The best player at the Olympic Games for Team USA Men’s Basketball was Carmelo Anthony. He led the team in scoring, played defense [yes, Carmelo Anthony played defense], and acted as the leader to a group of players, many of whom were experiencing not just their first trip to the Olympics, but a team that did not include arguably the best two players in the world, in Lebron James & Steph Curry. In that tournament, Carmelo Anthony was the best player amount the best National Teams in the world.
Much has been written about how well Anthony played for Team USA, and it has all led to the same question: will he be the same player for the Knicks this season than he was for Team USA this summer?
The answer is No.
There are three reasons for my answer, and none of them have to do with Anthony’s skills as a basketball player, more so about the ability to control his effort.
Reason 1 – Anthony’s effort is average to poor when playing on the Knicks, as he plays down to the level of his teammates. When playing for Team USA, we saw a high-level skill set from Anthony that lead to many commentators asking ‘where has this Carmelo been?’ Well, I’ll tell you where he has been – he has been on the committed to mediocrity, poorly coached, and unenthusiastic New York Knicks. The Anthony that plays for the New York Knicks is surrounded by players with lesser skills, even if they put in the maximum of their effort. And Anthony knows this. He also knew the level of player that was going to be on Team USA, hence his increase in effort. This is the complete opposite of what leaders do. Leaders make the people around them better, especially if they are players with lesser skill sets than you. Obviously he plays hard around players that have equal or better skill sets, just like he did over the last two weeks with USA, but this Knick team, although improved by Derick Rose [who can’t stay healthy] and Joakim Noah [who is can’t stay healthy, either], does not have nearly the talent to push Anthony to be the player he really is – at least over an entire 82 game season. And rather than led by example with his effort, he allows his talent to do the work. If you are going to lead, having talent act as your guide, especially in the long run, is just not good enough.
Reason 2 – Anthony does not want to lead anyone that he considers a lesser player than him. Leaders not only want to be around people who have skill sets around them to help complete their team, but they want those around them who may not be as skilled in order to motivate them to their best performances. A leader knows that the best and most rewarding path to success is when something is achieved together, not just as an individual. And they are willing to make sacrifices personally and professionally in order to make sure that the team achieves their goals. Anthony does not possess any of these qualities. Leading does not mean ‘watch what I can do, and follow my lead.’ What it actually takes is the ability to communicate effectively, be an example of courage for through your own effort, and motivate through your daily examples. When Anthony is surrounded by better players, he has no problem acting in a leadership capacity, as it seems that he wants to make it clear that at his age, his skills have not diminished. But when you put him on a team of players that his, for the most part, a team of less talented players than he, he does not communicate, he plays selfishly, and as we have said already, allows his skills to be the example setter. If Anthony were on a better team, we would not be having this conversation, but he is on the Knicks. And having said that, with the Knicks roster being what it is, you will not see Anthony be the leader he could or was in Rio.
Reason 3 – Anthony plays harder with the competition is not as good as him. Much of what has been written about in this article is centered around the fact that Carmelo Anthony is not a leader because he makes the conscious decision not to put in a quality effort 100% of the time. Our last example of this is no different. Playing against teams in the Olympics Games that where not at the level of talent or skill that he possesses [especially in the opening rounds], Anthony played exceptional. As the rounds moved on [especially in the Semi & Final Round Games], he performance was not nearly as good, with his points and rebounds per game reducing significantly. This is not atypical for Anthony when the competition gets tough while playing in the NBA. Anthony’s numbers against teams that are below the Knicks and teams under .500 is much better than teams that are not. And it is because he refuses to lead and put in a quality effort. But leadership is not about showing everyone how good you are against players that are on two-weeks contracts. It’s about trying to beat the best players in the league over 82 games, and his lack of competitive spirit will not allow him to be successful against better teams.
I hope, for the sake of the fans of the Knicks, that Carmelo can become the player that he is when he decides to put in the effort worthy of not only himself, but his teammates and coaches. If he can do so, he will be able to re-write the last portion of a career that has been, at times, both amazing and disappointing. All he needs to do is make the decision to lead by example with his effort. That, when combined with his skills, could be a problem for the rest of the NBA.
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