The New York Knicks have made it clear that they want to trade 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony. So if Anthony is still on the roster come Opening Night, what will the reaction be?
The Carmelo Anthony era for the New York Knicks has been largely unsuccessful. One playoff series win in seven years has left fans frustrated and ready to see Melo take the first train out of town.
Despite this, Anthony remains one of New York’s most polarizing figures, complete with fans who will defend him until they’re blue in the face, as well as others who can’t stand the sight of him on the court.
Melo’s supporters will always point to the lack of help on the court, in addition to a revolving door in both the front office and coaching staff. However, his detractors, seemingly against him from day one, will always protest that New York gave up far too much for him in the trade and that his isolation-heavy skill set was never enough to win on a consistent basis.
The question is a fair one; how will fans receive Melo during the home opener?
The Case for Cheering Melo
Say what you want about Melo as a basketball player, but this past year was about as difficult off the court for a star as you can have in the NBA.
In a December 2016 interview, Phil Jackson spoke candidly regarding Melo’s problematic on-court habits:
“Carmelo, a lot of times, wants to hold the ball longer than — we have a rule, if you hold a pass two seconds, you benefit the defense. So he has a little bit of a tendency to hold the ball for three, four, five seconds, then everybody comes to a stop.”
On the surface, Jackson’s criticism is not wrong, yet you wonder if he had a face-to-face conversation with Anthony prior to the interview.
Then, in February, Jackson created another stir when he tweeted his thoughts regarding an article, written by Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, that was critical of Anthony.
Bleacher's Ding almost rings the bell, but I learned you don't change the spot on a leopard with Michael Graham in my CBA daze.
— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) February 7, 2017
The third installment of the Melo-Jackson feud came at the end of the 2016-2017 season. In an interview with the media, Jackson publicly stated that he felt Anthony would be better off on another team.
Most NBA analysts and players around the league felt that Melo handled himself with class in a difficult situation. For all his faults, Anthony is well-liked and, despite public perception as being a selfish, me-first player, actually won the “Best Teammate” award on the Knicks.
The Case for Booing Melo
When the Knicks traded for Anthony in February of 2011, New York City pictured a dominant duo of Melo and Amare Stoudemire fighting with the Miami Heat atop the Eastern Conference. Flash forward seven seasons and this experiment has been anything but the beacon of lights fans thought it might be.
Chris Herring of ESPN recently wrote a column discussing Melo’s fit in today’s NBA. He included the following video to illustrate Anthony’s biggest Achilles’ Heel…his defense.
Melo’s effort, with the exception of the 2012-13 season, has routinely been called into question. Whether it has been closing out to a three-point shooter or his defensive rotations, Melo has either looked a step too slow or just did not give the effort.
Along the same line, Anthony’s summer has been filled with various Instagram posts highlighting his impressive shooting and offensive skills. Melo and other stars in the NBA, such as Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Chris Paul, have flocked to his gym in Manhattan for heavily publicized pick-up games.
Although the videos are entertaining, none of them show Anthony making a great defensive play, working on his lateral footwork or any other defensive skill. It’s fair to say that Knicks fans want to see something different from Melo besides a pull-up, three-point shot or fadeaway on the baseline.
When it’s all said and done, Melo will likely receive a reception mixed with cheers and jeers. The 10-time All-Star will still be the Knicks’ most potent offensive weapon and will have to play well if the Knicks have any shot of being competitive in games.
Yet, it will be interesting to see if that reception changes should Melo be hesitant to hand the reins as the top offensive option over to Kristaps Porzingis. Likewise, if the Melo-drama trade saga continues to drag into the middle of the season and become a distraction, fans will be more likely to turn on the future Hall of Famer.