Jim Boeheim, who coached Carmelo Anthony at Syracuse, discussed Melo’s pending free agency with Jim Rome (hat tip: Matt Moore of Eye on Basketball). Boeheim:
What I’d tell him is what I would tell any NBA great player. If you’re a great player in the NBA, for you to be recognized as a great player, you have to win a championship. It’s as simple as that. And I think you have to put yourself in the best position possible to win a championship.
LeBron James did it. He did get some criticism for the way it went down, but he got himself with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and has been able to win championships. And it’s changed the image of LeBron James forever.
I think you have to be in a place that you have a chance to win a championship. I think Carmelo loves New York, but I would tell him, “Let’s try to get some place where you can win this thing.”
So, no Boeheim doesn’t explicitly say Melo should leave New York, but you can read between the lines.
Even if the Knicks re-sign Melo, they’re not going anywhere next season. They’re old and capped out, stuck with a dismal roster.
New York should have cap room the following summer, and it seems someone like Rajon Rondo is the dream target. But could Melo and Rondo really lead a championship team without major help? And it’s not likely the Knicks actually get that extra help – even though it’s necessary.
Building a championship team around Melo is very challenging. He gets paid so much money, it’s difficult to fill the roster with quality pieces around him. And because Melo’s contributions are so scoring-centric – both when it comes to helping himself and helping teammates – he needs a strong supporting cast, especially defensively.
So, if Melo wants that championship, he should accept less money or play for a franchise that has at least indicated it could build a winner around him. That’s not the Knicks.
Boeheim makes a sound point about the need for great players to win a championship. Though I believe a great player can just get stuck on the wrong teams through no fault of his own, few grant that leeway. It’s extremely rare, though not unprecedented, for a player to be viewed as great without a championship.
But here’s the flaw in Boeheim’s logic: Melo is not an all-time great player. He’s a very good player, but he doesn’t hold a candle to LeBron James and Kevin Durant in his generation. Melo falls below players like Chris Paul and Dwyane, too. Several slightly younger players could pass Melo, as well.
Of course, a championship would improve Melo’s legacy considerably and maybe even make me re-think Melo’s place in history – which is exactly Boeheim’s point. If Melo cares about how he’ll be remembered, a championship is the most-essential missing piece.
What Boeheim won’t say: For Melo to follow the advice, he must leave New York.