Where Does Melo Go From Here?

Nothing seems to be going right in the life of Carmelo Anthony at the moment. Phil Jackson recently gave a press conference in which he said, “I think the direction with our team is that he is a player that would be better off somewhere else and using his talent somewhere where he can win or chase that championship.”

He is unwanted and, according to Jackson, unneeded in New York.

If that wasn’t bad enough, there are reports coming out that he and his wife of seven years will be getting a divorce after rumors that he got a stripper pregnant.

Carmelo’s life and career are at a crossroads. The question that begs to be answered is, where does Melo go from here?

Career Accomplishments

Carmelo Anthony

(Photo Credit: AP Richard Drew)

Carmelo is a legend at Syracuse University. In the 2002-03 season, Carmelo led the Orange to their first national championship. He averaged 22.2 points and 10 rebounds per game. He was also named the tournament’s most outstanding player that season. His future was bright and he was picked third overall in the 2003 NBA draft.

Carmelo has also been a successful international basketball player. One could argue he is the most successful basketball olympian in United States history. Melo has a record of playing on four Olympic rosters, and a record three gold medals. Melo also holds the record for most points scored in a USA Men’s Olympic game with 37 against Nigeria in 2012.

He is first all-time in each of the following: games played (31), career points (336), rebounds (125), field goals made (113), field goals attempted (262), 3-pointers attempted (139), free throws made (53) and free throws attempted (71). He is also second all-time in 3-pointers made (57).

Carmelo’s NBA career hasn’t led to as much hardware, but he has still had a great career. Melo is a 10-time all star, has been named to an All-NBA team six times and was the scoring champion in the 2012-13 season.

One of his best accomplishments in the NBA was when he led the Denver Nuggets to the Western Conference Championship in 2009, but fell to Kobe and the Lakers 4-2.

Carmelo has scored 24,156 career points in 15 NBA seasons. He has over 3,000 assists and over 6,000 rebounds, but a championship is what eludes him. The Knicks have openly said he will be better off chasing that ring somewhere else, but where?

The Path to A Ring

Carmelo Anthony

(Photo Credit: http://clutchpoints.com)

Melo has few options if all he is looking for is a ring. Those options include the Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics.

It would be foolish for the Knicks to release Carmelo Anthony, but it may be their only option. Melo is under contract until July of 2019 and has a no-trade clause. He will veto any trade that is not to a championship contender, or a trade that leaves the new team without the pieces needed to win that elusive title. If the Knicks really want to part ways with Melo, they may have to just cut him.

Boston

The Celtics would be a great fit for both Melo and the team. Boston managed to get the No. 1 seed in the east despite only having one major option on offense in Isaiah Thomas.

Adding Anthony would bring in an easy 20 points per game and veteran leadership to a team that tied for the third youngest team (25.6) in the NBA. Both Melo and the Celtics would help one another in trying to win a ring.

Los Angeles

One team that is often mentioned in Anthony rumors is the Los Angeles Clippers. The team is loaded with talent, but fails to make an impact in the history books.

Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony are close friends who both need to validate their careers with an NBA championship. Neither wants to go down in history like Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, John Stockton or Karl Malone.

If Anthony is cut, this would be his ideal spot. A team with Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan could only get better by adding Anthony. The Western Conference is loaded, but this makes the Clippers a legitimate threat rather than just a bump in the road out west.

Cleveland

The last team that Melo could sign with, if cut, is the Cleveland Cavaliers. Melo is just as close with LeBron as he is with Chris Paul. Cleveland may win a title this year, but if they don’t, it’s because they ran into a Warriors team that loaded up with Kevin Durant. The answer to that would be to get Anthony and his scoring. He would take pressure off Kyrie and LeBron.

The Cavs are in less need of Melo than Melo is of the Cavs. Signing with Cleveland would prove that all Melo wants is that trophy. He wouldn’t be in the spotlight or the face of a franchise, which is something Melo has never experienced. Signing in Cleveland would all but guarantee him that ring he so desperately wants.

Conclusion

Carmelo Anthony

(Photo Credit: http://clutchpoints.com)

As Carmelo enters the twilight of his playing days, he is focused on one thing: winning. Knowing that  the Knicks no longer want or need him will make him seek a team that does want him.

He will also need a distraction from his personal problems, and finding another team can help with that. It is hard to see where Carmelo goes from here, but one thing is for certain: his playing days in New York are over.

