Carmelo Anthony reportedly threatened to beat up Tim Hardaway Jr.
The Knicks teammates chalked that up to the heat of the battle, and each insisted he respected the other. That may well be true.
But if there’s a real discord between Melo and Hardaway, it wouldn’t be the first time the star has had an issue with a younger teammate.
Last year, it was Iman Shumpert who got frustrated with Anthony following a lazy defensive effort that resulted in a four-point play against New Orleans. Landry Fields openly acknowledged shrinking as a player following Anthony’s trade to New York, presumably because he never developed a comfort level with him. And last year, according to a person familiar with the matter, Anthony grew highly agitated with former Knick Jeremy Tyler during a practice in which Tyler apparently trash-talked him.
Melo, as the team’s star player, hasn’t necessarily violated decorum here. It’s on Hardaway, Shumpert, Fields and Tyler to appease him – not the other way around. It’s a wonder Tyler lasted as long he did in New York if he bothered Melo.
But if Melo wants to be a leader for the Knicks, he must be more mindful of how he comes across.
Take Fields. Nothing in Fields’ play since has suggested he deserved to maintain a large role once Melo arrive in New York. Running the offense through Melo at the expense of Fields was absolutely a justifiable decision. But that doesn’t mean Fields had to like it, and it’d be understandable if he resented Melo because of it – especially if they didn’t share a close bond.
In the same vein, Melo and Hardaway arguing during a game doesn’t mean much in itself . Older players sometimes chastise their younger teammates in good environments, too. But someone obviously felt that situation was evidence of a bigger problem and fed the story to Chris Broussard.
And that’s where Melo has to be better, especially with the Knicks losing.
Losing intensifies problems, and it puts everyone on edge. Even if Melo and Hardaway have a good relationship, the disappointment of this season makes either more likely to spite the other – or for teammates to believe that. That’s just how it goes.
If the Knicks were winning, Melo’s minor problems with younger teammates wouldn’t ever be brought up. But once the team struggles, people look for explanations, and this seems to be one.
So, Melo can continue to operate as he does, and it’d be OK. But if he wants to make a difference in New York, he has to work to change – whether it’s fair or unfair – the perception about him.