The NBA season is very, very young. But already there have been banner moments. You have the whole Shaq-v-Kobe thing. Latrell Sprewell is trying to find ways to feed his family. Ron Artest needs some time off to promote his rap album. Jason Kidd and Alonzo Mourning want out of New Jersey.
I’ve taken on those topics….and now on to this one: King or Melo.
Of course, the first pick was LeBron James. He had a fabulous rookie season and is one of the biggest names, already, in the NBA. I think the last rookie to make this kind of splash in the NBA was Shaq. A friend of mine, Kevin [Ktmdog@aol.com], broke down his early season play:
I know it's early in the season, but geez, looks like I was only off by a year or so about this kid. Before I saw him play a single game in the pros I said he would be one of the top 10 players in the game as soon as he donned an NBA uniform. Well, his rookie numbers 21/6/6 were pretty spectacular but he wasn't quite a top 10 player. Now the kid seems to have learned how to play ball a little bit to go along with his incredible physical gifts. Anyone who doesn't have him in the top 5 players in the game is simply nuts! As much of a Kobe fan as I am (And that includes thinking he could ultimately blossom into the G.O.A.T) and I know his numbers this season are partly due to a foot injury, LeBron is the one guy who has more physical talent than Kobe. Like I said when I first saw him in that high school game, as big as Malone, as fast as Iverson, passes like Kidd, sees the court like Magic and leaps like Michael. He is a freak and I believe has more talent than any basketball player I have ever seen. His leap in maturity from year one to year two has been astonishing and bodes well for this dude. And to think just when he becomes a free agent, we'll [Lakers] be clearing up some salary cap space!
LeBron has played leaps and bounds above what even his biggest supporters thought. I also think that he’s gotten better because of four major things. ONE, his NBA experience from last year. I don’t care how well he played….it does take some time to adjust to the NBA. The coaching, the minutes, the amount of games, the officiating, the speed, the size. This just proves how great of a player he is that he can work out those kinks. TWO, his Olympic experience. Yes, the experience wasn’t that good for America…but it was for LeBron. This was the first time he had to sit and watch other players play…and not him. More adjustments to make….as he’s found out what he needs to clean up to get him to they guy USA Basketball is begging him to play…not adding him on. THREE, humility. The Olympics brought some….but the losing season in Cleveland brought some, too. I’d bet he hasn’t lost that many games in his life. Losing is a part of the NBA…and whether you are from high school, Duke or anywhere else…it is hard to adjust to losing games at the rate you can in the NBA. And FOUR, his new team. Jeff McInnis and Eric Snow allow LeBron James to flow more in the offense…not set it up. It relieves LeBron from his ball handling duties and keeps him fresh. Also, for some reason, Drew Gooden gets passed around the league even though he is a darn good talent. As Kevin said, LeBron is the kind of guy that makes everyone around him so much better.
Now, on to Carmelo Anthony…who has had the opposite effect. Melo came out of college as a National Champion and was compared favorably to LeBron. His Nuggets went to the playoffs last year…partly because of him…partly because of free agent Andre Miller…and party because guys like Nene stepped up and developed. Melo deserves all of the accolades and praise he got.
But, Melo had a poor Olympic showing and clashed with coach Larry Brown [who passed on Anthony in the 2003 NBA Draft for seldom used Darko Milicic]. He complained about his playing time…and we he did play, played poorly.
But, the NBA season is upon us and the Nuggsare a trendy pick to do things. But, a season opening loss to the Lakers that took Voshon Lenard out for most of the season has dampened things. Denver has no replacement for him…and the offense is quite stagnant. This is forcing Anthony to take bad shots [shooting 31%] and the Nuggets to hold down a 1-4 record. The team is quitting on its coach…and now comes the rumor that Anthony may get benched…which cannot be good for the team morale.
The team itself has problems. Lenard’s injury means the team has no real perimeter presence. They’ve played Greg Buckner, Earl Boykins and Dermarr Johnson in his place….none are known as great shooters. So, those shots must be taken by Anthony….and he isn’t hitting them.
To me….this is the crux of their differences between the two players. Denver has more talent than Cleveland. Yet everyone of that team is struggling to score. Kenyon Martin is the only Nugget to shoot well [51.7%]….but gets only 11 shots a game. Carmelo isn’t making his team better.
Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Big Z is averaging over 20 a game…and everyone is involved. James is averaging over 28 points [12 more than Melo]…almost 8 rebounds and 6.5 assists. Oh, yeah….and he is shooting 46%. But, stats don’t do him justice. Watch a Cavs game. His poise and court demeanor are just unreal. He IS like a Magic Johnson out there.
That’s why they call him King James.