Friday 20th April 2018,
The Hoop Doctors

Carmelo Anthony, the Celtics, and the Danger of the Competitive Ego

I like Carmelo Anthony. I like the player he’s become, the leader he has emulated. Against the Boston Celtics, though? I hated him.

I hated him for reminding us about the potential pitfalls of competition, the self-destructive nature of the competitive ego; I despised him for it.

What happened between Melo and Kevin Garnett during the New York Knicks’ loss to the Boston Celtics was disgusting—but not for reasons you might believe.

Many, including myself, reveled at the opportunity to watch Anthony and Garnett jostle for position on the block. I loved the profanity they continued to spew at each other, the antagonistic glances they continued to share. I even loved their double-technical foul. It was a display of raw emotion that captivates fans and pundits alike; a manifestation of unbridled passion.

How could I, how could we not become enthralled that?

It was impossible not to be, and so we were.

And yet, after that double-technical, a few subtleties began to catch my eye. Anthony was caroming both contested and unimpeded shots off the rim. On defense, he was switching on screens he should have fought over just to guard Garnett, leaving Tyson Chandler to defend Paul Pierce, a perimeter savant he has no business going up against.

Then it hit me: Garnett was living rent free in Melo’s head, to the point of self-inflicted implosion.

Anthony was 6-of-26 from the field on this night, a showing that included an unsuccessful barrage of three pointers—12 of them, to be exact. It was also a showing that saw him dish out five assists, none of which were as important as the ones he missed.

If you’re the Knicks, you want the ball in Melo’s hands. You want him to take control of the game. But on this night, Anthony couldn’t take control of the game, because he didn’t have control of himself.

Possession after possession I watched as Anthony forced the action; I watched and saw glimpses of the player that helped fuel the Knicks’ demise through the first half of last season.

I watched a player that I thought I would never see again.

It wasn’t just that he was missing shots in excess, nor was it his repeated exchanges with Garnett. It’s what those hostile confrontations came to represent.

Down the stretch, Anthony should have deferred to Amar’e Stoudemire, a star in his own right, yet one who attempted just six shots in 28 minutes. With Rasheed Wallace watching from the sidelines, Stoudemire is the most viable low-post threat the Knicks have, and as such, they must utilize him when the game is on the line against a weak shot-blocking team like the Celtics.

Instead, the Knicks put the ball in Anthony’s capable hands. Or so they thought.

This wasn’t the Anthony that had propelled the Knicks to so many victories; this wasn’t the Anthony we had come to embrace. He favored his right side—as per usual—but did so to the point of exhaustion and prediction. He wasn’t attacking the rim, he was settling for contested fadeaways. And when he wasn’t doing that, he was busy hoisting up contested deep-balls.

Truthfully, some of those shots Melo attempted were good ones. He was open, but the lift and rotation just wasn’t there. In the games waning minutes, though, when he was constantly being double-teamed, he should have deferred—the way he has been all season.

But he didn’t. Garnett was in his head and he had to make a statement, a statement he failed to make on the court, driving him to bring his cause to Boston’s locker room and eventually their bus.

What if no one was there to stop him? What if, somehow, Anthony did something that he, the Knicks and the rest of the NBA came to regret? What if Melo gets suspended and thus facilitates his team’s demise for another game?

This wasn’t only far from MVP-esque of Melo, it was deplorable. Not his on-court fervor or his thirst for redemption, but his ability to cope with it. This isn’t how grown men are supposed to play basketball. Garnett gets inside your head, that’s what he does, and your willingness to accept and constructively combat that speaks volumes about your character.

What does this say about Anthony’s character, about his capacity to rise above what is, essentially, trivial crap?

Not much. Nothing good anyway.

We watched a version of Anthony who knowingly shot his team toward a loss. The same Anthony who took a hardwood battle to the streets. The same Anthony who let his arrogance overcome him and cloud the judgment of a man who had finally been accepted as a star, as a leader.

The same Anthony who, at least on this night, was nothing less than pathetic.

Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at in addition to Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.

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