 

 

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Haus Specials: NBA Game Winners

New York Knicks v Milwaukee Bucks

With the Knicks up by 14 at the start of the fourth quarter, it looked as if New York would come away with the win. Giannis Antetokounmpo had other plans. He scored 12 points in the final quarter, making three of his six shots. This insane step-back jumper sealed the deal. Greek. Freak.

Philadelphia 76er vs New York Knicks

Trust the Process. The Philadelphia 76ers have awed fans this season with their feisty, rejuvenated play. They’ve been competitive and fun. They played that same way against the Knicks. It was a four-point game in the Knickerbockers’ favor. Carmelo Anthony’s scoreless fourth quarter didn’t help and set the stage for a backbreaking game winner.

Utah Jazz vs OKC Thunder

Division Rivals. Steven Adams and Rudy Gobert. Russell Westbrook triple double. This game had it all. A seesaw affair with 16 lead changes made for an entertaining game. However, it was clunky at some points. Westbrook missed all of his shots in the third quarter. The last frame saw big shot after big shot though. Russ had the biggest one, hitting a mid-range jumper to put the Thunder up for good with 1.7 seconds left.

Miami Heat vs Golden State Warriors

Waiters Island is now open for vacation purposes. Dion Waiters scored over 30 points for a second consecutive game. This one tied his career high with 33 points. He may have hit the biggest shot of his career, holding off the Warriors and ending their seven-game win streak. Happy Birthday Dion.

 

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Are Freshmen running the College Basketball scene?

Division I college basketball has always been set apart from other collegiate athletics for obvious reasons. However, it is the single sport where freshmen athletes can make an impact and leave after one year. Which brings me to the question: are the Freshmen the ones who are running the show and what does this mean for the sport?

Let’s look at the top five Freshman in the 2016 recruiting class. Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum at Duke University, Bam Adebayo at Kentucky, Josh Jackson at Kansas, and Lonzo Ball at UCLA. Ball contributed 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the win over Michigan this past weekend. He is averaging 15 points and 8.8 rebounds on the season. Their team remains 10-0 overall coming out of the weekend.

It is not just the current players either. Take a look at past Freshman who have stayed for a year and left for the NBA. The first name that comes to mind is Anthony Davis, who was drafted as a first round NBA draft pick following his freshman season at Kentucky. Davis led the team to a National Championship, was a first team All-American, and received Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament. In the 2012 title, Davis’ teammates Marquis Teague and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (two other freshman) were the second and third highest scorers with 14 points and 11 points.

Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, and Justise Winslow were all freshman from the 2014 class that had a stellar year and left for the NBA. They combined for 1,610 points over the course of the season. The other major contributor was Quinn Cook, a senior who added 598 points. They essentially ran the team.

I realize that I have only noted the major power houses in college basketball thus far. So finally I think of Carmelo Anthony. In his 2002-2003 season with Syracuse he averaged a double-double (22 points and 10 rebounds), ranking 1st for freshmen in the NCAA. His professional career has not disappointed either.

There are a lot of stats. However, they are all to make a point. Freshmen run the game of college basketball regardless of the year. The best players and their performance will always be how on-lookers view each successive season.

I could sit here and list off statistics of players like Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Durant, John Wall, or Deyonta Davis, who all dominated their respective years and left. However, the more important question is: what does all of this mean?

This trend is the result of the one-and-done rule. The draft rule is as follows: you must be 19 years of age before the calendar year of the draft and be one year removed from high school athletics. This rule has stood for ten years now. It has allowed the greatest players to make their mark and leave to make money with their talents.

It has irrevocably changed the game.

The level at which players compete is incredible to watch as a fan. This draft rule is a blessing to college basketball, which would lack the finesse without these freshmen bringing fresh talent (pun intended) each year.

In an essence, freshmen run the game of college basketball every single year. This is not a new theme. It has impacted the game greatly and will continue to as long as the one-and-done rule stays.

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Seven Stats or less : The New York Knicks

Four games into 2016-2017 NBA season and we know one thing for certain: the teams that we saw won’t be the same teams in six months. Heck, they won’t be the same teams in late December. The NBA season is about watching teams evolve and eventually evolve come the playoffs.

With that said, let’s have some fun with seven stats that will totally define this season for the New York Knicks.

