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The Works: Sympathy for Mr. Bosh, Dissecting Melo

Aug 17, 2010 – 9:00 AM
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In The Works today: Denver sleuths Melo out of town; we all jump too fast on the latest Anthony news; and the quandary of covering the Knicks.

But first, a brief defense of newest arch-fiend Chris Bosh.

Bosh Ain't So Bad: Yesterday, I was sure that Chris Bosh had leaped beyond the pale. It was like he had watched the transformation of Bron Bron's public image and thought, "I want me some of that."

Then I went back and took a good, hard look at the original New York Daily News piece, which furnishes a funny little thing called context. While I don't think Bosh's comments are anything but ill-advised, possibly inexcusable, they're more frank than outright cruel.

I also noticed, once the huff had passed, that he was talking as much about us (media, fans, general scavengers of 2010 tidbits) as he was himself. Take, for starters, this gruesome quote:
"If you think about how many times somebody asks you, 'How are you,' that's how many times I was asked, 'Where you going?" said Bosh, who was in Manhattan Wednesday to unveil his Got Milk! advertisement. "So it's like, well, in my case, I'm going to have fun with it. I'm going to play with people's emotions. I'm going to be high and low."
Maybe "play with emotions" was being a little too blatant about it, and makes him sound downright manipulative. But put yourself in his big red shoes. Bosh was asked, for months and months on end, where he was headed. Everyone asking had an agenda.

What, he was supposed to just open up and reveal himself at the slightest provocation? Or tell everyone exactly what they wanted to hear? That's no less absurd, and dehumanizing, than the notion that Bosh might just throw things out there to keep everyone guessing, keep himself engaged, and thumb his nose at the circus.

It's worth noting that James and Wade behaved similarly, before letting up when they realized it wasn't worth the trouble. Part of being Bosh last season: there was never going to be any front-page blowback. You can toy with people and it doesn't set off a five-alarm blaze. So maybe he just doesn't get that his life is in a very different place now.

On the other hand, James and Wade were seriously considering playing together. So when they acknowledged it was all for sport ... they double-double-crossed the public and media? Bosh picked just the wrong time to admit he lied. Honesty and confession is what people expect of Miami now.

On the other hand, for Bosh to have said -- when all the league was awash in uncertainty -- that he had tired of the questions and taken to just screwing with people, that would be Sheed-ish. After that fact, it's just mean.

Let's move on, shall we? It's this real stinker that I actually find most compelling:
"I wouldn't call it a game because it's serious, but, I mean, it's entertainment at the end of the day. It's the truth," Bosh said. "We're entertaining and everything but at the same time I'm just getting my feelings out there. It's entertaining to see people react to your real emotions because if it wasn't fun I wouldn't do it."
Again, it's all in the timing -- if you want to believe that the Heat plan was set in stone from the day the three left Beijing. Here, Bosh is again acknowledging the silliness of tracking his every quote like it was a key to the future. And yet, ever-earnest, Bosh tells us that while he was messing with people, he also had all sorts of inner questions to resolve. Was the Decision ever really a decision?

More importantly, is it fair to, as Bosh says, suggest that everyone's hand-wringing -- his own included -- is at once serious stuff and serious entertainment? Free agency has, like a political campaign, become a spectacle with incredibly high stakes. Part of the serious part is embracing the spectacle; to ride to spectacle out, you need to realize that it's still the same big issues at stake.

In fact, this might be some of the most astute commentary on the player-media relationship since Sheed left town. Remember, underneath "both teams played hard" was a barbed remark on what reporters expected from athletes.

When Wallace played games, it was always with a sense of the bigger picture. Bosh's "I mess with people" admission would have been easier to digest at the time. But put in the context of his own indecision, and the irony of his being interrogated without knowing himself which way the wind would gust, offers a reliably screwy take on his free agency (and all that preceded it).

It's a shame he had to preface it with the more memorable, and entirely tone-deaf, "I messed with folks." When the truth is, what he meant was that they messed with him, he messed with himself, circumstances left him wondering what was possible, and his comments to the press at any given moment were -- by necessity -- a game. And shame on anyone who didn't know better. (BS)

You're Gonna Lose: Once upon a time, Barack Obama brought hope back to American politics. It didn't last, but that's not what matters. What matters is that, it happened, and that because of it, we can call LeBron James the anti-Obama. For cities with sports stars on the fence, nothing but doom and gloom awaits. How could it, after a hometown boy done up and left the team he was born to save?

Even before ESPN dropped its very own murky bombshell, it had gotten so bad that in Denver that at least one columnist was looking to prove that Melo was on his way out. With the narrative of Bron-Bosh-Wade having been turned into one big conspiracy theory, and Rubicon on the air for at least another few weeks, the time is ripe. Kill them before they kill you. Figuratively speaking, of course.

In the Denver Post, Chris Dempsey walks us through a litany of clues, signs, and symbols that, if you squint hard enough, spell the end of Melo's time in Denver. Granted, the Nuggets forward has been reluctant to sign an extension, and with good reason. The team is getting older, thinner, and may or may not have George Karl back next season. He doesn't seem swayed by the hit his contract figure would likely take with the next CBA.

