There’s been enough written about how the matinee Christmas Day games were duds and how this is not what the NBA was expecting when they scheduled this. This post is not about that. This post is about Carmelo Anthony and Jason Kidd, two guys that have no business being where they are, and whose teams got rightfully embarrassed.
First, Anthony. He didn’t play on Christmas Day but his mere smiling presence on the bench while his team is getting rocked is what’s wrong with the Knicks. They continue to bet on the wrong horse, from Vin Baker to Keith Van Horn to Eddy Curry to Stephon Marbury to Steve Francis to Carmelo Anthony to Andrea Bargnani to J.R Smith, they continue to pick players who are nothing more than glorified ball-hoggers. I’ve never understood how an NBA organization (presumably run by smart people) can think that the obviously overrated “glitz and glamour” of these players can translate into a winning system under the pressure-filled and distracting lights of New York. But somehow against all odds, the Knicks manage to make obvious mistakes hoping somehow that being in New York will be a redeeming exercise for overrated talent.
The best course of action for the Knicks is to end the belief that Carmelo Anthony can take them anywhere and start thinking, from the ground up, of how to rectify this franchise into reasonable levels of respectability. The Knicks are right now trying to find deals to get Kyle Lowry and have Imam Shumpert on the trading block. If both deals do get executed they’ll lose future assets (in the Lowry deal) and give up on a young talent that actually plays hard. This is basically the opposite of what they should be doing. They need to recognize that Carmelo Anthony is not a centerpiece of anything significant, try to trade him immediately and hope that a team bites and gives up a first-rounder in the 2014 draft.
Why am I so sour on Anthony? Because I’ve seen him play for too long and it’s plainly evident that he’s a “me first” guy (note that he may not even know that himself) that accepts failure. He accepts failure in his teammates, he accepts shortcomings in his own game (defense hasn’t improved a lick), and he accepts that there’s nothing he can do about the failure that he’s the epicentre of.
In a recent ESPN Insider piece two GMs summed up what any unbiased and relatively in-tuned observer of Anthony always suspected.
“He’s a great player, but he’s also a selfish player. That’s just how he is. I don’t think he’ll look at himself in the mirror and say, ‘What am I not doing? What am I doing that’s keeping us from winning?’ Again, I’m not saying he’s not a great player. He’s a phenomenal player. He’s just selfish. He likes the glamour and the big time. Why else would he have left Denver for New York? That Denver team he was on was better than New York. But he wanted the show and the glamour. It wasn’t about winning…
I’d say that GM #1 is contradicting himself when he says that he’s a “great player” because a great player would never actually do the things the this GM describes in the subsequent sentences.
“Early on in Denver, he probably saw some bad habits and was allowed to get away with his bad habits — like if he was five or 10 minutes late for a shootaround, or if he missed a team event somewhere. As a leader, you can’t do that because you have to be able to get on guys when they do those things. He probably never learned that. And after leading a team from 17 wins to 43 wins, he probably thought winning in the NBA was a little easier than it really is, and he never was made to understand what it takes to get to the next level. He didn’t learn the little things, the finer points of playing defensively – understanding that you have to make consecutive plays on defense if you really want to get it done. Things like that. So now, 10 years into the league, he’s probably Robin on a championship team instead of Batman. He has Batman talent, but the intangibles are missing.”
This is probably the root of the problem, but statute of limitations on the Denver influence has long passed. Unfortunately, for Anthony, he’s been cajoled and told he’s a superstar right from the start, and when he came to New York he figured success would come easy and that he would simply need to keep doing what he did in Denver, which is basically dominate the ball on a stacked team. In New York he’s a cancer, maybe not a clubhouse cancer but he’s a basketball cancer that is preventing the Knicks from extricating themselves from a mistake because, somehow, everyone believes that he’s a superstar when in fact he’s a somewhat more consistent Rudy Gay.
So, if you’re the New York Knicks, the best thing you can do is erase this mistake before it reaches Eddy Curry levels. Flip him for a pick, I’m sure there’s a team desperate enough to believe that they’re getting a good deal.
Onto Jason Kidd. He’s got a job that is thoroughly undeserved and everyone in the NBA knows it. He’s not alone to blame for the Nets’ failures but he is the man accountable. From the demotion of Lawrence Frank, to the drink incident, to calling out his own players in the media, to the Nets’ defensive effort, Kidd has been a total disaster.
Being a great player does not equate to being a head coach, even if you played point guard. They say that if you want to know what a man is about you look at the small things, and that spilled drink incident tells you a lot about what Kidd is: an immature man who thinks he’s smarter than those around him. They also say that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats his women, and we know where Kidd stands there.
As I watch the Nets, I see good players not buying into a system but going through the motions. I don’t believe that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are too old, I don’t believe that Deron Williams is too fat to be good, and I believe that Joe Johnson is a very capable shooting guard that can be a key part of a championship team. The problem is that the glue that binds them together is Jason Kidd, who was disliked when he played (don’t think that hasn’t an influence on where the Nets stand) and doesn’t have the smarts to understand what motivates people, and how to motivate them. How he’s managed to lose Garnett and Pierce, two of the most driven players in the league is a testament to how lost he is.
When he got hired, Deron Williams had the following to say:
“It’s a risk, but I think it’s somebody we can grow with. I think it’s somebody we’re definitely going to respect and listen to. And I’m excited about the ways he’s going to help me as a player and a leader.”
Undoubtedly, the Nets will listen to Jason Kidd. Once, and if he’s wrong, twice. Maybe three times. But after being continuously wrong and failing to deliver results, they’ll fall back to the “risk” part of that comment, i.e., that Jason Kidd simply doesn’t know what he’s doing and that the “respect” afforded to him by his NBA career is running out just as quickly as the losses are piling up.
The best course for the Nets right now is to get rid of Jason Kidd and get a proven coach in there that knows how to deal with veterans, can afford them the slack when it’s called for, and hold them accountable when needed. They need a coach that commands respect based on results, not pedigree.