No Surprise

Carmelo Anthony

The Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony experiment was destined to fail from day one.

Alas, the experiment is still failing.

That isn’t a knock on Carmelo Anthony or Amare Stoudemire. It’s a knock on the idiot who decided that putting those two players together with Mike D’Antoni would somehow work itself out. The New York Knicks are winning but their max contract problems haven’t gone away.

It shouldn’t be a revelation to anyone that the Knicks are winning games. They’re 20-8 on the season following their tough loss on Christmas day to the re-energized Lakers. That’s 20 wins without Amare Stoudemire and 8 losses without Amare Stoudemire.

No one has ever questioned Carmelo’s Anthony ability as a player. For much of his career, he has arguably been the best pure scorer in the association.

It was never meant to be with Mike D’Antoni trying to lead two incompatible star players. On the flip side, Mike Woodson isn’t the primary reason for the Knicks unexpected success through the first quarter of the season.

Sure, the Knicks experienced a rebirth due to the culture change provided by Woodson’s insertion as head coach near the end of last season. However, it is the injury to Amare Stoudemire that has been the jump start that the Knicks really needed. It’s not news to anyone that his absence has made the Knicks a better team.

A better team than they could ever possibly be with him on the floor.

Carmelo Anthony is no stranger to carrying teams on his back. He did it throughout his tenure in the Mile High City. By himself, ‘Melo led his teams to the playoffs in the much more competitive Western Conference.

Without Amare, why did we think it would be any different in New York?

Outside of the Miami Heat, the Eastern Conference is weaker than the 4 nerds on the Big Bang Theory. The only reason Carmelo couldn’t figure it out in New York was because he was forced to play with another star that he had no business playing with. Surrounded by a cast of players that complement rather than limit him, ‘Melo has reverted back to his ridiculously efficient scoring ways.

Going small and playing Anthony at the 4 has helped. ‘Melo’s maturation as a player and a person should be commended. It has allowed Mike Woodson to throw out these small lineups that continue to shoot the lights. However, Amare’s absence is still the biggest reason for the Knicks success through 28 games.

As a lone wolf, Carmelo Anthony was always going to succeed anywhere he played in the NBA. He may not be the leader or winner that Michael Jordan was but he can make any team a winning team all by his lonesome.

I wrote during the Knicks-Heat playoff series that Amare Stoudemire’s injury from his cartoon-like punch was possibly a blessing in disguise for the Knicks in the short-term. They were clearly better apart than together back then and it is no different now. In the long-term, the issue will remain that Amare has a max contract that is virtually untradeable.

The difference between then and now is that it is no longer a given that the two stars will have to make things work.

No one could have foreseen that the Knicks would be 20-8 but after Amare was ruled to be out for at least 6 weeks, those pre-season expectations should have been raised instead of being lessened. ‘Melo was always better without Stoudemire but everyone just assumed that Carmelo and his cast of geezers would be worse without Amare.

It turns out that isn’t the case.

The Knicks will carry on being a successful team as long as Carmelo Anthony is the lead dog. Maybe not 20-8 good or championship successful or 20-8 good, but they will be good.

That should never have been a shocker with ‘Melo running the ship.

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Agree? Disagree? You can also e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

No Lin Situation

Editors note: Excuse my title and conclusion. I couldn’t resist.

The New York Knicks had 2 choices: One, they pay a generous amount of money to keep Jeremy Lin in the Big Apple. Two, they let Linsanity walk and every greenback dollar that his sensation would have brought to the franchise along with it.

There was no right choice for James Dolan.

Sign Lin to the 3 year, $25 million back loaded contract and you risk compromising your already delicate as a baby’s head roster. Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith have both gone public about their displeasure with the enormity of Lin’s contract. Behind the scenes locker-room balance is often overblown by the media but Linsanity could very well have produced a major rift among the Knick players.

Not to mention that bringing Lin back would in all likelihood have meant a similar and familiar fate for the New York Knicks and their fans – no championship. Because of the danger Lin’s contract posed to the Knicks financially, anything less than a championship in his 3 years would have been deemed a failure.

Considering what the Knicks have given up to create this “superstar” roster to match that of Miami and Oklahoma City, bringing Jeremy Lin back would have brought even more unrealistic expectations to a team that has shown no ability to contend.