The rise of the Heat (that's a Terminator reference in case you thought I was above that) has made it that much more difficult to win. And, if on hearsay alone, the Knicks are looking to be the next team ready to surrender itself to superstars. So naturally, not only is Melo going to leave, he's headed straight to Madison Square Garden. Better to be prepared for the impact than spend a whole year in agony.

What we're seeing here, then, is the idea that Nuggets fans should try and stay one step ahead of Melo himself -- to deduce that Anthony's leaving before he's even made up his mind. Before the Nuggets have had a chance to make a move, even. Sure, Anthony could go to the Knicks, maybe even join up with Chris Paul down the road; Dempsey's almost masochistic two-year plan makes this dream especially vivid. But why do a number of stray facts that have "East Coast" or "New York" in them mean that the deal is good as done?

Carmelo AnthonyEarth to Dempsey: Anthony's bride, the blushing La La Vazquez, hails from, lives in, and works at, the Big Apple. Chris Dempsey has obviously never been married ... am I right folks? I know James tipped his hand by selling his house too soon, but it's also just possible that La La wants a home in New York, and Melo will get a condo for during the season.

Melo was born in Brooklyn, but claims Baltimore, which is a very different place than New York. Oh, and Brooklyn will have a team soon, so shouldn't Dempsey consider Anthony going to the Nets? Just in case you aren't swooning hard enough yet: THERE COULD BE A LOCKOUT IN 2011-12.

Look, I'm sorry that LeBron James robbed us all of our innocence, that players are indecisive figures torn between business and personal. Or, as I'm sure some would say, disingenuous -- or unfaithful. I also know that we live in a media culture where breaking news, however minor, and "advancing the story" are the surest way to keep readers coming back.

It's good to know that both can be taken to such an unruly extreme that fans are being instructed to stab themselves in the back. (BS)

About That Murky Bombshell: Haven't we learned anything from The Decision? Apparently not, with ESPN's Ric Bucher breathlessly reporting Monday that sources say Melo is not long for Denver. This is the same Bucher, of course, who swore two ways to Wilshire Kobe Bryant would be dealt before the start of the 2007-08 season (false) and who -- just days before the actual Decision -- swore up and down Broadway there was no way LeBron would consent to pip status as Wade's teammate in Miami.

Not to besmirch Bucher -- I'm just saying that when your record is perhaps spotty, you need more than what Ric is giving here. And what's he giving? One source who said Anthony either won't sign his extension, or will sign it and demand a trade. The same source is convinced of this because Anthony didn't stop his friends from cracking wise about the Nuggets and Melo's aforementioned wedding.


LeBron and Maverick Carter taught me that all we know is that we know nothing. (Maybe it was Socrates ... it's all a jumble.) If a single source among the hundreds following LeBron's every twitch couldn't figure out his destination more than 12 hours prior to his announcement, how do we think Bucher has Melo's answer 320 days in advance? And how is anything decided when the Nuggets don't even have a general manager? Has Stan Kroenke, paying the luxury tax and knocking on the Western Confernce finals door, really decided he'll trade his best player if they can't reach an extension now?

If the next year is really going to be like this, then switch me to the Johan Petro beat. (TZ)

The Loudest Silence: When you cover the Knicks for a living, the urge to snark must be humongous.

Never mind the way the franchise reportedly treats local beat writers; the material almost pens itself. Take James Dolan's attempt to re-hire favorite son Isiah Thomas as a team consultant. Just two years ago, Zeke was fired as coach and general manager because he had led the Knicks to one of the worst three-year records in the league despite a humongous payroll. He was also at the center of a salacious sexual harassment lawsuit by a former Knicks executive, one which cost the franchise a $10 million settlement and buckets of embarrassment.

The yuks write themselves, as do biting criticisms.

So credit Howard Beck of the New York Times for his restraint. Beck has always used a scalpel instead of broadsword in dissecting this dysfunctional franchise, and a perfect example is the writer's weekend work on Dolan's long silence. Beck reveals that Dolan, the Knicks' controlling owner, hasn't talked to the New York media without a script in hand since March of 2007, when he held a press conference to announce an extension for Thomas.

Since then, it's all been bad for the Knicks, and Dolan has been silent, reading from prepared statements at press conferences (if he attends at all) and avoiding the media at Madison Square Garden at all costs.

In most cities, a quiet owner may not register as an issue. But given Dolan's string of bad decisions -- hiring Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni excepted -- and his recent return to Isiah's embrace, fans do deserve answers, at least once in a while. The problem is that Dolan knows Knicks fans are among the most passionate, loyal followers in pro sports.

Most of the folks filling up the Garden are there to stay. Almost nothing Dolan can do will push them away.

That's why the Brooklyn Nets hold so much promise for the NBA. Not only can the moribund Nets revive their own pulse with a move into The City, but -- at least from a wider NYC and media perspective -- the new arrivals can put more pressure on Dolan to not be so terrible at running his basketball franchise. I'm not saying Manhattan is going to collectively ditch the island and fill up Barclays Center.

Certainly, the Prokhorov era isn't off to a very good start. But Dolan has to be proud enough to not want to be No. 2 in New York. That pressure is good, and maybe someday Dolan will realize he can reach his fans by actually talking to them once in a while.

Of course, you'd also think Dolan would be proud enough not to allow his franchise to fall to depths it has. (TZ)
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