A Note From the Editor: What follows is not typical HOOPSWORLD fare. We pride ourselves on being professionals and respecting the fine line between being professionals and being fans. That being said, we’re all here because we love the game of basketball, and sometimes that love pushes across the line. That’s the case here with Tommy Beer, who is as passionate a Knicks fan as you’ll find. What you’re about to read is a passionate NBA fan who also happens to be a top-notch journalist. I loved it, and I think you will, too. – Bill Ingram
Let’s start here: New York wants to love you. They want to embrace you. They desire to celebrate your incredible talents. They long to cheer for you, scream for you, and chant your name in a sing-song fashion.
I assume you know this by now. You heard the Garden explode when you were introduced during your MSG debut. You heard the fans shower you with all the adulation and noise they could muster. That cacophony of sound in your honor, those waves of praise washing over you had to have felt amazing. Well, that treatment, on a nearly nightly basis, is yours for the taking. You just have to embrace it.
This is a special opportunity, so don’t spoil it. Don’t let it waste away…
Your first few weeks in NYC have been tumultuous. There have definitely been some high points. The victorious home opener was special. The win over the HEAT in Miami was terrific. Your buzzer-beater to sink the Grizzlies in Memphis was spectacular.
But there have also been some disappointments. And I am not talking about missed jumpers or bad losses. Knicks fans will accept defeats. Unfortunately, they are all too familiar with the aftertaste of a bitter loss. They will deal with shooting slumps. Most fans could care less about your decision to duck the media after a bad beat last weekend. But there are certain things New Yorkers are not going to let fly, not on a continuous basis.
The pouting and the sulking are not okay. And is yelling at teammates on the court really necessary? The poor body language is disconcerting, and certainly off-putting. Hardcore NY hoops fans with can deal with errant passes or missed defensive assignments, but they will not tolerate selfishness and egocentricity. To many, these are unacceptable offenses. Complaining to teammates about a lack of shot attempts; bristling about not getting the ball in the post; intimating Coach D’Antoni needs to alter his system… This can’t become the norm. Divas need not apply.
These are bad signs, red flags that worry the most ardent of Knickerbocker supporters. For good reason…
Let’s flash back a few years: Carmelo, as you know, the Knicks were a league-wide laughingstock for the better part of the last decade. There is no need to go into the gory details here, they have been well documented.
In fact, the last time New Yorkers actually got this jazzed up about their hometown team was January of 2004, when they welcomed home, with open arms, another prodigal son. That star player was also a Brooklyn-born baller, who had achieved considerable individual success prior to his return home. That player was Stephon Marbury. NYC was beyond eager to forgive all his past transgressions.
But, as you also know, Marbury crashed and burned in NYC. His tenure with the Knicks was cloaked in failure and disappointment, both on and off the floor. The Knicks continued their losing ways with Marbury on the roster, and what was worse, they lost the respect of their fans throughout the five boroughs.
Marbury will forever been synonymous with team infighting, and sulking on the bench with a towel over his head, and “you wanna get in the truck?”, and eating Vaseline…
Nothing positive. Nothing favorable. No big shots, no big wins. Starbury somehow eroded, in just a few short seasons, all the hope and enthusiasm New Yorkers had gifted him upon his arrival/return to the Big Apple.
Melo, please let the Stephon Marbury saga serve as a cautionary tale.
Yes, Steph arrived in NYC with far more baggage and a less favorable reputation, so by no means is anybody ready to lump you into the same category as Starbury. Nonetheless, there have been some worrisome warning signs.
It started last Tuesday in Indiana. After Danny Granger sunk a step-back jumper, the Knicks were trailing by two with 0.03 seconds remaining. On the final play of the game, D’Antoni designed a play for Jared Jeffries to inbound the ball and attempt a lob to Landry Fields at the rim. As Jeffries was preparing to inbound it, you were open at the top of the key. Jeffries followed D’Antoni’s play call, but the ball was batted away. You then stood at half court and confronted Jefferies, clearly arguing you should have received the ball at the top of the key. Yet NBA rules prohibit a player from catching and shooting the ball with three-tenths of a second or less – the Knicks were reminded of this fact earlier this season, when a dramatic Amar’e three-pointer at the buzzer was ruled ‘no good.’ Either way, Melo, even if you had a legitimate beef, wait until you get into the locker room to discuss the situation with Jeffries, or D’Antoni.
