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Rumors: Karl threatens to bench 'Melo'
Rumors: Karl threatens to bench 'Melo'
Melo must mature, or sit
By Mark Kiszla
Denver Post Staff Columnist
Carmelo Anthony is too old and too rich to be bent over the knee of a basketball coach and spanked, although some tough love seems to be precisely what Melo deserves.
But the stressed-out, sulking star of the slumping Nuggets is not so big that coach George Karl is afraid to bench Anthony.
"I think that's the next move," Karl said Monday, revealing that Anthony will be removed from games and shown a seat on the bench if the all-star forward fails to play smart, team basketball.
"I've told Melo in the last two weeks, 'I don't think you're listening. I don't think you're listening as well as you need to listen.' For me, the next step is to change the democracy back to a dictatorship."
The coddling of Anthony needs to stop. It's time he grows up.
Somewhere between his infamous punch in New York City and the NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas, Anthony got lost.
"One of my assistants calls this 'The Year of The Punch,' and I don't consider that a good thing," Karl said.
Anthony smashed the good vibe the Nuggets had going with a fist thrown in stupid macho anger in December, and since returning from a 15-game suspension that turned the team's chemistry stale, he has been so blinded by the bright lights of personal glory that Melo can no longer see what's essential for victory. He laughs with new teammate Allen Iverson, but their work together on the court has been a bad joke.
"The inconsistencies, we have excuses for. But I'm tired of seeing it," Karl said.
Obsessed with scoring to the point of distraction and prone to moping when his jumpers clank, Anthony insists he is ready to become a father at age 22, but has not figured out how to be the leader Denver needs in the locker room.
"I didn't expect to be seventh or eighth (in the Western Conference standings). But it is what it is," Anthony said after a late-morning practice Monday. "We just have to come together as a team. Me, A.I., Marcus Camby, everybody has got to come together ... and get it going. We only have a month-and-a-half left."
Then, either bored or peeved by the subject of a team that has embarrassingly underachieved, Anthony promptly spun on the heels of his signature sneakers and walked away without so much as goodbye.
Anthony stuck his nose in sweaty chests when he wanted to show he belonged on Team USA, yet cannot be bothered with something as mundane as boxing out for a rebound against the Utah Jazz.
"I think what you're baffled by is you see a guy who could be a top-five player in basketball," said Karl, claiming to have discovered a statistic he hopes to use as a motivational tool. Anthony recorded more double- double games of points and rebounds in a single season at Syracuse than he has produced in nearly four seasons as a pro.
While fears of the Nuggets being slimed by the bad attitude of Iverson have proved to be 100 percent unfounded, it's Melo who has grown fussier than a night at the opera, refusing to attend a news conference after a recent, humiliating loss to Houston.
"If you're scoring at a high rate and your team's not winning, people come at you and want to know what more you can do. It's a lose-lose situation," said Iverson, who can empathize with Melo's plight.
Anthony entered this season with ambitions the size of Mount Evans, looking forward to huge things on the court and in his personal life. Melo seemed to have the competent hands to juggle it all. He was going to lead the league in scoring and become a daddy.
No problem, no worries, no sweat. Anthony can drop 30 points on any given night and the baby could arrive any minute.
But remember the really big dream? Anthony also planned to show D-Wade and King James that this fresh, young prince from Denver also knew how to lead a team to victory in the playoffs.
On that important count, Carmelo, we have a problem.
And it's you.
"Personally, I think Melo should forget about scoring," said Karl, who grows so red-hot the veteran coach practically spews lava when he is forced to watch as Anthony chucks 28 shots at the rim, finishes with one lousy assist and then pouts when Denver loses yet another game at home.
What makes the situation so frustrating is Anthony genuinely wants to be liked, and cheering for him comes as naturally as his 300-watt smile. I've been crazy about this 6-foot-8 forward since he was a kid at the 'Cuse, winning a national title as a freshman.
But, too often, everything that made him Melo now seems covered in a bad combination of belly-button gazing and cynicism. Who stole the baller we loved from inside the No. 15 jersey?
The grief Anthony receives for being a one-dimensional player is not entirely fair, but it's hazing endured by every big scorer in the league since Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game.
"It's always been like that in basketball. If you're a scorer, people always say, 'Yeah, but does he make other players better?' That's just the way it is. Can't get around it," said Nuggets assistant coach Adrian Dantley, once a scorer who could not be defended in the paint, yet now finds himself at 51 still waiting for an invitation to the Hall of Fame.
So much boyish enthusiasm is revealed every time Anthony allows his eyes to twinkle that you can see the inner child, a trait destined to make him a great father.
But there's a troubling immaturity that lingers in Melo's game.
Karl wishes Anthony would take a look to Houston and notice that emphasizing victory above all else is what has finally made Tracy McGrady a bona fide superstar at age 27, in his 10th season after entering the NBA, ballyhooed as the next big thing.
"Tracy McGrady has grown up. Tracy McGrady gets it," Karl said.
"And, right now, what you're saying is basically, 'When is Melo going to get it?' Is it going to be next month?' As a coach, there's no one more frustrated, there's no one more angry than me, because I feel the pain."
Anthony's lack of consistent commitment to defense, the benign neglect of teammates who stand around for a pass that never arrives, the ducking out the side door at practice while Iverson is stuck with the media nags, it all stinks.
When will Anthony stop dreaming about being one of the top 10 players on the planet, get down to it and work as hard at greatness as Dr. J or Magic or Air Jordan once did?
It depends on when, or if, Melo decides he's ready to grow up as a basketball player.
We're all waiting, tapping feet impatiently.
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