Dear Carmelo: Please Be a Winner

That’s why I think it’s funny right now. Some people are talking about, ‘Oh, can Melo adjust into the system?’ I mean, Melo wants to adjust to the system, and he doesn’t want to shoot 30 shots a game. The fact that he vouched for me shows a lot about him.

- Jeremy Lin on Melo encouraging MDA to play him against NJ

I was fortunate enough to go to the Garden last Wednesday night, and aside from the ridiculous amount of t-shirts that were cannoned at my face, the place had a buzz that felt oh-so-right. Mid-1990s-right. Everybody had energy.  Everybody looked sharp.  The fans were halfway out of their seats before anything had even happened. Hell, Bill Walker played like a legit 5th starter and had one of the best night of anybody out there (and I can say with 100% certainty that that is the first time I have ever typed that sentence).

But when Melo strolled out to the team’s bench midway through the fourth quarter, the mumbling and grumbling was audible. The season ticket holder next to me bragged that he started a “Keep The Suit ON!” chant the previous home game; the guy behind me started bemoaning his return as if he was the coach’s son and only got minutes because his dad played favorites; and on the escalator ride down, there were multiple conversations about whether Melo would rudely awaken us from this 2-week dream.

Obviously not every person in the building shared this sentiment. But even a normally optimistic fan like myself can admit to being somewhat anxious about how this is all going to work.  I don’t know how it’s possible that I’m not pacing my apartment desperate for Melo to come back and make us better, but I’m not.

Why the nerves: becuase I know that Melo gets the ball and holds it. I know that he hasn’t played with a pick and roll point guard the way he will be asked to with Lin.  I know that he is going to have to substitute scoring for playing defense and rebounding at times. I know that he might have to give up being an individual star for being a piece of a championship puzzle.

But doesn’t Carmelo know those things too?

The guy didn’t squirm away from Denver because he longed for back-page headlines and higher VH-1 ratings for his wife. Forcing his way to New York was more than just a cry for attention (and money), it was a cry for help: Melo was quietly conceding that his solo act wasn’t going to land him in the championship circle. It’s what LeBron did; it’s what CP3 did; it’s what Dwight Howard is trying to do. Anthony joined Amar’e because he wanted to win rings, and in doing so conceded a little something about his ability to win on his own.

He admitted he had a problem and, putting at least some ego aside, showed a willingness to take on a new role as A man instead of THE man. He showed a willingness to change.

So it should be OK that the offense no longer runs through him. He should be content spending more energy playing defense and rebounding if it helps the team win. One night he might have the hot hand, but the next, his job may be to slow down Paul Pierce and leave the scoring to somebody else. He came here to win, and that means complimenting Lin, Stat and TC more so than trying to lead them. 

Which is where a few more nerves kick in.

We haven’t gotten to know Melo as fans all that well yet.  He’s been here a short time.  Now, all of a sudden, we’re going to see what kind of player he is: if he hangs his head when he’s playing poorly or if he’s the first guy up off the bench high fiving and willing his teammates to victory.  We’re going to see if he can add value in ways other than just scoring the ball.  In his college and professional career, nobody asked a slumping Melo to just focus on defense and leave the scoring to somebody else.

So when the game comes where he starts off 1-7 from the field, we’ll see what this guy is made of.  It’s not about selfish or unselfish; it’s about being a winner or a loser.

Melo, from me to you: pleeeeaaaassssseeeeeeee be a winner. PLEASE.

Because fair or not, if there are any hiccups when he gets back, if the winning all of a sudden comes to a screeching halt and the frustration of the season’s first months creeps back into the building, there is only one guy Knicks fans are going to turn on. And fast.