Celtics should kick the tires on Carmelo Anthony

Celtics should kick the tires on Carmelo Anthony
January 7, 2014, 6:15 pm
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We’re now more than a decade deep into Danny Ainge’s run as commander and chief of the Boston Celtics, and much of that time has been spent swimming in a sea of rumors surrounding what Ainge might do next. Year after year, there’s not an executive in the league who finds his name at the center of more speculation.
It is what it is. It’s fun. It’s annoying. But over time, one thing has become clear: For all the rumors, most of the deals that Ainge actually makes are never rumored at all.
He dropped Perkins-to-OKC out of nowhere. Pierce-and-KG-to-Brooklyn wasn’t a serious option until right before it happened. Last summer, the Celtics broke the Brad Stevens hiring on their own Twitter account! That’s almost impossible these days.
Meanwhile, after more than four years of non-stop speculation, Ainge still hasn’t traded Rondo.
Through it all, we’ve come to understand that regardless of what’s “reported,” there’s always much more going on behind the scenes in the Celtics front office. When they want to operate under the radar, they can and will. Ainge showed that again this week when he pulled the trigger on a three-team trade with the Grizzles and Thunder.
In the end, the Celtics ditched Courtney Lee’s three-year/$15M contract for four months of Jerryd Bayless. It was a shrewd move, but again, no one saw it coming. Bayless (or Memphis, in general) was never “on the Celtics radar.” It just happened. With Ainge, it almost always does.
On that note, even mentioning what I’m about to mention might disqualify it from ever becoming reality. Or maybe it will never happen because it’s a horrible idea and I should burn for an eternity for even bringing it up. Either way, here it goes.
The Celtics should call the Knicks and inquire about Carmelo Anthony.
Oh come. Why not? Just hear me out.
Yesterday afternoon, Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck wrote a column detailing all the reasons why the Knicks need to trade Anthony, and made a very strong case.
Basically, the idea is that Carmelo wants out of New York, will likely bolt this summer, and given the Knicks current predicament (which leaves them with zero hope for the present and less hope for the future), they should cash in while they can. Get something now before he walks away for nothing.
Beck also suggests that the Knicks are better off trading Anthony even if he wants to come back. And he’s right. At this moment, New York’s best course of action is to follow the Celtics lead. To look in the mirror with honest eyes, accept reality, flip the switch from “contend” to “rebuild” and turn all their biggest, older assets into an assortment of younger and/or future assets. That’s the smart move.
Of course, the problem is that words like “honest” and “reality” and “smart” don’t typically exist in the world of James Dolan. He’s likely more interested in mapping out the set list for his next concert than he is in entertaining the idea of trading his only marketable star. BUT, who knows? Maybe Dolan has a moment of weakness. Maybe he finally sees the light. Maybe he and the Knicks do the right thing and put Carmelo on the market.
In that case, here’s why the Celtics should at least pick up the phone, kick the tires, and see what it would take to get him:
First, try to put your bias aside. I know that with LeBron achieving sainthood in Miami and Dwight Howard staying quiet in Houston, Carmelo’s pretty much the league’s greatest villain. The player everyone loves to hate.
And sure, he’s done plenty to deserve it. But it’s not that easy.
Anthony’s stuck in a horrible situation right now. Yes, it’s a situation he chose for himself, but in retrospect, there’s no way that he realized what he was signing up for in New York. He underestimated the dysfunction. He put too much faith in Dolan. Now he’s 29 years old and toiling away on a team that’s going nowhere. Watching the prime of his career slip away. Again, he hasn’t been perfect, he deserves blame, but most of Anthony’s issues are born out of frustration, and you can understand why he’s so frustrated. Can you imagine working for the Knicks?
In some ways, watching Anthony these days is reminiscent of watching Paul Pierce in the few years before Garnett and Allen arrived. Back when everyone said the same things about Pierce that they currently do about Anthony: That he was selfish and disgruntled and an example of everything that’s wrong with the NBA. All that changed for Pierce in 2007. Now, it’s like those dark days never happened. And likewise, there’s still time for Anthony to find that happy place. To land in a situation where everything clicks, it all makes sense, and his mentality permanently switches from “superstar” to “champion.”
Some people don’t believe that Anthony has that in him, but I do. I think somewhere deep down inside him, there’s still that 18-year-old kid who led Syracuse to a 2003 national title. Or the 25-year-old who led the Nuggets to within two games of the 2009 NBA Finals. A guy who cares about winning more than anything else, and is willing to do whatever it takes. We’ve seen him do it in the last two Olympics, when he fit in seamlessly alongside Kobe and LeBron and was a key part of two gold medals.
And now, Anthony possesses an extra few layers of perspective and a new understanding of urgency. All he needs is the right situation and a clean slate.
Boston would provide both. A place alongside an All-Star point guard like Rondo, who we already know Anthony wants to play with. A young, innovative coach like Brad Stevens, who will put Anthony in the best position to succeed. A franchise with clear leadership, a winning tradition, sound decision-makers and more assets even after what they’d have to give up to get him.
Speaking of those assets, Boston (along with their trade exception) is also one of the few teams with the means to acquire a player like Anthony. The Celtics have exactly what the Knicks should want: Young talent; future first round picks; they even have Jeff Green, who can slip right into Melo’s role, play well enough to keep the team respectable and keep MSG buzzing with the occasional monster dunk.
From a Celtics perspective, look around the Eastern Conference. Everyone except the Heat and Pacers are in flux, and Miami might be one summer away from joining the party. LeBron might not even be in the East next year. In that case, the Pacers would stand alone, and a foundation of Rondo (one of the best playmakers in the game), Anthony (still one of the best scorers in the game), Brad Stevens (a coach who’s made a career on doing more with less) is not a bad foundation with which to start chipping away at Indiana’s supremacy. Especially if Jared Sullinger is still around. That’s a core that other players will want to be a part of.

There’s also the matter of contracts. Melo will presumably be looking for the max this summer. Rondo is reportedly looking for the max next summer. That wouldn’t work for Boston. But then again, the Big 3 in Miami took less money to play with each other. Kobe Bryant is the only player on record as unwilling to take a pay cut in the name of winning. Rondo and Anthony will have a hard time getting the max as it is, and an even harder time getting the max while still having a chance to contend. So, maybe they’d take less? If they’re confident and comfortable with each other, with Brad Stevens’ skills as a coach, and Danny Ainge’s ability to build a winner . . . it might be worth it.
Until then, this obviously just wild speculation. I’m just thinking out loud. We still don’t know if the Knicks are even willing to trade him, and maybe the Celtics have other plans. But if Dolan’s ever ready to deal, the Celtics should be ready with a phone call.
Even if it’s a long shot that everything would fall into place, that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth trying.
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