Of the many, many, many, many things Carmelo Anthony is criticized for, his apparent shortfalls as a leader remain most unsettling.
After being traded from the New York Knicks to the Cleveland Cavaliers, J.R. Smith, a known friend of Anthony’s, essentially came out and explained the differences between Melo’s and LeBron James’ leadership qualities. He painted LeBron as a do-everything, say-everything leader, while Melo came across as an introvert, someone who led by example if he led at all.
That’s an obvious problem for a developing, albeit not necessarily young, Knicks teams trying to toe the line between remaining competitive and rebuilding. Especially because they just drafted an extensive project in Kristaps Porzingis, the biggest risk-reward project the NBA has, truthfully, seen in years. And, on top of that, while Melo’s Instagram dip-ins refute all unflattering bullshit we’ve heard since the draft, it initially appeared as if he wasn’t happy with ‘Taps or the Knicks’ general direction, making it less likely that he would evolve into the leader New York needs.
As we covered here previously, though, Melo has taken an active role in at least acknowledging Porzingis’ existence. The two have run 5-on-5 together, and have even played some 1-on-1.
And, as relayed by ESPN.com’s Ian Begley, the early returns on this relationship, at least from ‘Taps’ perspective are really good:
How has Kristaps Porzingis prepared for life in the NBA? By playing one on one with Carmelo Anthony.
The rookie said on Wednesday that he and Anthony played 1-on-1 over the summer before the rest of the team gathered in New York for informal workouts.
“We were playing 1-on-1 a lot and I was just asking him about the moves, about as much as I could and know how he does that, how he does this so I can learn from him,” Porzingis said on Wednesday here in Newark, where he was being fitted for a custom mattress big enough for his 7-1 frame.
Porzingis said that he’s also peppered Anthony with questions about life in the NBA — on and off the court.
“It was good for me to see how he carries himself just being around him, he’s never said no to one of my questions so I can keep asking and it’s great for me to keep learning from him,” Porzingis said.
These are, to some extent, your typical offseason cliches. Everyone is optimistic this time of year. Everyone is getting along. The real test of Melo’s leadership will come when the Knicks are struggling, when they, presumably, realize that even contending for a playoff spot in the generally wide-open Eastern Conference is a stretch.
Nonetheless, as much as some may not want Porzingis to pick up on Melo’s offensive tendencies, this is what the Knicks need to hear. This is what they need to see: Anthony embracing his role as the old head, the superstar around which this team is currently built who also understands the Knicks’ future is bigger than whatever role he himself may or may not have in it.