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Welcome to Round Two, 'Melo


Momma, I made it. (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)


Carmelo Anthony didn't want to reach McGrady Land, the part of the basketball world where playoff appearances are a regular occurrence, right along with first-round exits. In his first five seasons in the NBA, the Baltimore native could not take the Denver Nuggets to the conference semifinals. While Chauncey Billups's leadership was the difference in leading the Nuggets into the second round for the first time in 15 years, Anthony is finally there, too, after scoring a career-playoff-high 34 points in the Nuggets' 107-86 dust-off of the New Orleans Hornets.

Anthony was unfairly blamed for failing to get the Nuggets out of the first round, but that's the criticism that comes with being a superstar. In his defense, the Nuggets missed the playoffs the previous eight seasons before his arrival -- and, when exactly was he supposed to win? As a No. 8 seed against the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2004? Against the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs in 2005 and 2007? Against the eventual Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers last season?

The Nuggets had the third seed in 2006, but they didn't have home-court advantage against the Los Angeles Clippers and the team suffered a complete meltdown, with Kenyon Martin getting suspended and Anthony fouling out in a critical Game 4. After losing to the Clippers, Anthony said, "I don't want to be like Kevin Garnett and take eight years to get out of the first round."

Granted, the Nuggets could've won a little more than four games in those five trips and they often underachieved in the regular season, which contributed to some of those bad matchups. But this season, with the playoffs arguably meaning more to him than any other star, Anthony had reach at least the second week of May.

Remember, he got an all-star snub last February after helping Team USA win a gold medal. He was placed on the trade block last summer -- before his agent asked for assurances that he wouldn't get moved -- after the Anthony-Allen Iverson Experiment resulted in just one playoff victory in nine postseason games. And, he appeared headed back on the block after getting suspended two months ago for refusing to leave a game when George Karl tried to substitute for him.

Anthony had to win for his reputation, and possibly to justify his stay in Denver. He's proven to be an explosive scorer, but winning produces greater respect. Anthony knows this, although he didn't always show it, and he took full advantage of his first opportunity to demolish an opponent when his team finally had homecourt advantage. The Nuggets won their four games against the Hornets by an average of 30.8 points.

This isn't complete vindication for Anthony, whose peers LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have both reached the NBA Finals, with Wade winning it all in 2006. But unlike those guys, Anthony can say that he has reached the postseason every season that he played. And, he no longer has to contend with Tracy McGrady for the title of Best Player To Never Win A Playoff Series.

Now, he just has to worry about the Dallas Mavericks.

By Michael Lee  |  April 30, 2009; 12:01 PM ET
 
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Comments

Melo is a great player, but he is unquestionably not as elite a player as Lebron or Wade. This is no knock - only D. Howard and Kobe are in their class among current players. Melo is a very effective offensive player, shoots a high percentage, and is too big for most 3s and too quick for most 4s to defend.

The Nuggets should defeat Dallas, but will struggle against the Lakers in the semifinals.

Posted by: Dellis2 | April 30, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

There is something to said for the right fit and chemistry. Billups a great fit for Denver. Iverson, a bad fit for Detroit, especially since they decided not to play Rip and Iverson together, but to sub Rip for Iverson and let an inexperienced guy run the point.

It would have been awkward, but Iverson should have run the point from the get go, with Hamilton at the two.

As for Carmelo, they get Dallas next. I like both teams. The winner will probably see the Lakers in the West final. A good year for the whomever plays LA.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 30, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

They tried playing Iverson and Hamilton together. It didn't work. Iverson is not and has never been a PG.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 30, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

The Nuggets get a nice reward playing the Mavs.

Posted by: jeremydvid | April 30, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

I like the mix of players Denver has put together... Melo is a top-10 player, Billups has been resurrected, the investment in Nene has begun paying dividends (nobody kvells over the salary dump of Camby much these days, do they?), Smith is a real microwave, Dahntay provides some defensive grit, the Birdman is once again unchained and K-mart has reinvented himself as a big-time enforcer.

