's dreary reality. Everyone should be used to it by now.
Anyway, it's kind of fun to see Boeheim -- who coached Tyson Chandler in the 2010 FIBA Worlds, it should be noted -- put his frustrated fan cap on, if only for a moment. We've all been there.