Commentary

Memo to Melo: You better win

After tanking on D'Antoni and shoving Lin out the door, Anthony is on the hot seat

Updated: July 23, 2012, 8:21 PM ET
By Johnette Howard | ESPNNewYork.com

For an NBA superstar in love with playing Hero Ball, Carmelo Anthony has a funny acquaintance with blame. Doesn't want it. Doesn't like it. He couldn't play nice with the Denver Nuggets and coach George Karl, and in New York his pattern's been the same with Mike D'Antoni, Amare Stoudemire and now with Jeremy Lin and that "ridiculous contract" -- Melo's words -- that the Houston Rockets used to lure Lin away from New York.

Throw in the raft of players the Knicks traded away to get Anthony, and how shooting guard Landry Fields melted in his presence before drifting off to Toronto, and that's a lot of tombstones for Anthony to have on his resume. So far that resume includes a whole lotta points and a whole lotta noise but just one advance past the first round of the playoffs in nine seasons, a sub.-.500 record most of his time with the Knicks, and a 1-8 postseason record in New York.

The Knicks have never looked more like Anthony's team than they do right now. And now he better damn well make them winners.

[+] EnlargeCarmelo Anthony
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIWill the real Melo please stand up?

Otherwise all the Knicks have done is say goodbye to Linsanity and hello to -- what? -- more Melo-ocrity?

Anthony better damn well win, all right.

He now has his coach of choice, Mike Woodson. And he now has an offense built entirely around him. He's capable of playing a more devastating and consistent all-around game. And that will always make the charge that he still doesn't get what it takes to be a winner fair until he proves otherwise.

So somebody should tell Anthony to spare us the revisionist talk about how much he wanted Lin back, or his depiction of how lovely it was to be reunited a couple weeks ago with D'Antoni, now an assistant for the U.S. Olympic team. Anthony's description of that reunion sounded like a cheesy chick-movie trailer: "We talked. We laughed. We joked ... "

Okeydoke.

There were reasonable arguments on both sides for why the Knicks should or shouldn't have kept Lin. The most curious, yet believeable one? Numerous news outlets reported that Knicks owner Jim Dolan drew the line at throwing more money into the furnace now -- now? -- in large part because Dolan's hair-trigger temper was tripped when Lin went back to the Rockets and squeezed more money and a restructured contract out of them, making it harder for the Knicks to match.

Lin quit the Knicks as much as the Knicks quit him.

But make no mistake, Anthony showed Lin the door, too, in much the same way he shoved D'Antoni out by blatantly quitting on him on a mid-March Sunday against Philadelphia; D'Antoni resigned two days later. Since when does a team's superstar -- knowing management and his head coach are on record as saying they planned to match their starting point guard's contract offer -- go public and call it "ridiculous," as Anthony did when everything was still in play?

It's a good question, all right. So is this: Since when does a superstar who claims he's all about winning admit he didn't put out as much effort as he could've for D'Antoni, and then show up for Olympic team workouts talking about how he lost nearly 20 pounds after the NBA season ended? Think that might've helped him in his job with the Knicks? Even Woodson has said as much.

Is that how the deserved cornerstone of a wannabe title team acts?

Anthony backtracked the day after he saw his remark about Lin's four-year, $25.1 million offer sheet cause a stir.

He usually does.

But he can't moonwalk away from this now: He better damn well make the Knicks win.

Anthony is the only one being ridiculous if he really believes -- as he's argued -- that he shouldn't share some blame for D'Antonis' and Lin's decisions to walk. He's insisted he's not a coach-killer, and the day after disparaging Lin's offer sheet while he was with Team USA in Washington, Anthony had the temerity to speak for both himself and Dolan. He said both of them wanted Lin back, though Dolan still hasn't spoken publicly on the matter.

Anthony also sent a text to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports saying: "I'm tired of people trying to blame me for the fact that the Knicks might not match. I want everybody to get paid if they have the opportunity."

Anthony went on to add this lukewarm personal scouting report on Lin: "He's a good young player that has a lot of potential and upside with time and experience."

Now the 23-year-old Lin is gone. The Knicks' major offseason additions have been 39-year-old Jason Kidd, who just caught a DWI charge in the Hamptons, and three players they gave away before: 39-year-old Kurt Thomas, 38-year-old Marcus Camby and 28-year-old Raymond Felton, the heir to Lin's starting point guard position. Lin won't have to worry anymore about J.R. Smith's contention that his contract might've caused resentment among the other Knicks.

That's the supporting cast Melo now has. When it comes to his style of Hero Ball, the Knicks are all in.

So Anthony better get a little less squeamish about shouldering blame. And fast. Because he's out of options and excuses, and he can't moonwalk away from this, either: The Knicks are his team more than ever now. And he better damn well win.

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