Did anyone notice that Linas Kleiza got a DNP in the clincher though? There is a player the Wizards should consider, good energy. good size, good outside shot....

Posted by: khrabb | April 30, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

"They tried playing Iverson and Hamilton together. It didn't work. Iverson is not and has never been a PG."

Right, however they should have stuck with it. Something like letting Iverson know he controlled the fist 8 minutes of the clock then after that you run the offensive sets.

Kinda think if they had stayed with something like that, rather than benching Hamilton, it would have worked out better for them.

Instead they told him they wanted him to be himself. Wrong advice, for unlike in Philadelphia, where he was the Answer, in Detroit there are other Answers on the Team. The whole clock should have included all of them.

I remember when Houston won there two championships, there was always complaints that the guard combo didn't work, but Houston stayed the course.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 30, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

You clearly didn't actually follow the Pistons. Hamilton and Iverson didn't mix. Just that simple. Anyone who followed the team and watched their games, even cursorily, would understand that.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 30, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Michael Lee,

Could you clear up this trade scenario for me:

If the Wizards were to offer Rubio, along with James and Thomas as a sign and trade for a lower 1st round pick, would we have to take a player back by NBA rule?

If I could get a Team to do this sign and trade deal it would allow the Wizards to use a lower 1st round pick, use their 2nd round pick, and it clears another roster spot.

Technically, all we have done is swap our 1st round picks for a player that they want, but, that they want see (Rubio) at their lower pick and for swapping you take two of my expiring golden contracts, as has been referred too.

They come off the other Teams roster at the end of the season, but, It clears two spots for me besides my first pick now.

The other Team gets Rubio, whom they want and they get expiring Golden contracts. I, the Wizards, now get to draft my 1 and 2 spot this year for my Team and also have a third roster spot to work with.

In reality it is an even trade if the other team has only 12 players under contract. Whether is puts either Team over the lux' tax is irrelavent. Correct.

Is this scenario not possible by NBA rule?

I have not gotten a clear cut answer from any Blogger.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 30, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

The Nuggets are looking really strong. Hopefully they'll end up playing the Lakers for the western finals. That should make for a good series.

Posted by: luncheaterguy | April 30, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Yes Kalo, you are right, I clearly did not care to follow the Pistons regularly as I do the Wizards.

But, that being said, it is hard for me not to believe that staying and working with Iverson and Hamilton in the backcourt would not have been better over the long haul than what they ended up with.

You are talking about 5-Vets putting there knowledge and experience together to just win games.

Instead, there was doubt as to what was really going on, on a Veteran Team.

Should Rip start or Iverson? Clearly, neither should have come off the bench. And that young guy they are grooming for point guard should have been groomed from the bench whenever Iverson did not understand to get the other Vets in the game.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 30, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Michael Lee,

Please forward your blog to Gil and maybe he will understand he needs to change his game to get out of the first round.

Larry,

The Wizards will have to take back within 10% of salaries they trade. The only advantage of trading down in the draft is, Abe might be able to avoid the luxury cap

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | April 30, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

"Clearly, neither should have come off the bench. "

To anyone who followed what was going on (and, quite frankly, you didn't have to follow that closely) that is clearly not true.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 30, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

"To anyone who followed what was going on (and, quite frankly, you didn't have to follow that closely) that is clearly not true."

Maybe with a little deeper introspection it also might be clear that Michael Curry could not figure out to make the guard play between AI and Rip work.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 30, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

So, 78, would signing the lower 1st round pick count towards that 10%?

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 30, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

You clearly didn't actually follow the Pistons. Hamilton and Iverson didn't mix. Just that simple. Anyone who followed the team and watched their games, even cursorily, would understand that.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 30, 2009 3:45 PM

To anyone who followed what was going on (and, quite frankly, you didn't have to follow that closely) that is clearly not true.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 30, 2009 4:59 PM

--------------------

Really, Larry is one of the most measured and respectful guys on this board. His response suggesting that they should have rode out the Hamilton/Iverson pairing may be easy to disagree with, but it didn't merit the tone that you returned with.

