Although the NBA admitted Carmelo Anthony was fouled by Rajon Rondo, he and his New York Knicks must completely change their mindset moving forward.

By Robby Sabo

During the last game of the 1997-98 NBA season Michael Jordan walked out on the Chicago Bulls the only way he knew how.

He stole the ball from underneath the basket, slowly walked it up the floor as calm as ever, and setup Byron Russell to be on one of the more memorable posters in NBA history.

Bob Costas, as only he could, perfectly described the ending:

We remember it and talk about it like it was yesterday – as forever living in the lure of NBA memories. What we regularly fail to discuss, however, aside from those putrid Utah Jazz uniforms, was how blatant a push-off Jordan got away with on Russell.

I mean seriously, what’s an official to do? Actually call an offensive foul on perhaps the best basketball player of all-time in such a legend defining moment?

Not a chance.

MJ knew this. His way with the officials of the game and clout surrounding the Association itself afforded him the right to get away with some of these fouls.

More importantly though, he wisely took advantage of knowing this.

Admittedly, Carmelo Anthony is not Michael Jordan. He’s not LeBron James, nor even Kobe Bryant. He’s a veteran scoring superstar in a league on a team with an eye towards rebuilding.

To the dismay of many New York Knicks fans it seems as though he’s never gotten the “superstar call.” Whatever the reason, Melo seems to fall short in this category. Officials seem to look the other way or call it straight up when Anthony is working with the ball in his hands.

No greater video evidence could support this claim than what transpired on Thursday night in Sacramento.

With just a few ticks left on the clock the Knicks went to Melo down two points. Rajon Rondo got away with a clear foul on the floor:

The NBA even went as far as admitting the officials missed the call.

So, after another tough loss (their fourth straight defeat), what’s a New York Knicks fan to do? Should they continue to complain, cry and howl at the moon due to the unfair treatment of their star player? Or should they demand better from him?

I firmly believe the second option is the right one.

First off, let’s put to bed the extreme injustices most Knicks fans “perceive” to be haunting Melo. Whether you like the man or not, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News spread the love on very telling stat during the night in question:

So James Harden – who flops more than a flounder without water – is averaging 7.4 free throw attempts in his career while Anthony is at 7.6. Even if you’re somebody who does believe Anthony gets the short end of the stick once in a while (which I am), this should immediately put to bed any thought of a grave atrocity occurring on a night-in, night-out basis.

Prior to the Sacramento game Melo elaborated on why he thinks he doesn’t get the calls other stars around the Association do.

Via Marc Berman of the New York Post:

“They just tell me I’m the most difficult player to referee in the NBA,’’ Anthony said at the morning shootaround in Utah before going 3 of 11 on the night. “I’ve heard that a couple of times. It’s unclear on who is creating the contact. My goal is to go to the basket. If I’m creating the contact going toward the basket [and] I get hit, it’s a foul.’’

“I always get fouled,’’ Anthony said. “That’s what’s frustrating me. You play so hard, work so hard and don’t benefit from that. You look at other guys, you touch them and look at them wrong and get fouls. It’s a frustrating thing for me as a guy who likes to go to the basket, play in the paint. I like to play physical. It’s frustrating.

“I’m human,’’ Anthony added. “Those frustrations kick in at times, especially when you’re down there banging and know you’re getting banged on. I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know how to play another way.’’

“See, I don’t know how to flop, that’s the thing,” Anthony said. “Nowadays guys know how to flop, get hit and put their head back. I don’t know how to flop. I won’t even look right trying to do that. I won’t even feel right trying it.

What Melo says here is right. He doesn’t flop like other stars in the league do. Guys like Dwyane Wade and the aforementioned Harden make you want to vomit while watching them.

What he’s not grasping though, is his craftiness is sub-par. There are other ways to get on the right side of officials that Anthony just does not do. There’s a an old-school game that has been played for generations in the NBA that Melo hasn’t fully caught on to.

There’s a way to affect these officials without flopping.

More telling than the non-call on Thursday night was the fact that Rajon Rondo completely owned that moment.

Rondo, who’s an NBA Champion, pulled off one of the more intelligent moves of the NBA season that night. With just seconds left, he tugged on Anthony’s arm on the floor with a clear indication of what the consequences could have been.

More telling than the non-call on Thursday night was the fact that Rajon Rondo completely owned that moment.

He figured these were the two end results:

  1. The officials will call a foul which would put a mightily struggling Anthony at the free throw line with a chance to “at best” tie the game. He had been 6-11 at the line and 8-20 from the floor that night up to that point.
  2. The officials will choke on the whistle as they normally do towards the end of games.

Think about the history of basketball for a moment. Never to the referees want to blow the whistle on a last second shot and inject themselves into the outcome of the game. It doesn’t make it right, but it’s the way of the sport.

While there are certainly examples of the exact opposite (Hubert Davis and Hue Hollins in 1994), the norm provides the “choking on the whistle” result.

Rondo knew this and played the Knicks brilliantly.

First off the entire arena knew Anthony was getting the ball. They also knew he had to travel a good distance to get in a decent spot. Therefore, an absurd three Kings were paying all of their attention to the ball handler.

Instead of looking for a way to “outsmart” their opponent, the Knicks allowed Rondo and the Kings to get a leg-up on them in that situation.

Instead of them walking off the floor the fortunate winners who got away with a late foul, Melo walked off with a smug smile indicating he’d been fouled and he was wronged.

Anthony and the Knicks need to do a better job in overcoming these “perceived” slights and start playing “the game” within the game. Understanding that a foul is most likely coming and in order to beat your opponent a crafty move is needed is a very important element to winning in this league.

Use the situation to your advantage and use your smarts to get a leg-up.

Because the entire Sacramento team knew Anthony was going to get the ball, a crafty move would’ve been a pass option in that situation. Perhaps it was there. (Look at Kristaps Porzingis sitting all alone underneath the rim with two seconds remaining.)

This is the essence of what a winning basketball team needs to do.

As of right now, Derek Fisher, Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the New York Knicks simply don’t have it.

Instead of figuring it out, they’d rather complain.

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