On the other hand, let him walk and the Knicks risk losing a potential star quality NBA point guard. Lin doesn’t even have an entire season under his belt yet has shown that he can play at a level that most NBA players could never reach. The Knicks brass will never hear the end of it if Jeremy Lin finds a way to blossom in the Houston Rockets organization.

Lin will have to fall flat on his face in Houston to silence Lin’s legion of fans in New York.

3 point guards, a big luxury tax hit in 3 years and almost undoubtedly no championship? Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and no hope for a championship?

With Jeremy Lin, the Knicks were left without a good alternative.

Jeremy Lin is as unknown as the unknown gets. At this point, the mystery of Lin is tougher to solve than Jack the Ripper. No one knows who Jeremy Lin really is and who he really can be. The riddle of Lin is what has made this so doggone difficult for the Knicks.

Despite James Dolan’s apparent disgust at the Houston Rockets and Lin’s lack of loyalty, it is peculiar that, since their season ended, New York had been adamant in the fact that they would match whatever offer Jeremy Lin received. Marketing aside, Lin has immense potential that you would have thought the Knicks wanted to explore. They discovered Lin so it made sense that they wanted to see what type of player he could turn into. By handing him over to the Rockets it’s as if they discovered gold in a small untouched area yet didn’t want to fully invest in the possibility that the entire area could be flooded with gold.

While the marketability of Jeremy Lin clearly wasn’t as big a deal as it was made it out to be, the Knicks still lose out on that as well by setting Lin free.

Nevertheless, there was so much lose and awfully little win surrounding both choices in this decision-making process.

That is why it is so difficult, one way or the other, to condemn or applaud the Knicks in choosing to let Jeremy Lin sign with the Rockets.

There was just no Linning this one.

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Head Over…Head for Steve Nash

Even if it isn’t always for the best, “the heart wants what it wants.”

The hearts of Raptors fans were longing for Steve Nash in Toronto. For a 38-year-old aging point guard, this was a longing that had classic heart over head feeling written all over it. A mere month ago, you would have been crazy to say that it was possible that the Canadian-born superstar could play for his homeland’s team. However, Nash to Toronto became a real possibility in recent days and fans didn’t mind pulling out every stop to lure him back up north.

Unlike Raptors fans, Bryan Colangelo’s heart wasn’t in on this one. On paper, it looks and sounds good that their general manager’s heart is not playing a part in this decision. I mean, it is his job to use his head to make the best decision for the sake of the Toronto Raptors.

Unfortunately, it was only a small part of Bryan Colangelo’s head that was making the decision to go all-in on Steve Nash. The business side of his head overrode every other region of his head.

Colangelo’s noggin understood that Raptors fans hearts were all-in on Steve Nash. He felt that he could do no wrong by doing everything humanly possible to bring Nash to the NBA’s lone Canadian team. Nash is still playing at a high level and his arrival in Canada would fulfill the pipe dreams of a nation of basketball fans. Fans would be happy he was doing something rather than nothing.

He figured, what’s the harm?

For many Canadians, including myself, Steve Nash will forever be their favourite basketball player. My heart was in on this Steve Nash deal a little while ago. It was difficult not to get on board the possibility of Nash to Toronto. I mean, it seemed close to impossible anyways.

What a difference a few days makes.

On Tuesday, the Raptors and Landry Fields verbally agreed to a back loaded 3 year $20 million offer sheet, which supposedly prevented the New York Knicks from acquiring Nash. Fields is a guy the Raptors apparently are fond of but probably not at that price. Early Wednesday morning, the Knicks became the frontrunners but then lost out on Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers in the evening. Toronto was left in the dust.

Bryan Colangelo went all-in with a pair of 10’s for Steve Nash. The Lakers, they somehow managed a straight flush.

Colangelo’s all or nothing move for Nash via Fields failed big time. The Raptors are going to be stuck with another inconsistent shooting wing player. Fields has potential but he’s not worth what the Raptors are going to pay him. Colangelo gave Steve Nash his best pitch but he knew it wasn’t enough. He decided to risk even more of the future, supposedly leaving Nash no choice.

The Landry Fields move shows that Bryan Colangelo has lost sight of the big picture, well, not that he really had any idea of it to start with.

It has been almost 2 years since Bosh has left for Miami. He was forced to finally rebuild after his retool to impress Chris Bosh didn’t exactly impress. Apparently, 2 years on the rebuild is 2 years too many for the other Bryan GM in Toronto. Colangelo appears to have no issue with compromising the long-term rebuild of the franchise. It’s because he is only looking out for number 1 – himself.