It doesn't seem like you have any respect for anyone else's opinion unless they agree with you.

Posted by: crs-one | April 30, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Larry,

It would only count if they sign him first. If they trade down for cap purposes then I would think they would package the pick before they sign the player. They will save more money and be under the cap.

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | April 30, 2009 9:46 PM | Report abuse

"Maybe with a little deeper introspection it also might be clear that Michael Curry could not figure out to make the guard play between AI and Rip work."

Joe Dumars doesn't appear to agree, since he basically admitted it was a bad fit after the Pistons' season ended.

And even if that was true, it still doesn't change anything. As long as Curry remained the coach it was his job to get production out of both of them. If he couldn't figure out how to get them to work together on the court then moving one of them to the bench was the best solution.

And if you're going to try and blame Curry then you've got to point the finger at Larry Brown, too. He traded Jerry Stackhouse (and Larry Hughes after that) because he realized Iverson couldn't coexist with a high-scoring SG. Was he an inadequate coach too? And what about George Karl, who traded Iverson because he wanted a real PG who could run the offense and get other people involved. Was he at fault for not being able to figure out how to use Iverson as a PG? And, of course, it's worth noting that both of those teams improved after giving up on their attempts to turn Iverson into a PG.

Iverson's history is well-documented and speaks for itself. He's not a PG and every attempt to make him into one has failed. He's an undersized SG who dominates the ball and doesn't coexist well with other high scorers who need the ball a lot. Really, there's no reasonable argument to refute that. It's documented fact.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 30, 2009 10:40 PM | Report abuse

..."He's an undersized SG who dominates the ball and doesn't coexist well with other high scorers who need the ball a lot. Really, there's no reasonable argument to refute that. It's documented fact."

Now thats a much better argument as to why Rip and AI could not play together.

But, ponder this, in comparison with how they played together as to when they did not, which one really worked better?

I daresay that the numbers will tell you that with AI and Rip on the court together extrapolated to a better performance than when they were not.

Your points are valid, except for the fact that this particular Piston group needed AI and Rip together to be effective. The young inexperienced point they are developing was not better.

The struggling duo of AI and Rip I contend, though not good, was actually the right way to go and stay the course with.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 30, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

BulletsFan78,

I hate to belabor the point, but you just confused the hell out of me.

So, are you saying that the 10% counts if I draft Rubio and sign him, then trade him along with James and Etan to a Team for their lower 1st pick?

Or, I draft Rubio and not sign him, but trade him along with James and Etan to a Team for their lower 1st pick and the monies that I sign the lower pick for counts towards the 10%?

But, doesn't either scenario put me in the same cap predicament.

For, in either case I am paying for a lower 1st round selection, and I am dumping two expiring contracts so that I have a slot to sign my 2nd round pick and a open slot.

The other Teams gets my expiring contracts to reward me for handing them Rubio.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | May 1, 2009 12:07 AM | Report abuse

"I daresay that the numbers will tell you that with AI and Rip on the court together extrapolated to a better performance than when they were not."

I've seen the numbers. You're wrong.

Prior to the decision to send Hamilton, then Iverson to the bench the team was more effective when either Iverson was starting and Rip was out injured or when Rip was starting and Iverson was out injured than they were when both guys were healthy and on the active roster. It was written about multiple times during the period leading up to Curry making the decision regarding who got benched. Documented fact. After Hamilton then Iverson got benched the team melted down, mostly because of egos and attitudes, but it was too late by then and the point had already been driven home: They couldn't coexist on the same team and every attempt at trying only made things worse.

Not only could they not play well together on the floor at the same time, they couldn't even play well in the same rotation, even when they weren't on the floor at the same time.

Posted by: kalo_rama | May 1, 2009 12:21 AM | Report abuse

Point taken and well put. That dosen't bode well for Iverson. Maybe this offseason he might realize some of the very points you are making and adjust his game. His physical traits should allow him to adjust, but mentally will he.

