Yeah, no, Melo’s not backing down on this criticism of his defense.
After saying yesterday that it was a matter of unfamiliarity last season and a flawed perception, Melo continued his media cruising for his shoe with a conversation with Grantland. And this time, it’s all about the team. Kind of.
You said you want the Knicks to be known as a defensive team. Where does that start?
It starts with everybody. But I was telling somebody earlier, it’s like New York has never been known for being a defensive team. It just so happened with the trade that happened with me coming here, it’s like New York is strictly an offensive team. But we want to end that. If I were to [go] to another team and they were, quote-unquote, “known for playing defense” then I’d be known for being the best defensive player in the league. But now I came to a team that’s not known for playing defense, it’s like “he’s the worst defensive player and they’re the worst defensive team.” But we can’t worry about that. We’re good. We know what we have to work on and talk is cheap.
Do you take it personally when people say that you’re not a good defensive player?
Absolutely, absolutely. I understand where it came from. I know why it was said, but that’s neither here nor there.
So the perception of him that was formed in Denver… was based out of the team he was traded to. Got it.
The thing is, there’s some truth going on here. Defense in the NBA is analyzed on two levels by most people. Effort and ability. Andrea Bargnani is a terrible defender because he doesn’t care. Steve Nash is a terrible defender because of his back and size. Neither of these analyses cover the fact that their offensive systems sacrifice several core defensive principles with the goal of increasing offensive percentages. If Anthony went to Boston, he’s going to be a good defender. He’s tall, athletic and has a high level of basketball intelligence. Trade Anthony for Pierce, and the drop-off is going to be negligible, if at all. Send him to L.A. and he’s another big player in a big front line.
But there are still problems. You can’t put Anthony on an island and expect him to hold his opponent scoreless in ISO. His communication is lacking. There are areas to improve. But the biggest issue is that Melo seeks to deny or alter the perception instead of taking responsibility. That’s the only way he’s going to grow into the defensive leader the Knicks need him to be.