His staunchest defenders say that it’s not Anthony’s fault that the Knicks were, for almost all of his time in New York, subverted by the ownership dysfunction overseen by James L. Dolan. That the Knicks could never empower him with the co-star or stars he needed to legitimately compete in the Eastern Conference against, above all, LeBron James.
Well, let’s give discredit where due as well. Back when Anthony was using the Nets’ lust for him to leverage the Knicks — specifically Dolan — into surrendering a mountain of assets to land him, Anthony completely missed the memo that said procuring the elusive, best-case location for your talents required patience, sacrifice and the understanding that players of his caliber will always get theirs.
James and Chris Bosh had largely set that new standard the previous summer, joining Dwyane Wade in Miami and microwaving a title contender and eventual two-time champion. Rather than use unrestricted free agency to join the Knicks and allow them to retain those precious assets that might later have been used to bring him a James Harden, or a Chris Paul, as a teammate, Anthony worried about the fallout of a coming player lockout.
He forced the trade to the Knicks and got his long-term deal, in what Howard Beck of Bleacher Report called the Original Sin. So yes, Anthony got paid, but the manipulation of the process cost him dearly when Amar’e Stoudemire, who had preceded Anthony in New York, broke down physically. With the exception of the later, and brief, Jeremy Lin phenomenon, which Anthony rebelled against, he was left as the Knicks’ lone star and miscast leader.
It is difficult to pinpoint the qualities, those special talents of body and mind, that allow the most prolific franchise players to straddle the very fine line between being the obvious alpha dog and being one of five in dedicated team concert.
“There’s no question that he wants to win, and his I.Q. for the game is actually very good,” George Karl told me in a conversation about Anthony during the 2013-14 season, when the Knicks faltered and missed the playoffs, leading to the hiring of Phil Jackson as the team president. “He always wants to think like a coach, but he always doesn’t want to sign the contract with the coach.”
Asked what he meant by that, Karl, who coached Anthony in Denver, said: “I don’t think Melo understands that coming to work with the best attitude every single…