This week it’s the Knicks because of the waves President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson made in the offseason. Are the moves paying off? Can we glean anything from the stats below? Maybe, or maybe the season is young and these aren’t cemented into the team yet.

  1. Kristaps Porzingis is shooting 37% from the three-point line on four attempts through four games. That’s pretty good. It’s no secret that Porzingis has the ability to shoot from beyond the arc, but its accuracy that makes the shot a weapon. He shot 33% last year. If he can somehow keep up that percentage, it will be big for the Knicks.
  2. Through four games, 73% of Derrick Rose’s shots have come in the paint. Rose also averages the third most points in the paint among point guards. He trails only Russell Westbrook, and Damian Lillard. This is good for a player that shot less than 30% from three. Scoring easy points will only help this bottom five offense.
  3. Rose is averaging a little less than two free throw attempts per game.  For context, Carmelo Anthony is averaging seven attempts. This isn’t something that is going to be a trend for the season. If Rose can maintain a healthy field goal percentage with such a high percentage of shots coming from the paint, defenses will load up on his bulldozing style of play. He’s sure to feel some contact.
    points-in-paint

    USA-Today Sports

  4. The Knicks are averaging 26 pull-up jumpers, which is good for fourth in the league. They are making them on a 35% clip. That’s not a stat that can stand. For those who don’t know, NBA.com defines a pull jumper as a shot that is taken with one or fewer dribbles. Clearly a result of the roster, but it would probably be best to pass and get better looks than hoisting up low percentage shots.
    dunkk

    USA-Today Sports

  5. Joakim Noah is averaging five assists. Derrick Rose is averaging two. Surprise, surprise, Rose isn’t a “set-up” point guard. That’s not a knock against him, but fans shouldn’t freak out about that. For one, it’s been four games. Secondly, he averages almost six assists for his career. Once he gets comfortable with the offense, he’ll be able to make the right reads and his passes will lead to scores.
  6. Porzingis is 4th in the league in contested shots at 14. This isn’t a surprise considering he’s 7’3 with a 7’6 wingspan. However, it really isn’t helping the overall team defense.
    kriataps-contest

    USA-Today Sports

  7. The Knicks have a 108.6 defensive rating, which ranks bottom three in the league. Obviously, the defense is going to have to get better if they want to have a chance to win close games. That’s something that they are going to get familiar with if they want to compete in the Eastern Conference.

 

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Death of Competition Part II

(Photo: Robert Reiners, Stringer)

(Photo: Robert Reiners, Stringer)

I have been a fan of the NBA for all my life. There is a trend that has been happening over the last five to seven years that is starting to make me sick. That trend is the death of true competition.

Wait…Does this sound familar? It should, because that introduction is word for word how I opened up my first “Death of Competiton” article at the end of March. I was angered at the time because rumors were swirling around about the possibility of LeBron James teaming up with Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. The thought of all these players teaming up was unfathomable to me. It was sickening. I knew that if they teamed up the NBA would be a cakewalk. At the time those were just rumors that had me boiling. Today the NBA changed and the result is competition left gasping for air.

Kevin Durant decided to take a knife and continue to stab the idea of competition- now leaving competition in the NBA in shambles. Kevin Durant decided to become the NBA’s biggest villain. Durant decided to join the Golden State Warriors. This is the most detrimental move a superstar has ever made to their reputation.

Naturally, people are going to try and compare Durant’s decision to LeBron’s decision in 2010 when he left the Cavaliers for the Heat. It is not the same. This is much worse. Although LeBron left his hometown team and by doing it on national television, he didn’t go to the Celtics. I only mention the Celtics because that was the team LeBron struggled to beat. It was the team that had eliminated him in the playoffs. LeBron received so much backlash because he left home when he had promised his city so much. He formed a super team in Miami that was deemed impossible to win against.

It was a move that many people believed was the easy way out. If you need proof about how easy it was here it is. He joined up to form a team that had three players taken in the top five of the 2003 draft. With LeBron, the starting five of the Miami Heat had three all-star players.

This was bad and destroyed LeBron in the eyes of NBA fans. Again, what Kevin Durant did is worse. Kevin Durant was 48 minutes away from reaching his second NBA finals, not once, not twice, but three times. He, along with the rest of the Thunder, blew a 3-1 lead against the Warriors. He had three games in a row to get the job done and failed. Failure is okay. Failure is necessary for growth. We all fail at some point at some capacity.

