That guy in the photo is named Carmelo Anthony. This past season, Melo was teammates with recent Daily Game subject Russell Westbrook. If you read that post, even if you don’t follow the NBA, you can guess what Melo’s season was like: often reduced to being a bystander and unable to get into the rhythm he’s used to getting into while being fed the ball a ton, Melo had an uneven season in which many NBA fans deemed the performance of the multi-time All-Star (and probable Hall Of Famer), “trash.”
Well, Melo turns 34 later this month — which is old in basketball. And unless your name is Michael Jordan or LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, who were able to fight it off for longer, most basketball players decline sharply with age. It’s expected. Father Time is undefeated.
Usually, the aging, declining player accepts this reality — a reality that is reflected in his diminished performance, not just social media commentary — and eases into a lesser role as younger, more capable, and better-performing players assume larger roles (see Dwyane Wade in his return to the Miami Heat). But some players, usually those who have been stars for a long time (even before the NBA), have a hard time accepting this demotion.
Growing up, my favorite basketball team was the New York Knicks. Legendary Knick Patrick Ewing left New York and played for Seattle and Orlando to end his career after he could no longer accept that he wasn’t The Guy anymore.
Shaquille O’Neal bounced around the NBA — from Phoenix to Cleveland to Boston — defiantly holding onto the idea that he was still “Shaq.”
Allen Iverson was never known to be diligent at training in the offseason. Once he could no longer get by on his ability and his signature quickness was no longer enough, AI fell off the NBA map faster than you can say, we talkin about PRACTICE?!
Which brings us to Carmelo.
Melo isn’t who he used to be — he is not going to score 30 points every night, and his presence alone cannot drag an otherwise-mediocre team to the Playoffs. Though he can still score, probably in the 20-point range, even prime Melo was never a plus defender, or a good passer, or even much of a leader(that last point is subjective; the other two are backed up by statistics). The one thing Melo does well — scoring points — doesn’t make up for what he lacks in defensive versatility (which is the name of the game in the NBA today — you need quick, agile players who can guard multiple positions), and to be honest, attitude.
The image above is from the press conference after Melo’s exit interview, a meeting every player has with team coaches and management after their season ends (Iverson’s infamous “practice?” presser was after his own exit interview that season). I watched the whole thing. Melo had one clear message to deliver: I was not properly integrated into the team’s system this year. In other words, I’m used to having the ball a lot; that did not happen this season, and we need to fix that for next year.
Melo even went as far as to adamantly state that the idea of him coming off the bench (the ideal role for a player like him right now) is “out of the question.”
Watch the interview for yourself and tell me you heard anything different. Melo is a proud performer; he’s been a star for as long as we’ve known his name. And like Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson, he refuses to accept that he’s no longer capable of being The Man (on a good team).
The challenges to Melo’s ideas —
- He plays with a guy (Westbrook) whose very purpose has been to dominate the ball as much as possible; that guy is also currently much better than Melo.
- Melo was The Man in New York for the duration of his years there. The Knicks were never serious contenders.
- Carmelo Anthony is more reputation than production these days as a basketball player. And he’s due $28 Million dollars next season. He is no longer worth his contract. Everyone in the NBA knows this— which, along with his insistence on being treated as The Guy, makes trading Melo a tough proposition.
All this brings us to the topic of accountability. If Carmelo Anthony has any real individually in his camp, they would tell him a softened version of the above.
If there’s anyone real in OKC Thunder management or on the coaching staff, they’re relegating Melo to a bench role next season; he can accept it, pout about it, or take a buyout for 50% of what he’s owed and become a free agent. But there’s no bringing him back as a starter who thinks he’s not getting the ball enough (Yes — Russ does need to give up the ball more, but I don’t think giving it to Melo is the solution).
If Russell Westbrook is as real with his teammates as he is in taking swipes at fans (google it), he’d tell Melo that OKC is Russell Westbrook’s team, and Melo needs to either fall in line or move on (the Thunder won exactly two more games with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, than they did with what we all thought was much less the previous season).
Who holds Melo accountable for his diminished game, lack of defensive ability (or desire), and unreasonable need to have the ball? Who tells him that his defensive weaknesses, always present but now magnified in the evolved NBA game, make him a liability against good teams who hunt and attack weak defenders? Who tells Melo that while his mind may very well be telling him he’s a star, his performance is saying something else? Who shows Melo game film and advanced stats that explain why he’s not the star he still believes he is?
Where’s the accountability? If it doesn’t show between now and October, the Thunder — or Carmelo Anthony himself — have a rough year / rest of his career ahead of them.
For Your Game
- Every successful person, group, team, family, business or any other entity has a culture of accountability around it: You are called out on your bullshit, have a mirror held up to your mistakes, and cannot nexuse your lack of production with finger-pointing. Every successful entity has this. What’s yours? Start with The Mental Handbook [and my Bulletproof Mindset class next Friday in Miami if you’re in town.]
- I feel for Melo. There’s no harder pill to swallow than the you’re not what you used to be pill. If you don’t want to have it force-fed to you, never stop working on your game and keep people around you who will tell you what’s real.
- The let’s do it my way! argument only works when doing it your way has produced results in the past. Melo’s past shows that his way leads to – first round Playoff exit, or the Lottery. And I’m a fan of Melo. Just the truth.
Who holds you accountable? Why do you trust their words? Reply and share with me.