by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam
The New York Knicks’ ‘11-12 campaign, as cliché as it sounds, was truly a roller-coaster ride. There was Linsanity, Mike D’Antoni’s tumultuous exit, Mike Woodson’s surging entrance, and a Playoff series against a team with equivalent, if not more, celebrity status. The Knicks’ season ended in relatively disappointing fashion, getting booted in the first round for the second consecutive year, despite adding Tyson Chandler and having an almost-full season to develop team chemistry and cohesion. Thus far, the Melo era has produced a paltry one win in nine Playoff games. For a team with one-namers like Melo, Tyson and Amar’e, by any standards, that’s not good enough.
Currently, even as the season fades into the rearview and optimism gradually reemerges, there is still uncertainty surrounding the franchise. Aside from the obvious question marks—the health of Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert, and the possible pursuit of Steve Nash—New York has other, more imminent issues to address. The future of JR Smith, Landry Fields, Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak are all unknown. On June 13, if the NBA Players Union doesn’t get its way on a decision regarding the “Bird rights” of players claimed off waivers, the Knicks will not retain the rights for Novak and Lin, both claimed off waivers before last season. New York also will not be able to exceed the salary cap in order to re-sign them, which is tough for a financially strapped team. If the Union does prevail, however, the Knicks will have a mid-level exception to use this summer, presumably to try and resign Lin or Novak.
So, with all that backdrop, you would assume it’s not too easy for Carmelo Anthony to find serenity these days. He’s the frontman of a franchise that resides in the center of the largest, most unrelenting and fiend-ish media market in the world. His image is plastered all over the covers and back pages of impetuous magazines and newspapers, and his character is questioned by the countless pundits and talking-heads, all of whom have no problem spewing endless vitriol. The Knicks fan-base, albeit an extremely passionate bunch, is among the most impulsive, myopic and demanding in the League. They have a hard-to-please attitude, which some would call, “Steinbrenner Syndrome”.
But if there’s any personality who can withstand living in the eye of such media scrutiny and external distractions, it’s Melo. The dude doesn’t place a burden on what he can’t control. He keeps a tight circle, has never been phased by outside voices, has a chalk-white Broadway smile, and possesses the confidence that’s necessary to survive, let alone thrive, in the Mecca.
Since the team’s season ended on May 9, Melo took two weeks to “travel and get my mental right,” and now he’s “back in the lab, to get my physical right.” This past Monday, Anthony and former Knicks legend/current Assistant GM, Allan Houston, appeared at NYC’s Flatiron Plaza for an event to build awareness and excitement for Team USA’s Olympic run this summer. Jeep, the corporate sponsor for USA Basketball, promoted the “Power By Design” event. Tons of fans came out in the unseasonably cold temperatures and inconvenient drizzle to shoot free throws in an effort to win the grand prize: a trip to Las Vegas to watch the Americans’ exhibition game against the Dominican Republic on July 12.
Anthony and Houston spent hours at the event, answering questions from reporters and shooting on the makeshift court in the middle of Manhattan. Thinking back on it, it was a pretty cool sight—two NBA stars coming through without any personal security, chilling and conversing with fans and reporters in not-optimal weather, all under the backdrop of City skyscrapers, with endless cars whizzing by in the background.
The winner of the event was New York University student Rikuto Amao, who made six straight free throws to have a shoot-out with Melo. He couldn’t best the five-time All-Star, but he did make the most consecutive free throws, earning a trip to Sin City.
SLAMonline conducted a very brief (and rushed…there was a horde of aggressive reporters!) interview with Melo, which you can see above. Along with the interview, there’s video of Houston getting the best of Anthony in a free-throw competition, and a plethora of snapshots from the well-spent afternoon.
Anthony is no stranger to Olympic basketball. He took home a Bronze medal in Greece in 2004, and captured the Gold at the 2008 games in Beijing, where Team USA won by average of 32 points, and where he set the all-time record with 13 free-throws in an Olympic game.
Without the likes of Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose this summer, the Americans will head to London a bit shorthanded. Even so, they are undoubtedly the favorites, as the squad features numerous superstars, including ’08 returnees LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Deron Williams, and probable newcomers such as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love.
Keep doing your thing, Melo. We’ll see you in Vegas.