So the Knicks head to Boston tomorrow in what everyone will be talking about as the KG/Melo rematch. The war of words and the Honey Nut Cheerio... never mind, let's stop there. In fact here's my thing: Melo needs to stop a few things in order for this Knicks team to be considered championship caliber.
With the Knicks season now 39 games old, we've learned many things. We know that they can live without Linsanity, we have discovered that they can be a very efficient and productive offensive. We learned they struggle to rebound and that they can have a hard time with Ray Felton not running the pick and roll.
We've learned that Carmelo Anthony can be dynamic and he can struggle in the heat of games. He can make game winners and fall short. We've seen him, most recently, attempt to click with Amar'e Stoudemire, which was a major question mark coming in.
So let's focus on Melo. I've read this book several times and I've often referenced it, but when talking about whether a team is championship caliber or not I refer to Pat Riley.
Why? Listen, I know what you are thinking. Pat the Rat, traitor, blah, blah, blah. The Heat rivalry, etc. I get it. But the guy is a winner and his coaching and motivation style really had an impact on me when he was here. Lebron James credited Riley for helping to change his mental approach as the heat surged to their 1st title since The Decision last summer.
I have the luxury and good fortune of conversing with incredibly intelligent people on a daily basis and my CEO and I were talking this morning about Carmelo as it related to what Riley dubbed in his book The Winner Within "The Disease of Me". What is that you ask?
"Riley argues that whether we know it or not, all of us are team players and it is through the team that we find significance. Yet the team can be undermined by the Disease of Me. In The Winner Within, he describes it as the overpowering belief in the importance of oneself. “The most difficult thing for individuals to do when they’re part of the team is to sacrifice. It is so easy to become selfish in a team environment.” The Disease of Me is ever present, but it can be anticipated and overcome. Riley lists the following symptoms of the disease:The Disease of Me was spawned from the concept of "Greed is Good"... to want more and to stop at nothing to achieve more success once you've achieved the ultimate level. It was an issue the Lakers faced after winning titles in Los Angeles.
- Inexperience in dealing with sudden success
- Chronic feelings of under-appreciation
- Paranoia over being cheated out of one's rightful share
- Resentment against the competence of partners
- Personal effort mustered solely to outshine a teammate
- A leadership vacuum resulting from the formation of cliques and rivalries
- Feelings of frustration even when the team performs successfully "
Melo hasn't won a title. But is Melo a "me" player? When the Knicks lose and he shoots a lot of field goal attempts, fans will say absolutely, yes. When he beats the Nets and the Heat soundly with efficient and unselfish play, others vehemently disagree. He's just that type of player.
To me it's a fair argument either way if looking at this criteria.
- He often makes mistakes that are shocking for a veteran player even with the team enjoying a 25-14 start and sitting 2nd in the conference
- He feels under-appreciated by officials and can often come across as paranoid that he doesn't get calls
- If you think he still has any issues towards Jeremy Lin you can look at the whole Lin leaving NY process as wanting to "outshine" and harnessing "resentment"
- As far as Amar'e's return is concerned he's been a great teammate and not feeling any resentment or fear of being out-shined
- So far this season he's been a strong vocal leader and saying the right things pre and post game (for the most part)
- Has been elated and focused when teammates hit big shots or make big plays (See JR Smith, support when on the bench in terms of celebrations and huddling the team after Jason Kidd's big 3 in Brooklyn to name a few)
- And without Lin there seems to be no signs of the "vacuum resulting" in "cliques and rivalries"
But it all starts with Melo, and tomorrow's game and platform would be a great place to start to make those changes crystal clear.