You don’t join a team who beat you when you were up 3-1 on them. You don’t join them when they went to back to back finals after they eliminated you. You don’t join the team who just won a record 73 games in one season. That is the definition of being weak. But if you can’t beat them you join them right? WRONG.

Michael Jordan struggled mightily against the Pistons over and over. He didn’t join them. He got in the gym and trained harder. He studied harder. He made it his mission to beat the team that kept giving him the pain of losing.

Reggie Miller is a legend who never won a ring. But we can respect him more for playing hard and fighting rather than running and joining the Bulls.

Carmelo gets heat for not having won a ring. The thing is, Carmelo can be respected because he doesn’t go running to loaded teams coming off of a finals loss.

It truly feels that Durant is trying to buy his way into the club. He is trying to buy a championship. He could have gone back to Oklahoma City and fought through the adversity. It is so much sweeter when you work for something rather than have it handed to you. If he wins a championship it will be tainted. Everybody will remember what he did to get it. Nobody will forget his fear of adversity, or competition. Now teams will have to assemble All-Star rosters to try and compete with the Warriors. There may be only two or three teams capable of winning a championship. The league created free agency to give more teams a chance at a championship. It was to create more parity throughout.

That is gone. Teams will play hard and try to compete but won’t have the talent to compete with the Warriors. Teams will beat them on nights they aren’t completely focused because nobody can go 82-0. Competition is dying. It pains me to know that the days of players like Magic, Bird, Jordan and Kobe are gone. Players would rather run and “buy” a championship in this day and age than work through the adversity.

Congratulations Kevin Durant, you made a business decision that will ruin your reputation. It will make fans all over the country curse your name. Never did I think someone could do something worse than LeBron did. Never did I think a player would become as big as a villain as LeBron was. I was wrong. You will become a bigger villain than LeBron. If you don’t win the championship NBA fans all over the world will celebrate like it’s their Independence Day.

Why Not the Knicks? Well…

Does Anyone Want to Play for the Knicks?

 

It has been over three seasons since Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks won their last playoff series against the Boston Celtics in the 2013 playoffs. It has been closing in on 20 years since the Knicks’ last NBA Finals appearance. And it has been over 40 years since their last championship with, as many Knicks’ fan will affectionately swoon at the mention of, the likes of Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe. New York is considered by some to still be the Mecca of basketball and Madison Square Garden is the hallowed ground on which it stands. 13-time champion (two as a player, 11 as a coach), Phil Jackson has been the president and head of all basketball operations for the last two years and yet, no free agent seems to want to come to the Big Apple. Why? In a city that doesn’t seem to have the time for the slow process that is rebuilding a team, expectations are astronomical and, let’s face it, downright stupid. The reasons for Knicks fans’ suffering could take a long time to add up, but I will just talk about the four reasons I’ve compiled that have attributed to the last couple years to save some time.

Courtesy of Sporting News.

The Owner is Too Involved and Under Too Much Pressure

Leading up to the arrival of Phil Jackson as head of basketball operations and President, owner James Dolan has often had a hand in some of the big trades and acquisitions of players and coaches throughout his reign, most notably the deals that brought Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony from their respective Western Conference teams to the Knicks; deals in which the Knicks gave up draft picks and a handful of players. Since Melo and Amare came to the Knicks, they made the playoffs 3 times with Stoudemire battling injury in 2013; Dolan’s Knicks would have to eat most of Stoudemire’s contract due to injury during his time there. It was clear that these moves did not pay off as the duo of Stoudemire and Anthony just weren’t meshing well and the head coach for half of their partnership, Mike d’Antoni, wasn’t getting the job done with the pieces that the team had. After firing d’Antoni, keeping Mike Woodson on as head coach and being somewhat competitive in the Eastern Conference playoffs, Dolan decided to fire the defensive-minded coach at the beginning of the Phil Jackson era. However, prior to Jackson’s hire, Dolan made decisions on which free agents or trades to go after and sign to help Carmelo bring a championship back to the Garden, and let’s just say they weren’t exactly what the Knicks needed, as they were without draft picks as a result of these failed trades and acquisitions.

Courtesy of USA Today.