However, things went from bad to worse in the Knicks indefensible 99-95 loss to the Pistons in Detroit on Friday night. Per Alan Hahn of Newsday: “The Knicks led by 11 early in the fourth, a lead they built with Anthony on the bench and not looking like the team player he so often has talked about wanting to become in New York. During one timeout early in the quarter, Anthony never got off the bench. While the rest of the players gathered around the huddle, Anthony stayed seated with a towel over his shoulders… Forget his flat jumper and the lack of lift he had in his legs, Anthony’s body language was terrible in this game. He was barking at Toney Douglas several times when Douglas opted not to dump the ball down to him.”
After the game, you went straight to the team bus, without addressing waiting reporters.
As far as ducking the media is concerned, the fans don’t care, but getting off on the wrong foot with an already skeptical NY media is not advisable. You are going to have to deal with these guys nearly every day for the next four years. It’s not always fair, but it is what you signed up for. It takes thick skin, and an ability to avoid reading any/every newspaper in order to make it in this town. You wanted to be here. Accepting responsibility after a bad loss and ‘manning up’ is part of your new job description. Playing in New York is not just about P-Diddy video montages and pats on the back.
Moreover, plenty of players far more accomplished than you have suffered the slings and arrows of the brutal NY media, and they were able to grin and bear it. Patrick Ewing took the Knicks deep into the playoffs every season and into Game Seven on an NBA Finals, and he sat, wrapped from shoulders to ankles in ice, and answered tough questions after every single game, win or lose. Despite considerable success, Ewing’s 90’s Knicks were often unfairly branded losers in the tabloids. Still, those Knicks teams showed up every day and played with a gritty toughness and intensity that fans felt personified the city. There was an undeniable love affair between New Yorkers and player such as Ewing, Oakley, and Starks, etc. John Starks is employed by the Knicks, and is around the Garden all the time – ask him what that building sounds like after hitting a big three-pointer in the fourth quarter of a close playoff game. Or if you bump into Charles Oakley, ask him about the ovation you’ll receive if you dive into the front row to chase down a lose ball and gain an extra possession. The little things can go a long, long way with the fans in this city.
Again, Carmelo, you just got here. And while the honeymoon is most certainly over, there is still obviously plenty of time left to turn the tide. You and your new team are hopefully going to enjoy a beautiful, healthy long-term relationship.
But, at the same time, somebody once said something about only getting one chance to make a first impression…
The Knicks made the right decision to trade for you, Mr. Anthony. The NBA is a superstar league, and the Knicks added a superstar, one of the most talented offensive players on the planet. Now it’s up to you, Melo, to prove that you can handle NYC, both on and off the floor. If you are looking for guidance on how to land in New York and handle the bright lights of Broadway, look no further than the other side of your own locker room. Amar’e Stoudemire has the leader and team spokesmen Knicks fans have been asking for. Amar’e dealt with some rough patches early on, including a disappointing 3-8 start to the 2010-2011 season. However, he has handled the challenging circumstances like a champ. Now, every time he steps to the free-throw line, he hears M-V-P chants ring out loudly inside MSG. Carmelo, possibly more important than watching game tape, you should watch video of Stoudemire dealing with the press in November.
NYC is often referred to as the Mecca of basketball. Well, the faithful followers in New York have been unable to root for their local deities for some time now. They are desperate to have a reason to cheer, and clap, and get energized and excited again. And they want to cheer for you, Carmelo.
Do yourself a favor, and give them the opportunity to do just that.
Journalist, New Yorker, Knicks Fan