No, Carmelo Anthony isn’t the problem when it comes to the New York Knicks. The problem is, at the same time, he’s not the answer. 

No. 7 was sizzling on a Sunday afternoon in Atlanta. From enticing pump-fakes to clutch jumpers, in a variety of fashions, Carmelo Anthony single-handedly kept the New York Knicks alive through nearly seven periods of NBA basketball.

He wasn’t just dazzling, Melo was raging against the Atlanta fans in the crowd, demanding the ball at every turn and screaming aloud about how he “wanted it.”

The man was a stone-cold assassin all day long. Forty-five points were the end result on an efficient 18-of-36 day from the floor. He even came out with a different mindset of looking to draw the foul early while dishing to the open man when feasible (four dimes).

Still, Melo was only brilliant on the offensive end of the floor — a place that only accounts for 50 percent of the game of basketball.

In the end, it was the Knicks who had witnessed Melo, Kristaps Porzingis, Joakim Noah and Kyle O’Quinn fouling out, who fell to the Hawks by the final tally of 142-139 in a quadruple-overtime thriller.

Throughout the course of the game, Knicks Twitter (infamous for its crying and praying), followed the mantra, “Melo isn’t the problem.” It’s a spiritual quote spewed at the mouth by all Melo fanatics, young, old or indifferent. They believe it because they believe there isn’t enough talent around him.

While they may be right, that Melo isn’t the problem, I’m going to let you in a little secret today that comes in the following paragraph.

He’s also not the answer.

In the game against the Hawks on Sunday, Carmelo Anthony was brilliant on the offensive end of the floor. Unfortunately, he was his usually dreadful self defensively.

With 20-plus seconds to go in the first overtime with the game tied, New York needed a stop. Hawks point guard Dennis Schröder took Brandon Jennings off the dribble to the crowded side of four.

Amazingly, the Knicks strong-side defenders were nowhere to be found:

Melo is guarding his man as if it were a casual YMCA bout. There is no ball-you-man or head-on-a-swivel. It was his responsibility to help his point guard out here and make life tough for the penetrator. Instead, Anthony didn’t even know his help-side responsibility flew past him until it was too late.

On Melo’s last play of the game, he fouled out on a suspect call as he couldn’t guard the quicker player:

Admittedly, this is a tough get for Anthony. Schroder is just too quick for the 32-year-old in this scenario. At least, however, he could have made sure not to foul or foul hard enough in which a three-point play wasn’t a possibility.

When it comes fundamentals and intangibles when closing a game out, again, Anthony’s suspect nature in this area rears its ugly head even when boxing out.

Yes, Tim Hardaway Jr. absolutely flopped. There’s no question about it. But in this situation with the good guys up one, Melo has to be smarter than this. There’s no reason for the bigger Melo to put his hands on the smaller Hardaway. Why face up against him? Simply box him out the right way while providing the official no reason to call a foul.

Time and again, game in and game out, we witness the same story with these Knicks. They can score the basketball with anybody, but when it comes to the nitty gritty of coming up with a big stop when it’s needed most or a loose ball when the garbage play screams aloud, this team, captained by Carmelo Anthony, never gets it done. 

The crime of it all comes to fruition when thinking about the bigger picture.

Attempting to battle through a mediocre 21-28 season is worse than tanking. We all know the NBA and its flaws. When building a team in the Association, mediocrity means purgatory. Never can a great talent be had in this spot and rarely is there any wiggle-room in free agency.

The Knicks sticking with this personnel grouping and expecting success would equate to any of us banging our head against the wall and expecting Skittles to come flying out of our ears.

The reason tanking is such a popular philosophy in this league is because it works. It’s because it’s the only way to secure superstar players — that is, unless, you acquire a team full of expiring contracts and go fishing in July.

Carmelo Anthony’s career record with the Knicks during the regular season, when dressed and active, is 188-198. Other than a 54-win 2012-13 campaign that saw the team make it to the second round of the tournament, Melo’s New York stint has been underwhelming. Actually, it’s been tragic, when considering the “I’m coming home” campaign.

It didn’t work with Amar’e Stoudemire or Chauncey Billups. It didn’t work with Donnie Walsh, Mike D’Antoni or Mike Woodson. It didn’t work with Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith or Iman Shumpert. And, much to the dismay of the basketball-loving citizens of New York City, it’s not working with Derrick Rose, Kristaps Porzingis, Jeff Hornacek and, the top culprit of them all, Phil Jackson.

How many years, players and coaches does this organization have to cycle through before we all realize Carmelo Anthony is overrated? 

Sure, if you put the absolute perfect pieces around the man who once represented the most dangerous iso scorer in the league, Melo’s Knicks would showcase success. If Jax was equipped with enough evaluating skills that would force him to understand that four outstanding defenders are needed when surrounding Melo, this team could flourish.

But that’s just too tough to expect. It’s a hard thing to execute. Melo isn’t a LeBron James who can elevate others around him to a certain championship-like degree.

Melo isn’t an immortal.

So, remember this: while you proclaim Carmelo Anthony “isn’t the problem” for your New York Knicks, understand the reality of this extremely sad situation.

He’s also not the solution.

It’s been proven for years now with the many individuals who’ve surrounded the man.

Purgatory is a dangerous thing in the NBA. Trading Melo and D-Rose allows purgatory to evaporate. It welcomes a rebuild filled with empty roster slots and plenty of cap space.

Trading Melo brings flexibility — the one crucial aspect needed when looking to build a winner in this complex and frustrating league.

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