Melo, My Man
USA Today Sports
Not only do the Miami Heat need Carmelo Anthony, but the NBA could use an injection in abject vitriol unseen since, well, The Decision. Justified or not, if Melo does indeed leave the New York Knicks, takes a pay cut along with Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh to make it possible, the audible bubbling of drooling froth would ooze from every nook and cranny in media stations everywhere.
Or maybe the NBA doesn’t. Ethan Strauss of ESPN has harped on the point that parity in basketball hasn’t exactly translated to ratings across the nation. The Miami Heat are already in the upper echelon of local ratings and, of course, sell out arenas when they travel.
It’s not necessary for a team that’s already so popular in ratings and the center of so much talk show fodder to increase said visibility, but there’s an inherent need for the masses to hate someone, something. However unfair the criticism that professional athletes receive despite having the right to make these very personal decisions, it would cause an uproar in discourse and put together a “stacked team” that rivals the Los Angeles Lakers in its performance and, well, declining performance. That’s entertainment we crave.
Bosh has already come out before Game 4 of the NBA Finals, saying that there’s little chance the Heat will go after Melo and the Big Three hasn’t even talked to him about it. For athletes, “distractions” are a vague and far-ranging term that includes up to and just about anything. Whether the Heat are looking into this or not, it’s a much better match if only because the change in identity would be welcome.
Aside, I wrote this before Game 4 and was not expecting the San Antonio Spurs to embarrass the Heat on the biggest stage, leading to questions about whether the closest thing we have to a contemporary dynasty falling to the sustainable dynasty of the past decade. I guess this is good timing? End aside.
As the main players for the Heat age, the evolution and adaptability must change as well. Since their first year together, running a vanilla offense that fell apart in the Finals, they’ve grown into a havoc-wreaking defense along with a three-point heavy offense built upon the abilities of LeBron and Wade. But with Wade hobbling, James metamorphosing into a game more fit of Andre Miller than peak Bron, the injection of Anthony could paper over potential unfixable flaws.
Just because the Heat relied heavily on a defensive scheme that insisted on explosive doubling and frenetic rotating doesn’t mean that the Heat must try and replicate this while their championship window slams shut. Look across the court in these Finals and we see a San Antonio Spurs team that once relied on post play, defense and a pace in the high 80s now field an explosive three-point raining offense. They went from averaging 10.4 threes per game in 1998-99 to 21.4 this season. It’s an extreme example but both teams boast an innovative coach that’s willing to adapt to changes. It also helps when both guys have once-in-a-generation players to help smooth over most of the speed bumps.
Carmelo Anthony is not the fix nor should he be, but he’s ostensibly the likeliest superstar the Heat can acquire. Unless Kevin Love is walking through that door in an eight-team trade or Tyson Chandler falls into their lap, this opt-out, pay-cut option is the closest the Heat have to inching that window out just a tad. The Heat aren’t going to suddenly develop a Kyle Anderson at the end of the first round or sign Boris Diaw and Patty Mills to lucrative contracts (maybe?).
Carmelo Anthony opens up the offense even more from an Xs-and-Os standpoint, relieving pressure from LeBron as a scorer – assuming Wade is happy with a bench role. The defense still lacks a rim protector and disruptive wing but perhaps this is where Spoelstra adapts to his personnel. The Heat might not need to boast a top-five defense to win another championship. Or more likely than not, Melo’s addition won’t help at all, it sure doesn’t seem like it would this season.
Regardless of what happens with this addition, however plausible or not, I hope Pat Riley finds a way to continue to extend the high-stakes drama show that has become the Miami Heat these past four years.
Statistical support for this piece provided by NBA.com, unless stated otherwise.