Phil Jackson is the President of the Knicks… Not the Coach

One of Jackson’s first moves as President was the hiring of recently retired NBA veteran and former Los Angeles Laker Derek Fisher as the new head coach of the Knicks. This being Fisher’s first coaching job ever and not having a .500 season or better after his first season, it should surprise many that he only lasted about a season and a half (40-96 record over that span). This off-season, Jackson seemed hell-bent on keeping interim head coach Kurt Rambis, another ex-Laker, on as the permanent head coach. This didn’t seem like a wise move to anyone in the basketball community, so Dolan, being an active owner, insisted Jackson look elsewhere and Jackson then hired former Suns coach, Jeff Hornacek. I am not sure what to expect from the new hire, but the feeling remains the same; the feeling that Phil Jackson should come down from the front office and coach this team himself. Whatever health concerns there may be about Phil traveling around the country, the belief is that only Phil Jackson can properly teach and execute the triangle offense, which he has consistently preached that these Knicks can employ. Phil Jackson as a coach, would make the Knicks a more attractive destination for the more attractive free agent. When a man has coached teams to 11 championships, there is not a player in the league that wouldn’t at least consider New York an option if that man is coaching.

Courtesy of Huffington Post.

Melo Isn’t the Superstar Player He’s Paid to Be

The Knicks’ star came into the league with the likes of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh (those 3 would later team up and win two championships together), with Anthony being the player without a ring. Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, going into that draft, were often compared to each other, both being around 6’8” and the ability to take over games in a multitude of ways. Since then, the two players’ paths have vastly differed and their true abilities shown. LeBron has won Rookie of the Year, three titles, four MVPs, and a scoring title. Melo, on the other hand, has won one scoring title and has only made one conference final; in fact he’s only made it past the first round of the playoffs once and is now being paid upwards of $122 million dollars over five years. Anthony’s game is much different from the two superstars who have dominated the league during his time; those two superstars being LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. While critics of James have said he doesn’t have the scorer’s mentality or killer instinct that the Mamba and even Melo appear to have, he has had a greater effect on the game with his passing and vision that Carmelo has only dreamed of having by scoring. Speaking of scoring, it seems that the majority of Anthony’s efforts are put towards scoring rather than playing defense; LeBron nearly won Defensive Player of the Year a couple of years and even Kobe, who’s been touted as “selfish” on the offensive end, and who I would liken Anthony’s game more than LeBron, wasn’t a blow by on the defensive end.

I look at Carmelo Anthony’s game, at age 32, as a wanna-be Kobe; He has to have the ball in his hands to affect the game and he believes he can score on every possession no matter how cold of a night he is having, which is all well and fine if the team can pick up the slack, but Anthony’s teams usually haven’t been able to. Carmelo Anthony (41% FG, 21.4 FGA, 32% 3FG, 7.3 reb, 2.8 assists, and 25.7 pts for his playoff career) seems to have needed an all-star point guard that knew how to run an offense and play defense whenever his teams have been successful in the postseason; Chauncey Billups (Nuggets in ’08) and Jason Kidd (Knicks in ’13) both played with Anthony whenever he made it past the first round of the playoffs. And for some reason, the Knicks felt that this player, whose numbers don’t backup the talent, was a guy who could be built around to win a championship, a guy who they signed to a $122-129 million dollar five year contract and locking themselves down for any cash to offer quality free agents. Melo needs to adjust his game in order to draw free agents like LeBron has done in the latter portion of his career. Kobe, who’s offensive game and mindset I liken Carmelo’s to, could no longer draw free agents to LA because Phil Jackson was no longer the coach (discount injured and soft Dwight Howard), which attributes to Phil’s ability to draw players as a coach, not a GM (see above). In my opinion, the type of contract Anthony is under is reserved for younger MVPs and champions like LeBron or Kobe, none of which Anthony is or, the way it’s heading, will ever be.

Was New York Ever the “Mecca”?