Colangelo knew that Nash was going to buy him some more time.

When Colangelo went all-in for Nash, his eyes lit up like cartoon dollar signs and his blinders only let him see the extra years of job security Nash would provide him. The Canadian icon would have filled the seats, sold merchandise and brought a buzz to the Toronto Raptors not seen since the Vin-sanity days. It was simply business for Bryan Colangelo but this type of business isn’t what the Toronto Raptors need right now.

My heart told me I would have enjoyed the coming years if Steve Nash had joined the Raptors. It would have been a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness a situation as unique as Nash in Toronto.

Bryan Colangelo played off those types of feelings. His business head knew that he could take advantage of Canada’s national love for Steve.

Bryan Colangelo was being completely selfish.

The job security of a professional sports GM depends on him making the best decision for the team, except for those times when he is coming close to his expiry date. Once again, Colangelo proved he is unwilling to trust a rebuild. His selfish motives got in the way of his franchises best interests.

The Raptors are lucky to avoid getting Steve Nash. Fields and Nash would have been $55 million on the books for the next 3 years. It would have killed their rebuild. They’re still stuck with Fields but things could be worse.

With the extra revenue Nash would have brought to the team, Bryan Colangelo knew that he would have no trouble compensating for that overpriced tag of $12 million per. However, compensating for those 3 years of lost rebuilding would have been a tad trickier.

For Bryan Colangelo, bringing in Steve Nash wasn’t about helping grow the sport of basketball in Canada. It wasn’t about pleasing the fans. And most importantly, it wasn’t about making the Toronto Raptors the finest team they possibly could be.

BC has been feeling the heat and the Nash sweepstakes were all about what was best for Bryan Colangelo.

His heart may not be in it but, by chasing Steve Nash as relentlessly as he did, Colangelo has clearly shown that his business head has taken over his general managing head.

That’s just bad news for the Toronto Raptors.

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A Blessing in Disguise?

It didn’t seem possible that things could get worse for the Knicks after their game 2 loss to the Miami Heat. Then Amare Stoudemire went all Metta World Peace on the glass casing of a fire extinguisher. STAT is reportedly “almost certain” to be out for game 3 at Madison Square Garden. Amazingly, things have gotten worse for the Knicks.

Or have they?

On paper, the Knicks missing their $100 million power forward is bad. On paper, inserting Jarred Jeffries into the starting lineup or sliding Carmelo Anthony up to play the 4 is not ideal. On paper, Amare Stoudemire’s injury would signal the end for the New York Knicks’ already slim to none odds of winning the series.

In reality though, Amare Stoudemire’s injury could be just the freak incident to jump-start the Knicks.

Amare hasn’t meshed with Carmelo since day 1 of Anthony’s overhyped arrival to his hometown. Prior to Carmelo Anthony joining the Knicks, Stoudemire was surprisingly playing up to the absurdly rich contract that the Knicks desperately signed him to in the 2010 off-season. It has become clear that Stoudemire fits as well with the current version of the Knicks as Lindsay Lohan did at this weekend’s White House Correspondence dinner. Amare was better off without Carmelo.

It could be the case that the Knicks are better off without Amare.

The Knicks don’t have the personnel to beat the Heat but with Amare Stoudemire out the team might be able to put up a better fight. The front court lineup featuring Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony doesn’t space the floor well enough for either Amare or Carmelo to go to work the way they would like to. When you add to the mix an average shooter in Landry Fields and a below average 3 point shooter throughout his career in Baron Davis, what you get is not a group built for success.

The Knicks, however, were very successful at times during the absence of Amare Stoudemire, especially so when Carmelo would do his best Lebron James impersonation and beast it at power forward. Going small should not hurt the Knicks against the Heat’s unassuming group of big men, while the constant shooting presence of a J.R. Smith or Steve Novak may help turn the series around.

Statistics do not tell all but the stats without STAT on the floor this season should ease the minds of Knicks fans looking ahead to game 3 (not too much though). Sadly, New York has been better on both sides of the ball this season without Amare. Per NBA.com, they have scored 104.6 points per 100 possessions and allowed 96.2 points per 100 possessions in his absence. This is opposed to only their 98.1 point per 100 possessions scoring clip and 100.8 points per 100 possessions allowed defensively with Amare Stoudemire on the court.

