Hot! Anthony Needs to Melo Out

Come on Melo, just hug it out with Garnett next time, he's a real softy when you get to know him.

Come on Melo, just hug it out with Garnett next time, he’s a real softy when you get to know him.

 

When evaluating this season’s MVP race, it is difficult to find a candidate more qualified than Carmelo Anthony. His 29 points-per-game rank second in the NBA, and his newfound willingness to play defense and pass out of double teams have paid huge dividends, as his New York Knicks rank among the elite in the Eastern Conference. His exceptional skill set gives New York hope every night that no matter who they face, they can turn to Anthony to generate the necessary momentum to lead them to victory.

The days of Anthony taking wild shots and only thriving in isolation were a thing of the past. So far this year, nothing has stood in Anthony’s way of playing great basketball when his team needs it most.

That is until Monday night, when the division rival Boston Celtics came to town.

What exactly was said between Anthony and Kevin Garnett is unclear, but what is clear is that Garnett got into Anthony’s head and visibly affected Anthony’s ability to perform. He shot 6-26 from the field, committed five personal fouls, and received his eighth technical foul of the season, putting him halfway toward a mandated one game suspension.

To put it bluntly, Carmelo Anthony looked eerily similar to the ball-hog from last year that was more interested in getting his 25 points than doing whatever it took to help New York win. While one poor stat line isn’t enough to strike fear in Knicks fans hearts that he may enter a downward spiral, what we witnessed was far from an MVP performance.

Reigning MVP and league champion LeBron James wouldn’t back down to a challenge from Garnett, he would thrive off of it. LeBron James wouldn’t allow an off night shooting the ball to bring his team down with him. Carmelo Anthony on the other hand clearly did, and he failed Garnett’s test.

It is imperative to New York’s continued success that Anthony puts Monday night behind him. He needs to be better than that.

Comparing a player to Lebron James may not seem fair, but Anthony has the ability to lead his team in a similar fashion and — make no mistake about it — unless he does so, the Knicks will not be crowned World Champions at the end of this season. And that’s the goal for Anthony and the Knicks, right?

To be fair, Anthony is playing significantly more minutes in the power forward slot than at any point in his career. Perhaps playing against physical bigs such as Garnett was asking too much of him, but an MVP candidate wouldn’t back down from a challenge, he would embrace it. Instead we saw Anthony do a far better job of embracing Garnett than embracing the challenge Garnett presented.

Both players may have seemed out of line with their consistent shoving and jawing, but Garnett knew exactly what he was doing. He’s made a Hall of Fame career out of being a badass on the court, frustrating his opponents, and getting under their skin. Anthony was merely his latest victim. It didn’t even matter that the Celtics best player Rajon Rondo didn’t suit up, because Garnett used his tried and true tactics to take the New York’s best player out of the game. In essensce, both teams were missing their MVPs, and the Celtics won this round, 102-96.

Other teams are sure to take note of how affected Anthony was by Garnett’s play, and will undoubtedly try to take advantage of Melo in similar fashion. Imagine how intense a playoff series between these two teams would be. What happens if Carmelo can’t keep his cool then?

Meanwhile, a solid effort by other key contributors in the Knicks-Celtics matchup was ultimately wasted. Amar’e Stoudemire proved that he’s continuing to feel healthier and is willing to adapt to Mike Woodson’s system as he electrified the arena with some big dunks. Tyson Chandler continued to dominate on the boards and score efficiently from under the net. JR Smith shot well from three point range and posted a team-high 25 points coming off the bench. Unfortunately, their gallant efforts were for naught, because the player that mattered most let his team down.

Carmelo Anthony, it’s time to put up, or shut up.

Until Monday night you have done everything that the Knicks have asked of you, and you have given the fans reason to believe that this won’t be another mediocre season ending with a first round playoff exit. Take another step forward in your quest for the NBA Championship and an MVP trophy by keeping your emotions in check, and know that every night your actions must speak louder than the words of a jerk.

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Nick Kostopoulos, a former sports-talk radio host and occasional basketball announcer on the NYU airwaves, is our resident loud guy. He graduated with a BA in Communications and now spends much of his time communicating for DidYouSeeThatSports.

 

Photo Courtesy of The Daily News

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Nicholas Kostopoulos

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