All right, stray voices of reason, talk me out of Carmelo Anthony, vaguely rumored potential Boston Celtic. Because I’m over here almost talking myself into it, against whatever grains of common sense I have left.
I know, the Celtics have indicated to the ESPN that they don’t have interest in the high-scoring, high-maintenance, 11-time All-Star, zero-time champion forward. You know Danny Ainge and you know what that means. They don’t have interest at whatever the current asking price happens to be.
But … the Knicks have reportedly told the Clippers — who, along with the Celtics and Cavaliers have had their interest in Anthony gauged — that they would not demand Chris Paul, Blake Griffin or D’Andre Jordan in return. What does that leave, Luc Mbah a Moute and Brandon Bass? It certainly looks like the Knicks are pricing Anthony to move before the February 23 trading deadline. You know there is a point Ainge would do it, and no, trading James Young straight up for Melo does not work in the ESPN NBA Trade Machine. A few deals do, though. Even a few deals that Ainge might go for.
I know, there are many reasons not to do it. Many, many reasons. A cacophony of reasons to say no to Melo. I shall now list them, even as I resist them: A guy who jacks 18 shots a game probably wouldn’t cherish being a corner-based bystander in the Isaiah Thomas Show that’s been drawing rave fourth-quarter reviews most nights. … The Celtics need defensive and rebounding help more than anything. Melo is an OK (if regressing) rebounder, while defense is typically his nap and snack time … He makes $24.6 million this season and $54 million through 2017-18. He gets a 15 percent trade kicker if he is dealt with a player option for 2018-19 … He would cost the Celtics talent and depth, probably starting with Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson, and the generally selfless culture of this team would be altered with Crowder out and Melo in … He’s 33 years old, is a ball-stopping volume shooter who hasn’t won anything since he was a freshman at Syracuse … Trading for him helps the Knicks and Phil Jackson. Think about how Red would feel about that for a moment.
That’s more baggage than the Celtics haul on a West Coast road trip. And yet I cannot deny being intrigued by the best-case scenario should a potential deal somehow take shape.
Don’t be coy. You know exactly what I mean by that best-case scenario: What could and would Carmelo Anthony achieve playing for Brad Stevens? Or more precisely, what wizardry would Stevens work to get the most — which is a still a heck of a lot — out of Anthony, a born scorer with occasional Bernard King-in-‘84 tendencies who, for all of his flaws, has spent his life enhancing his offensive gifts with hard work?
I can’t help it: Purely as a basketball fan, that is something I’d be interested in seeing. Now, I’m not saying I want to see it at great expense to the roster. The Celtics’ season so far has supplied a few more moments of surprising frustration than we expected. But I believe in what they are doing and where they are going. There’s an enviable culture and the makings of a strong core. Isaiah Thomas has become a superstar scorer — he’s always been a magician as a finisher, but what a smooth shooter he has become. Al Horford is a quintessential Celtic, smart, talented and helpful to the cause in so many ways. The young guys have had growing pains, but they are growing. And there are two more Brooklyn picks coming. The Celtics are in a good place. But if Ainge did deal for Anthony, my immediate reaction would be: I cannot wait to see how Stevens — who made Evan Turner lovable and darn near essential — figures out how to get the most from Anthony.
The enigma of Anthony, though, is that as interesting as it would be to see how Stevens would maximize his talents, the ideal outcome of all of this might be to hope he ends up with the Celtics’ chief rival. I mentioned a few adjectives ago that they are in a good place as a franchise. They’re in a good place in the standings as well. At 27-18, which is slightly ahead of last year’s 48-win pace, they have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, a half-game back of the Raptors and just 3.5 behind the Cavaliers.
This — the close proximity to the defending champions — is somewhat unexpected. The party line this season has been that the Celtics should strive for second place in the conference, with the recognition that a healthy Cavs team is pretty much invincible. Stunningly, it hasn’t been, having lost six of eight as of Friday while LeBron James, who fancies himself as the general manager to the general manager, gripes about the team’s lack of a playmaker.
The Cavs look vulnerable. It will probably pass, but it’s fun to watch now, and maybe they will panic. There was chatter — probably baseless, but still — that a Kevin Love-for-Carmelo swap might be something LeBron would desire.
Trading Love, who has shaped his game to the confines of LeBron’s wishes while remaining prolific, for one-note scorer Anthony would be foolish. Man, I hope they do it.
I know, it’s contradictory. I’d like to see Anthony end up with the Cavs, because he’d wreck ‘em, and yet I’m not opposed to seeing him end up in Boston. It makes sense to me. Sure, LeBron knows how to play with Anthony. But Brad Stevens would know how to deploy him. Two of them believe they coach their team. Only one of them actually knows how to do it.