In the sports world, a Mecca of a particular sport would have a rich history filled with banners, titles, MVPs and housed some of the greatest sports moments ever. Madison Square Garden may be in the most famous city in the world, but it doesn’t house the historic franchise a sports fan would revere as one of the greatest ever. The Knicks have two NBA titles (1970 and 1973). That’s better than none, but when other franchises like Boston, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Chicago have at least twice as many (almost nine times as many if you’re Boston, eight if you’re LA), it begins to look like a foot note on the history of the game. One moment that the Garden did play host to and that all Knick fans will point out was the Finals game in which Willis Reed came out of the tunnel, bum ankle and all, to lead the Knicks to their title victory. Okay, so that’s one moment. Where are the other highlights on the NBA finals reel? I can count only one moment that is engraved in Knicks lore and, I believe, has made fans delusional about the idea that New York is the Mecca of basketball. The team has also not produced one league MVP in its history; not Walt Frazier, not Willis Reed, not Patrick Ewing. No one in the history of the New York Knicks has ever earned the title of MVP, so why should Madison Square Garden and the Knicks be considered the Mecca of basketball? Sure, the city has a history of producing some of the game’s greats and has the famous Rucker Park, but the franchise that represents the city has done nothing that says to the world, “This is the franchise people come to see”. The minute the city and Knick fans stop calling themselves “The Mecca” will be the moment when they begin to turn things around for the better; a “nothing is given, everything is earned” mentality has to set in. Prove to the world that New York is “The Mecca” and the allure and aura will return to the Garden once more.

Courtesy Slamonline.

What Now?

With all the dysfunction within the organization, here’s what the Knicks have going for them: The Knickerbockers drafted the Latvian phenom, Kristaps Porzingis, with the 4th pick in the 2015 draft last year. The 7’3” 19 year old stretch center finished second in the Rookie of the Year race to Karl Anthony-Towns; not bad for an unproven European import. In stretches during the season, the young player showed passion and energy for the game by blocking shots, throwing down putback dunks and draining perimeter shots. Hopefully, his role on the team will grow rather than shrink with the newly acquired point guard, Derrick Rose.

Speaking of the new Knick, Rose is reaching the end of his contract he signed originally with the Bulls before blowing out both of his knees, so he will be coming into the 2016-17 season with something to prove and a new deal to earn; if not with the Knicks, then elsewhere. I am sure Anthony is excited to play with the former All-Star and MVP, even if he hasn’t been the same since achieving those awards. Carmelo Anthony will, however, have to learn how to move without the ball to get a good portion of his points since Rose, being the point guard, has to make the decisions on the court and Rose may not always pass to Anthony as often as Anthony is used to being given the ball. And with Porzingis’ frame still relatively thin, it’s reasonable to expect 3 point and mid-range shooting to be a key component of his game; a lot of pick and pop with Rose, dishing to Melo on the wings whenever the mismatch is in Kristaps’ favor in the post, and vice versa.

Courtesy CBS Sports.

The Knicks are also interested in signing Chicago Bull Joakim Noah, who played with Rose in Chicago. This move probably won’t sit well with the New York media considering Noah has had injury problems in the last couple seasons with his feet and knees; at this point he might as well be as fragile as Rose. Depending on if the Knicks do sign Noah and what kind of contract they sign him to, Noah, when healthy, can offer the Knicks a defensive backbone, smart passer and an emotional leader. Removing health from the equation, signing Noah would be a good move.

With a new big three and a new coach in place at “the Mecca”, hopefully, for New Yorkers and Knick fans everywhere, they can begin to make strides towards playoff and eventually title contention. But the team needs a couple of things to happen to earn the title of “Mecca” back: Jackson needs to seem a little more invested in the franchise if he isn’t going to coach. Carmelo needs to look to pass more, raise his basketball IQ and play more consistent and better defense (play like the player he is being paid to be). Dolan needs to let Phil do his job. The fans need to stay behind their team no matter how bad they look, while at the same time putting pressure on the organization to be competitive, not just sign free agents, but to go out and perform to the best of their ability. Everything else will fall into place should those things happen and the Knicks will become relevant again, this time for a longer spell and, who knows, they may even win a championship along the way.

Death of Competition in the NBA

 Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

I have been a fan of the NBA for all my life. There is a trend that has been happening over the last five to seven years that is starting to make me sick. That trend is the death of true competition.

Bill Russell versus Wilt Chamberlain. Celtics versus Lakers. Magic versus Bird. Bulls versus Pistons. Jordan versus the Bad Boys.

The NBA was built on great competition and rivalries. The game we now know and love grew from feuds and exciting rivalries between both players and teams. Fans became enamored by these clashes of legendary players and great teams. Rivalries are slowly dying in today’s NBA and I think there is a reason for it.

