Carmelo Anthony did not merely go from Denver to New York. He did not just go from Nugget to Knick. He went from likable, endearing star to a guy who demands everything.
Anthony did not just put himself above a team. He put himself above three teams. He held the Nuggets' season at arm's length while the Nets and Knicks wooed him.
And he did it for money. That part isn't even disputable. Sure, Anthony loves New York, but he could have signed with the Knicks when he hits free agency this summer (or next fall or winter or whenever the NBA sorts out its labor issues). The Knicks would have had salary-cap room. They would not have had to give up assets like Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler and draft picks, so Anthony would be joining a better team. Plus, the new collective bargaining agreement will surely knock down the salary cap, but the Knicks will be paying Carmelo by the terms of the current CBA -- $65 million over three years, give or take a few bucks for service fees. This will limit their chances to improve the team in the next two years.
Carmelo Anthony made this about him. OK, fine. It's about him now. It's about whether he can deliver on what he thinks he is -- a true superstar who can carry a team to a title. From here, he looks a lot like a guy who chases two of the NBA's favorite currencies: points and cash.
Knicks fans are passionate and have a reputation for being impatient. But they also know what they're watching. This is what infuriated Knicks fans about the Isiah Thomas era -- not that the Knicks were losing, but that nothing they did made sense. Building a team around Patrick Ewing, defense and toughness made sense. But nothing in the past decade indicated that there was a plan.
Sure, the Knicks are better off with Amar'e Stoudemire and Anthony than they were a year ago. No question. But it won't be long before Knicks fans realize they have two max-contract players who don't play a lick of defense, and a coach, Mike D'Antoni, who thinks offense first, scoring second and ... what's that old saying?
Defense wins championships?
Oh, you've heard it? It's too simplistic, of course, but you do need to play defense to win a title. Say what you want about the Heat's stars, but they have obviously figured that out.
Speaking of the Heat ...
On the surface, this Anthony deal is part of a greater trend of stars choosing teams on their terms. And it is. But this, in many ways, is the opposite of what LeBron James did. Give the self-proclaimed King this: At least he understood the end game. He didn't realize the nation would hate him if he spent an hour on national television making a mockery of Cleveland, and he didn't expect former NBA stars to criticize him for "joining forces" with his friends ... but he understood he had to win a championship. I still don't like how he did it. But at some point in the next three years, the Heat will win at least one title, and when people rip LeBron, he can point to his ring finger.
Carmelo took the opposite approach. He refused to compromise on the money for his contract extension and didn't worry enough about the guys around him. He wanted it both ways -- he wanted to choose his market and get his market value. He will certainly be fun to watch -- he is always fun to watch -- and will help the Knicks make the playoffs every year.
But don't be surprised if, in two years, Stoudemire has lost his legs (not literally -- I'm not THATpessimistic) and Anthony has cemented his reputation as a one-dimensional player. And if that happens, I really hope he doesn't complain that the Knicks need more talent around him.
Anthony burst into the nation's consciousness in 2003, when he led Syracuse to the NCAA championship as a freshman. Back then, we assumed he was such a likable guy, such a winner. Now, eight years later, he'll have to prove it.