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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Phil Jackson Says Melo Will Move The Ball. So Did These Guys.

Illustration for article titled Phil Jackson Says Melo Will Move The Ball. So Did These Guys.

"The ball can't stop," is definitionally just some flatulence squeezing out of a hundred basketball coaches at any given moment. But this week, it happens that Phil Jackson, the new Knicks boss messiah, said this while referring to Carmelo, the basketball player whom Jackson signed this offseason. Probably this means that Carmelo is on the righteous path to five-passes-and-a-shot, but just to be sure, we've collected some other people who think, or at least thought at one time, that Melo's going to do it.


Here's Jackson in the Post:

Q: Hawks GM Danny Ferry recently made comments about Carmelo in which he reportedly said: "He can shoot the [bleep] out of it, but he screws you up in other ways. So is he really worth $20 million? I would argue if he plays the right way, absolutely."

A: I think there's probably 15 players in the NBA that are very similar position. I don't know if all of 'em are paid $20 million, but the coaches and GMs are talking about it in those type of terms — how much does this guy hurt your team, or hurt the game flow because he's trying to score. The attempt to score, the need to score, the pressure that he feels he has to score. … Does he take away from the team game? That's what Danny's talking about there. And that's where Carmelo's gonna move forward this year in that situation — the ball can't stop. The ball has to continually move. It moves, or goes to the hoop on a shot or a drive or something like that. In our offense, that's part of the process of getting players to play in that rhythm.

Just a few years ago, Melo was sure that he was going to prove George Karl wrong about his passing when he got to New York:

In last week's Sports Illustrated, Karl hinted that the Nuggets offense often had morphed into four players watching Anthony go one-on-one. Anthony sounded annoyed that his reputation is portrayed as that of a ball stopper even though many coaches, including Mike D'Antoni, believe Anthony is at his best in isolated plays. D'Antoni, however, would prefer that, early in the shot clock, Anthony - as well as Amar'e Stoudemire - move the ball.

"For me it's something I think about all the time," Anthony said. "How can I make other guys on my team better? When you lose, it's magnified times 10 ... just a whole bunch of thoughts going through your head. Whether those guys play well or not is it because of myself?"

As it turned out, Melo wasn't super cool with Mike D'Antoni, but D'Antoni thought ball movement would be a good idea:

Mike D'Antoni knows a red-flag loss when he sees one, which is why theKnicks' head coach spent part of Monday's practice addressing Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.

He spoke to the team's top three players individually about everything from playing with more energy, ball movement, defensive intensity and ball movement again just in case Melo didn't hear it the first time.

"We've got to stress ball movement, especially early in the shot clock," D'Antoni said. "And I told them, at the end of the 24 seconds that's where their superstardom comes into play. You get them the ball they'll get you a shot. But before that we have to play as a team, move the ball and get to our spots."


Ball movement was a good idea when Melo was coming back from an injury in the middle of Linsanity, too:

"When I'm reading the stuff, it's more funny than anything because at the end of the day I know what I bring to the game, I know what I bring to this team," Anthony said on Monday after missing practice due to a strained right groin. "My teammates know that. But to say, 'How can I fit in?' It's easy; give him the ball and space out. I get back to doing what I know how to do best. So we'll see."

Anthony said he is confident that he can fit in well with Lin, who missed practice on Monday for a standard recovery day and will play on Tuesday against the Toronto Raptors. Anthony has missed the Knicks' last three games after injuring his groin on Monday against Utah. He is happy that Lin has emerged to take some of the load off of his shoulders.

"I know there's questions about, 'Can I fit in?' and stuff like that, but this is like a dream come true to me," Anthony said. "It takes some pressure off of me. I don't have to play point guard. I don't have to try to get Amare 20 points, try to get this guy 20 points, me try to go out there and get 25-30 points a night, play defense, rebound do the whole thing."


D'Antoni was also sure Melo could work as an off-the-ball pick-and-roll player with Lin, too:

"I think it will be a great medium," D'Antoni said. "It's like when we had Chauncey (Billups). Chauncey had the ball in his hands a lot. Melo has it a lot. Melo is one of the best pick-and-roll guys, hopefully now we have two of the best. I only see it helping. I don't see it as a problem.

"There will be some adjustments on both people's parts. I see it as a big, big plus. I see it when Amar'e comes back, there's another pick-and-roll guy, maybe the best in the game. I see that as a big plus. (Lin, Stoudemire and Anthony) have never played together so we can't make that conclusion until we see it then we'll adjust to it. I can't wait to get those guys back."


Amar'e Stoudemire half-assedly called out Melo last year about ball movement:

"When we say things as far as ball movement we're talking about as a team, as a whole," Stoudemire said before the Knicks faced the Clippers Wednesday night. "We all are a unit. It's not to single no one out at all. But you guys seem to do that.

"We're a team. We're together. We're united. When we discuss things about defense we talk about team defense. When we discuss things about ball movement, we're talking about team ball movement."


But in the end, Anthony and then-coach Mike Woodson decided that defense, and Amar'e backed off in public:

"We all know we're together," Stoudemire said. "We talk about what we need to do to improve. There's no sense of really sitting down one-on-one with anyone. We understand what we need to do to win. We love each other on and off the court. Once we start winning, everything will smooth out."


For what it's worth, Carmelo just finished a very strong statistical season. The Knicks as a whole need to do better in creating shots, and in turn not winding the shot clock down and forcing a suicidal long jumper. But if they expect that change to come from Melo, there are a lot of ex-coaches still waiting on it.