The likability of Carmelo

Grantland’s Charlie Pierce took in the Knicks’ win over the Sixers Sunday night and came away with some colorful thoughts. Pierce had a particularly interesting takeaway form watching Carmelo Anthony, and the experience of watching him play:Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler

He also is a maddeningly apathetic defender, and there is a radius of unlikability around him on the court that’s hard to dismiss. There’s the smirk. There’s the passivity when his team doesn’t have the ball. And there are those moments when Melo tends to harsh the general mellow in unnecessary ways. Tangled up with Philadelphia center Spencer Hawes in the third quarter Sunday night, with his team up by a solid 14 points, Anthony swatted Hawes in the back of the head. Hawes went at him, and then New York’s Tyson Chandler went at Hawes, and a lot of woofing and flexing ensued to no great purpose. There was no point in caring about Anthony for the rest of the night.

Brian DiMenna

Now, I’m not a huge fan of body language watching. It’s always better to evaluate a player’s actual production rather than try to draw sweeping conclusions from the position of their shoulders or the expression on their face. Nor do I think it’s fair after lavishing praise on him all season, for folks to start pointing the finger at Anthony at the first hint of adversity. So I don’t pass along that paragraph as some critical indictment of Melo, or to say he’s in some way irreparably flawed and incapable of leading the Knicks to where they’d like to go, but I do think there is something to it, something that works to create sort of a distance between Carmelo and the legions of Knicks fans who watch him play.

I admit I may be using my own personal feelings as a stand-in for the feelings of Knicks fans writ large, but I just get a sense that, yeah, everyone admires Melo and are often awed by his considerable gifts, but he’s not exactly beloved either. While no one disputes he’s the Knicks’ best player, it’s less clear if he’s everyone’s favorite.

Which may very well not be entirely fair, or particularly wise. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that a lot of Knicks fans didn’t quite appreciate what they had in the last player of Anthony’s magnitude to lace ‘em up at the Garden. But while the next few postseasons will likely decide it, I’m still sort of fascinated to see how the Carmelo Anthony era is ultimately remembered around these parts.

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