I remember it as if it was just yesterday. It was during a timeout called by my old high school Coach Dennis Sullivan. The opposition had just gone on a run during a meaningless pre-season game. The outcome of the game meant nothing, but the on-court play of my team meant everything to Coach. He had seen his team’s defensive intensity drop off and he had seen enough. During his timeout, Coach Sullivan looked each of his five players in their eyes and asked a simple question. Which one of you can guard his man? Silence. Again, he asked, which one of you can guard his man? Again, silence. Coming out of the timeout, a brand new five took the court to finish up the seemingly meaningless pre-season game.
I might have written about that story in this cyberspace once or twice before, but hearing Mike D’Antoni’s post game comments about reserve guard Anthony Carter telling his Coach that he could defend the elite Dwyane Wade forced my hand to tell the story once again. You see, I love defense. Growing up, I never had the natural talent to be a scorer, so I predicated myself on defense and hustle. To me, you do not have to be the most talented or most gifted to be a winner. Plenty more elements make up a winning equation. Heart, determination and fearlessness come to mind.
As Carter entered the game and promptly picked up D3, I was stunned. I even shot Tommy Dee a text that read like this: “D’Antoni is crazy for putting Carter on Wade over Billups.” Having heard the reason this morning, I gained a little more respect for the Coach and for Mr. Big Shot’s veteran backup. 9 times out of 10, Anthony Carter gets eaten alive by Wade. 9 times of 10, Wade delivers against the 35 year old veteran who is in the twilight of a long NBA ride. Last night, even if only on a few possessions, Carter got the best of Wade. Heart, determination and fearlessness again come to mind.
A lot has been written in this space about defense and the importance of a defensive mentality for this team going forward. A lot has also been written about leadership. Something tells me that having Carter on this roster (even if he does not stick in the rotation) will go a long way towards guiding this team in the right direction. If for nothing else, if Carter can help to instill senses of heart, determination and fearlessness into this team, his value will go far beyond simply being a filler in a mega-deal for Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.
With the Knicks reportedly set to sign Jared Jeffries tomorrow, the team will pick up another player who is willing to sacrifice to help the team win. Jeffries, in case anyone has forgotten, played a major role to help this team gain some defensive credibility before his departure last February. It did not matter who the assignment was, Jeffries always stepped up to the plate and accepted challenges on defense. Most notable amongst those challenges were his bouts with all-star point guard Rajon Rondo. Jeffries might not be the strongest rebounder or a strong offensive player, but his mentality and his defensive ability will improve this team. No doubt.
Carter’s stand last night has been documented on this site throughout the day and I apologize for showing up late to the conversation. I simply could not let this one slip by without giving accolades to a player who was clearly not starstruck by the younger star. Keep it up Anthony Carter and keep it up New York Knicks.