Los Angeles, CA
Knicks fans were leery when they landed Carmelo Anthony. He can score at will but he had a reputation of being a ball hog and a little bit of a head case. If you believe in conspiracy theories, then Melo plotted to get rid of coach Mike D'Antoni last season and pulled the "he goes or I go" tactic, to which management responded by axing D'Antoni.
The Knicks' current head coach, Mike Woodson, must be doing something right. He got the Knicks to instill more accountability of defense by actually playing defense. The transformation of Melo began at the end of last season and carried over into the start of this season. Melo passed the ball more and chucked fewer bad shots. The Knicks jumped out to an insane start, even without their big dog Amar'e Stoudamire, and garnered a lion's share of the attention in the league that was not Linsanity-fueled. Pundits began whisper Melo's name as a potential MVP candidate, while Knicks fans prayed that the ghost of old Melo wound not provoke the newly, refurbished Melo.
Enter Kevin Garnett.
The Knicks were a -6 favorite at home at MSG against the Boston Celtics. When word got out that Rajon Rondo was sitting out, the line jumped to -7.5 or -8 in some spots. Boston has struggled this season. They have a decent record straight up but have been awful against the spread. They are barely winning games and when they do, they rarely have covered which means the team is performing below bookies' expectations.
Boston and New York have an intense relationship. It's spilled over into sports. Yankees-Red Sox is as heated and complex of a rivalry as you'll see in all of professional sports. Over the years, the Knicks-Celtics have never really developed a rivalry that mimicked the Yankees-Red Sox. The Knicks weren't good enough to be a true foil for the Celtics. With the Nets moving to Brooklyn, there's been more media hype of a budding rivalry between the Knicks and Nets. But the Celtics/Knicks? They kicked the Knicks' collective ass so much in the last decade-and-a-half that it's not even a close competition.
But that was then. This is now. The Celtics are an aging squad logging redonkulous amounts of minutes, while the team is rife with injuries to its stars. They're in a fast decline toward the middle of the NBA Eastern Conference, while the Knicks are on a tremendous upswing. We're witnessing the changing of the guard as the Knicks are getting themselves in position to challenge the Miami Heat for supremacy in the East.
But after watching Melo lose his cool during a game against a Rondo-less Boston, it makes you wonder if he's a legit MVP candidate and if the Knicks have the mental (and physical toughness) to make a deep run in the playoffs.
KG is not getting any younger. He has to rely on Jedi mind tricks to occasionally get inside the heads of competitors. It's part of his game plan and opposing teams know to ignore him and tune it out. Melo had done just that until the second half Monday night when KG obviously got under his skin. It involved saying something to the effect that Melo's wife La-La had a vagina that tasted like Honey Nut Cheerios. Melo lost his mud. After the game, he wanted to fight KG in the belly of the Garden.
Why did Melo freak out? Over Honey Nut Cheerios? If that's the case, it's a sincere compliment. It could have been a lot more repulsive.
I have no clue what's going on with Melo and his wife. That's his business. If they were having problems, it wasn't affecting Melo's performance. Like I stated, he was having a MVP-like year and it was fun to watch the new and improved Melo. That was until KG went for the jugular and the old Melo reared its ugly head. On an ensuing possession, Melo dribbled right down to the top of the key and unleashed a bomb. It clanked on the front of the rim and Boston got the rebound.
Melo lost the mental edge and in doing so, his unprofessionalism cost the Knicks the game. But more importantly, he might have opened up the flood gates. Melo exposed a huge weakness, thereby giving fodder for the opposition and their fans to figure out how to press Melo's buttons by taunting him about La-La. You just know there's going to be at least one fan at every road game sitting behind the Knicks bench with a box of Honey Nut Cheerios. I can't even imagine how Boston fans are going to treat Melo when he heads up to the Boston Garden next month. It's going to be ugly and it's Melo's fault. He failed to keep his cool and allowed KG to use a bush league-tactic to tilt him.
It's not like Melo is a rookie. He's been around the block a few times and knows KG likes to run his mouth. I don't care if KG offended his momma, his wife, or his kids. Melo is getting paid a multi-million dollar contract to keep his emotions in check and win ball games. Bottom line is that Melo should have tuned it out and channeled his anger into his offensive game. He had an awful night shooting before the Honey Nut Cheerios incident and it only exacerbated the problems once he tussled with KG, who literally destroyed him in a mental game of chess.
Melo and the Knicks will get beyond the incident. In a couple of days it will be drowned out of the major news cycle. But is this an isolated incident? Or will Melo lose his shit again when someone else on a different team tries to make a crack at La-La. You know someone is going to do it. With an NBA title on the line, some players will do anything short of breaking the rules to get inside someone's head.
Melo let everyone inside his mind to dine on Honey Nut Cheerios. The questions remains... can he kick everyone out? Or will their taunts linger for the rest of the season, or his career?