Monday , Aug , 13 , 2012 Matt Formica

Team USA Elevated Carmelo Anthony

Team USA Elevated Carmelo Anthony

Often times, throughout Team USA’s gold medal run in the past few weeks, it wasn’t Kobe, Durant, or even Lebron leading the charge.

It was Carmelo Anthony.

Hoopsvibe’s Quick Call:  If Carmelo Anthony had a better team around him, he would be an NBA champion by now.

It sounds like a lofty claim.  But something great about the Olympics is that it allows you to watch and root for players unbiasedly.  It allows you to cheer for a player that you would never otherwise cheer for. 

While watching the gold medal game against Spain, a good friend of mine (and Lebron hater) said to me, "You know, it’s hard to watch Team USA and not root for Lebron."  His statement stuck with me.  Because it’s true.  He would never root for Lebron as a member of the Miami Heat but how can you not root for Lebron as he represents your country?  There is something special about the way in which the Olympics make you forget that you’re not normally a fan of some athletes.

This is exactly the case with me and Carmelo Anthony.

No one would argue that Melo has been a stud in the NBA.  He is a five-time all star.  He’s the 2nd youngest player in history to score 30 points in a game (behind Kobe Bryant).  He is a small forward, but can be a power forward.  He can shoot from the perimeter or take the ball to the rim.  Most impressive to me is the fact that he has averaged over 20 points per game each season since his rookie year.  (Nine seasons, to be exact).

And still, with all his talent and ability, has yet to win a ring.

I always thought it was because of his attitude.  I thought he was too full of himself as a player and not serious enough about the game to do what it takes to win a title. 

But I was wrong. 

Maybe like my good friend was less critical of Lebron in a USA jersey, I was the same of Melo.  Watching Anthony ball in the Olympics made me realize that maybe his problem was never his work ethic or attitude. 

I have now come to the conclusion that Melo has never had a good enough supporting cast.

Watching Team USA in London it all became clear.  Melo needs to play with guys better than him.  He’s not a leader (like Lebron) who’s talent elevates those with lesser talent around him.  It’s just not who he is.  But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care, or he’s not special enough to win it all.  It might just mean, that for nine seasons, he’s been in the wrong role.

Let’s be honest:  Carmelo crushed it in the London Olympics.  His 37-point game against Nigeria was the 2nd highest scoring game of any player in the tournament and a new United States Olympic record for most points in a game.  He had the highest per game field goal percentage (when shooting more than five times) when he went 6-6 or a perfect 100% against Tunisia.  He racked up the most 3-pointers made in a single game with 10 (in that game against Nigeria) and subsequently had the highest 3-point field goal percentage in a game this Olympics (that same game he was 10-12) at .833 from behind the arc.  He was 5th overall out of all tournament players in field goals made, yet wasn’t even in the top 7 for field goal attempts.  Note:  The four players above him in field goals made were also in the top 6 for field goal attempts.

So what does that mean?  It means he was effective.  He knocked down shots when he got looks at the basket.  He made plays for his team.  And why?  I’d like to suggest that his game was elevated by the players around him. 

The NBA is a superstars league.  Lebron didn’t do it on his own.  He needed Wade.  Pierce needed Garnett and Allen and Tim Duncan needed Parker and Ginobli.  Kobe didn’t do it on his own either.  He needed Shaq.  Melo, on the other hand, has never really had any superstars around him to take some of the focus off.  He’s been double-teamed and triple-teamed and unable to rely on the people around him to carry the team when that happens.  Yes, he’s had Amare Stoudemire but let’s face it, Amare isn’t really a superstar because he’s not much of an offensive threat and has been injured for a substantial portion of his and Melo’s careers together.  (Denver traded for Allen Iverson to play with Melo in the 06-07 season but Iverson never had the mentality to be a superstar.)

Melo, while a great player, is a product of the players around him.  Make him the main guy and these advanced defenses in the NBA nowadays will eventually get him flustered with no one to bail him out.  Make him the second, third or even fourth option on the court, and we see a guy that can play any position on offense and even step it up on the defensive end and ultimately, be a huge part of his team’s success.

Good thing we have the Olympics to shed some light on things. 

Every four years, at least.

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Image source:  WENN Images