When one of the most popular players in NBA history decides to join his friends rather than beat them, he sets an example for the kids who grow up wanting to be like him. LeBron James and his friends are destroying the idea of rivalries and true competition with the way he first joined the Heat and is talking about it again with Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony.

I know what he wants. He wants to win. We all want to win. There is a fire that burns in us that causes us to hate losing.

I once heard a quote that said, “You have to hate losing, more than you love to win.”

I do hate losing. I hate not being better than someone at something. I know LeBron hates losing as well. He has to.

I grew up playing sports anytime I could. Football, baseball or basketball, you name it and I was outside in the neighborhood playing these sports. I loved playing with my friends. There was something even better than playing with my friends. Beating my friends was more satisfying. I felt like the games were more fun and more competitive. There was more at stake in my mind and heart: If I win I have the right to say I was better. I have the right to brag until the next time we played. If I lost I had to hear that I wasn’t better and my friend had the bragging rights. It makes you work harder because you don’t want to hear the smack talk. Nobody likes feeling like a loser.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were great friends and even better rivals. They loved competing against one another and never tried to play together in the NBA. They knew they could play together in the Olympics or in the offseason, but during the NBA season they went at each other with a hatred. It wasn’t hatred for each other, it was hatred for losing to your friend. Magic has been on the record saying that the competition with Larry Bird made him better and made him work harder. They each won some and lost some but had tremendous respect for one another and the fans were blessed with a great rivalry up until they retired.

Another example is Jordan trying to get past the Bad Boy Pistons.

He didn’t call up Magic or Bird and say, “Hey, we all keep losing to them let’s get together and beat them.”

No Michael Jordan decided to hit the gym and work extra hard because he was sick and tired of losing to the same team every year in the playoffs. He worked hard and finally was able to get over that hump and it led to six NBA championships and a legendary career.

Let’s fast forward to the past 10 years of the NBA where Kobe has begun to age and LeBron has become the face and draw of the NBA. The Celtics had Paul Pierce and signed Ray Allen. Along with those two stars they made a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire Kevin Garnett and form a championship caliber team. There are a lot of people who blame these three players for starting the “super team” trend, but it would have never happened without the trade that required the management to pull it off.

LeBron was then in the same situation as Jordan essentially. He spent years trying to get past the Celtics but couldn’t. Instead of doing what most competitors did he decided to quit on the Cavaliers and join a couple of his friends in Miami. Three free agents purposely decided that in order to win they had to all come together. Dwayne Wade was an All-Star and NBA champion, Chris Bosh was an All-Star and the franchise star of the Toronto Raptors, and we all know LeBron was an All-Star and the superstar of Cleveland and the NBA. You had three really good teams in the East who all battled together along with the Celtics. In just one offseason two of those teams became obsolete because of these friends deciding to play together rather than compete against each other.

Based on championships the move was successful for the stars. They went to four straight Finals and won two of them. The Eastern Conference has been a cake walk for them because they all teamed up. They couldn’t man up and beat one another like the stars of the past. There are no true rivalries in the Eastern Conference. LeBron has no rivals because he joined them.

Fast forward to this year. The Warriors and Spurs are becoming true rivals because their cores are the same and have been built for a few years, with the Spurs core being around much longer. We then get a comment from LeBron in which he says he would love to play with his former teammate and friend Dwayne Wade, and long time friends Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. Chris Paul has been unsuccessful in ever reaching a Conference Finals. Carmelo Anthony has never been to a Finals and finds himself at a crossroads in his career. He is showing signs of concern in becoming one of the best players ever to never win a ring.

Now we have to hear talks of all four of them joining up to play together. Why is that? Is it because LeBron is 2-4 in the Finals? Because Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony have never been to a Finals? All together they may get to a Finals or win one because that amount of talent on the floor on one team has only been seen on an Olympic team.

There is a reason professional leagues implemented free agency. It was for a level playing field. It was for the teams who were bad every year to have a chance at competing the next year. Previous generations weren’t afraid to fail to get better. They didn’t join forces just to make success easier. I want the best players in the league fighting for championships not finding the easiest route to one. Hopefully a player comes into the NBA or is currently in the NBA to change the culture back to fighting and growing through failure rather than just quitting and finding some friends to play with.

If players continue to team up and try to form super teams that look like an Olympic roster, it will be the death of competition.