The outrageous story featuring the stupidity of Amare Stoudemire is probably a bigger deal than his actual injury. After 2 games it appeared unlikely that the Knicks were going to end their pathetic 12 game playoff losing streak even with Stoudemire in the lineup. They played better in game 2 but it wasn’t close to enough. With Carmelo, Amare is a difference maker, but not the difference maker that he is paid to be.

For the New York Knickerbockers to truly contend for a title one day, Amare Stoudemire has to have a starring role. He can’t be what Chris Bosh is far too often for the Miami Heat. Whoever the future coach in New York is will have to find a way to make the situation work.

But maybe, just maybe, the Knicks are better off in the short-term without Amare Stoudemire.

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts.

Agree? Disagree? You can also E-mail Chris at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

Lin’s Rise Shouldn’t be so Surprising

The circumstances are Lincredible. The meteoric ascension to stardom is one of a kind. The hype is more than deserved for this Linderella story. The shock of Lin measured a 9.0 on the Richter scale after his game winner on Tuesday night in Toronto and who knows how long we will feel the after effects.

Still, why are we so flabbergasted by Jeremy Lin?

Asia’s version of Tim Tebow has been dissected about as much as, well, the real Tim Tebow. Most human beings on the earth haven’t gone the past 2 weeks without asking how the hell this kid didn’t get his opportunity sooner. In this age of youtube sensations, endless video scouting and advanced statistics, it is almost unfathomable to have a talent as sensational as Jeremy Lin go undrafted and sit on the end of the bench, about to get cut.

I, as well as you, have read and heard the endless discussion as to why Lin’s talent was missed by most everyone. Yeah, he is Asian. Yeah, he is scrawny. Yeah, he doesn’t shoot well. We get it.

What I still don’t get is why we are continually shocked by these mega-talents who were oh so close to bagging groceries at their neighbourhood Hy-Vee? Because we shouldn’t be.

Not anymore.

Jeremy Lin’s story may be mind-blowing but the thought that he could just as easily be out of the NBA right now instead of taking the Big Apple by storm isn’t. There are too many examples of talented individuals who have taken their respective sports by storm for us to be truly surprised anymore. To continue to be in disbelief as to how these guys aren’t noticed is like being stunned that Lindsay Lohan is back in rehab or that Kim Kardashian is trying to exploit another NBA player for even greater fame (FYI, Kim Kardashian is rumoured to be going on a date with Jeremy Lin).

Prior to Linsanity, Tom Brady was the poster boy for mis-evaluated talent. We all know about the 199th overall pick turned GQ, supermodel dating, touchdown throwing golden boy of the NFL. How did Tom Brady get passed on 198 times in 2000? Crazy? Not so much.

Talent is constantly under and over estimated. In another shocking development, the sun will set in the west tomorrow evening.

There is a very thin line between the big leagues and coaching high schoolers. The line is thinner than most professional athletes would like to believe. Most professional athletes live off of the belief that it was their own exceptional talent and hard work that allowed them to reach the top of the sports world. They need to believe it.

Arian Foster’s pompously narrated ‘self-made’ story on the show E:60 is a prime example of this. He went from undrafted running back to arguably the best in the NFL.

Little do most of them really know about the great deal of luck that made it possible for them to excel and make those millions of dollars. The overweight guy on his couch, hollering at the TV could very well have been overlooked. That’s just the nature of sports though. There are so many talented athletes and so few spots that there is bound to be missed talent.

Sometimes though, that almost missed talent turns into a superstar.

Everyone is now on the watch for the next Jeremy Lin. His Linsational story has made people wonder how many more like him are out there. There is probably someone on a college bench waiting to be the next Jimmer or a division II potential superstar lighting it up in relative obscurity somewhere in Omaha.

Stephen Curry, the son of former NBA veteran Del Curry, only received offers to play at Davidson, Virginia Commonwealth and Winthrop. He became a college superstar, the 7th overall pick in the NBA draft and, aside from the injuries, is excelling for the Golden State Warriors. His brother Seth went to Liberty University before Stephen Curry’s stardom forced scouts to take notice of Seth’s ability. Seth is now the starting for the Duke Blue Devils.

Again, Jeremy Lin’s story is exceptional but, in the end, he’s simply another missed talent. Continue to be amazed at the aura, the man, and the legend that is Jeremy Lin.

Just don’t be so surprised that he slipped through the cracks.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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