By the way Kalo, would you agree that Gilbert is more flexible in adjusting to true point play than Iverson?

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | May 1, 2009 2:20 AM | Report abuse

With all this talk about changing Gilbert to a "real" point guard, you would have thought the problem with the wizards was offense.

Posted by: G-Man11 | May 1, 2009 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Yep, I think after this past season you'd have to characterize Iverson-Hamilton as the pairing from hell.

I have to figure the Pistons' FO knew that might happen, and risked it anyway, for the big free-agent payoff.

Now I'm reading that the Spurs are planning an offer to Wallace. I've never been a big Sheed fan, except to acknowledge his exceptional skills and his native intelligence. So I wonder if the Spurs' are seeking to add a star or (possibly) replace one of the current stars.

You have to hope San Antonio comes back strong, as they represent something good about NBA basketball.

Posted by: Samson151 | May 1, 2009 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Even though Rasheed is a Tarheel and he has gotton a Ring, I daresay his career may be over.

It is not that he can't play, it is rather, is he ever going to assimilate to a respectable human being.

I am speaking from a distance and have no first hand knowledge of my assertions.

But, I have never seen Rasheed do one interview and I have came away with the opinion that he was a sane respectful person.

And why does he continue to blow up on the floor, getting technicals, when he should know by now, there is no positive reason for him to continue like that.

Along with Detroit's failure this season, I do not feel that he carried his own water.

Sadly, Rasheed Wallace is going to fade away.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | May 1, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Iverson managed to carry the Sixers into the 2001 finals against the Lakers which was quite an accomplishment. But there is also the belief that he is extremely overrated.
Here's an excerpt from a review of a book that applies statistical analysis to player evaluation.
"In “The Wages of Wins” (Stanford; $29.95), the economists David J. Berri, Martin B. Schmidt, and Stacey L. Brook set out to solve the Iverson problem. Weighing the relative value of fouls, rebounds, shots taken, turnovers, and the like, they’ve created an algorithm that, they argue, comes closer than any previous statistical measure to capturing the true value of a basketball player. The algorithm yields what they call a Win Score, because it expresses a player’s worth as the number of wins that his contributions bring to his team. According to their analysis, Iverson’s finest season was in 2004-05, when he was worth ten wins, which made him the thirty-sixth-best player in the league. In the season in which he won the Most Valuable Player award, he was the ninety-first-best player in the league. In his worst season (2003-04), he was the two-hundred-and-twenty-seventh-best player in the league. On average, for his career, he has ranked a hundred and sixteenth. In some years, Iverson has not even been the best player on his own team. Looking at the findings that Berri, Schmidt, and Brook present is enough to make one wonder what exactly basketball experts—coaches, managers, sportswriters—know about basketball."

The full review is at:
http://www.wagesofwins.com/GladwellNewYorkerReview.html

By their 2006 rating system Kevin Garnett was the most productive player in basketball 2003-2006, the championship for the Celtics followed on his trade there. In 2004 Shaq's Win Score of 14 meant that the year the Lakers let him go and kept Kobe, he was the better player. Bryant's Win Score that year was 10.7.)

Posted by: midlevex | May 1, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

I may actually be one of the few here that saw the Nuggets play at home this year. When the trade was first made, most NBA commentators said it was a win for the Pistons as they needed more of an offensive threat. AS a Nuggets fan, however, I was thrilled to not only break up the Iverson-Melo fight for the ball, but also to get a true leader in Billups. Going into the playoffs, I can't remember a #2 seed getting as little talk as the Nuggets, in large part because there was so little separation in wins between the #2 seed and the #6 or 7 seeds. But the Nuggets now play good defense and with a floor leader like Billups, may be able to give the Lakers a run, if they can get past the Mavs. It will be interesting to see how many calls Nowitski gets in this series. That might be the difference.

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | May 4, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

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