New York Knicks: George Karl

Karl: No Melos on Mount Rushmore

February, 16, 2014
Feb 16
You may have missed it, but the debate du jour last week was over which basketball players deserved to be on the NBA's Mount Rushmore.

LeBron James sparked the debate when he told NBA TV's Steve Smith that Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson would be the four players on his Mount Rushmore. But he made sure to note that he’d be on the monument one day.

“I’m going to be one of the top four that’s ever played this game, for sure,” James said.

That sparked a debate among NBA observers over who deserves to be on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore and what makes a player an all-time great.

One interesting voice in this debate was George Karl. The ESPN analyst has been in and around the game for most of his life. He also coached Carmelo Anthony in Denver for seven-plus seasons.

So Karl was asked on SportsCenter about the difference between a player like Anthony, who hasn’t been mentioned as a “Mount Rushmore” candidate, and the all-time greats in the NBA.

“I think it all comes down to what is first on the list of their priorities. The great players -- it’s all about winning and it’s all about team and it’s about championship and it’s about sacrificing and disciplining yourself to where you try to get better and improve on a daily basis,” Karl said.

The implication there is that Anthony doesn’t do those things. Plenty of people around the Knicks may disagree with that sentiment.

Karl has an interesting perspective on Anthony. He coached Anthony as a younger player and he and Anthony reportedly butted heads at times. Karl also seemed to tire of the “MeloDrama” that engulfed the team in Anthony’s last season with the Nuggets.

Anthony led Denver to the playoffs every season, but the Nuggets made it out of the first round just once during his time there.

Later in the interview on SportsCenter, Karl expanded on the difference between the NBA’s all-time greats and a supremely talented player, such as Anthony.

“There’s an energy to a great player, there’s a leadership that you feel all around them. And then there are individual players that are very talented players ... That list hasn’t only got Melo on it, but it’s got a lot of players on it,” Karl said.

“Then as a coach, as an organization ... you try to mold them into a team player that wants to win a championship. But the great player, so much of the greatness in my mind is in his heart and his head. It’s not in his body, in his skill set. It comes from having great talent but wanting to mold that and fit it together into being special. And being special means winning championships.”

Anthony has said several times this season that his sole focus is to win an NBA title. That will be his top priority in free agency this summer.

"That's the only thing I care about," Anthony said earlier this month. "Anything else is irrelevant to me as far as when it comes to basketball. Championship is the only thing that's on my mind.”

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Karl on Melo: He'll be a champion some day

December, 9, 2012
NEW YORK -- George Karl sees a championship in Carmelo Anthony's future.

Provided that the small forward embraces team basketball and not just gaudy statistics.

"I've said I feel Melo's going to win a championship some day," Karl said before the Nuggets faced the Knicks Sunday. "He's going to figure out that scoreboard and numbers and stat sheets aren't important, it's what the team scoreboard and the intangibles in the end that make winners champions. "

Karl coached Anthony from 2004-2010, with the duo enjoying regular season success but coming up short in the playoffs. Anthony posted great individual statistics, averaging at least 20 points each season he played in Denver, but they only advanced out of the first round of the playoffs once. And Karl has been critical of Anthony in the past about his commitment.

While Karl's words seem like a dig at Anthony, the coach explained that players chasing individual statistics in the NBA is the norm, not the exception. He talked about how a player like Miami's Ray Allen, who he coached in Milwaukee, plays a different style of defense than he played in his younger day.

"I can say that about everybody except maybe Chauncey Billups and Nate McMillan in my career," Karl said. "I can say that about Gary Payton, Sean Kemp, and a lot of great guys that I had the fortune of coaching. "

As Melo has played MVP-like basketball this year, it appears the All-Star is playing with a defensive zest he did not show earlier in his career. Karl isn't surprised that Anthony would be focused on holding up his end on that side of the court.

"He's always done it," Karl said. "He's always had the skills to do it. It's the commitment and consistency of doing it and putting it in every game."

It's been almost two years since the trade happened to send Anthony to Denver, and it's been debated which team got the better of the deal. It seemed the Nuggets did better early on, but as the Knicks have played like one of the top teams in the NBA this year, the scale may be tilting. Karl called the deal a "win-win."

"I think as an organization we felt that Melo didn't want to be there and we had to come out with the best possible solution and I think we've changed our face and not lose. How many people can change almost their complete roster and don't go down?" Karl said. "And I think they got what they wanted. They wanted to get back to the top of the mountain. They took a chance on going out and getting one of the top 10 players in basketball and it didn't work for a while but it's working now."



Carmelo Anthony
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
ReboundsC. Anthony 8.1
AssistsP. Prigioni 3.5
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2