Before the season started, I told anyone that would listen, "I guarantee Carmelo Anthony will win MVP." Yep, I started this bandwagon, people. Don't believe me? Just ask my friends and coworkers. Don't know my friends or where I work? Fair point! I should have written this post before the season...
Regardless, you can guess what I got as a response. Friends and the occasional argumentative passersby at the K-Cup station told me that I was an idiot -- that Carmelo didn't pass, play defense or work well with teammate, and fellow star, Amar'e Stoudemire. People used these three "facts" -- in conjunction with Lebron James' domination -- to snuff out the embers of my "Melo for MVP" argument.
Still, against tremendous opposition, I held firm. I cited new head coach Mike Woodson as a harbinger of change, reminding folks that Woods holds all players -- even a superstar like Melo -- accountable on both ends of the court, especially the defensive end. I told the story of two Knicks greats, Walt "Clyde" Frazier and Earl "The Pearl" Monroe, rivals that came together during the 1972-73 Knicks season, adapted their games and played together in order to win a championship. I used their story as an archetype for the harmony I believed Carmelo and Amar'e would cultivate some 40 years after that last Knick's championship. "This is New York," I said. "These dudes know what it would mean to the city if the Knicks were finally contenders. They'll do what it takes."
When that didn't convince the naysayers, I paraphrased Melo, reminding them that Melo had his best season as a pro after the last Olympics in 2008 -- when he took the Nuggets to the Western Conference finals. I told everyone to just wait and see, that this would be a new year for Carmelo and the Knicks, that the team was on the precipice of something great. (Full disclosure: As I made this claim, I often fought back a smile, as I knew, in my heart, that my guarantee was more wishful thinking than prophesy. Still, I believed, even when I knew it was crazy and my body would betray me with a smile, I kept believing Melo would be MVP, as a dog believes it can finally, just this once, catch its tail).
Skip forward to present day. With the Knicks slotted as the number two seed in the Eastern Conference and with no other superstar stepping up their game quite like Melo, I will stake my claim again with a renewed sense of conviction: Carmelo Anthony will be the 2012-13 NBA MVP. I guarantee it -- no smile necessary this time.
Don't get me wrong, I do not believe that Carmelo Anthony is the best player in the league, as his teammate, Tyson Chandler, claimed a few short days ago. That distinction goes to the one and only Lebron "KANG" James. However, I do think Melo possesses a combination of qualities -- one of which is simply good timing -- which will ultimately help him win MVP.
First and foremost, let's talk about his game: Carmelo is playing the best basketball of his career right now. Though his stats may not reflect the renaissance in his game, a quick eye test shows any long-time fan of Melo's that the dude is a new man on the court. He is more committed on the defensive end, he is making the extra pass rather than shooting over multiple defenders, and -- perhaps most importantly -- he is saying all the right things, namely that defense is the key to the team's success. Where he goes, the Knicks go, and if Melo is as focused on defense as he seems to be rhetorically, then the 'Bockers have a bright future this season. So, from a die-hard Knicks fan: preach, Melo, preach!
I concede that Melo -- every now and again -- will still gripe to officials about a foul call and fail to get back on defense. But -- if you believe Rajon Rondo -- that's what the whole Miami Heat squad did last season, and that team won the NBA Championship. So maybe Carmelo is onto something: get in the officials' ears now, so that when the playoffs come, he'll get the calls he needs in order to win. Yet another example of how Melo is using not only his physical abilities, but also his oratory gifts to help the team.
Yet there is still one all important reason why Carmelo Anthony will win MVP this year, and it has nothing to do with his play on the court or the jargon he espouses off of it. Melo will be crowned MVP this season for the same reason that Derrick Rose won MVP in 2010-11 -- voter fatigue.
Yes, the sports writers that cast their ballots for NBA MVP are human and, like the rest of us, they get sick of the same old story, told and retold over and over again. Though virtually all voters would agree that LBJ is the greatest player in the league -- at least the unbiased, intelligent ones -- the accolade is not "The Best Baller Award." Instead, the trophy is awarded to the individual that is most valuable to their team. As such, many a sports writer can -- and will -- make the claim that the Heat sans 'Bron is still far better off than a 'Bockers squad missing The Melo One.
I mean, shoot, if Karl Malone can win two that should have gone to MJ, and Steve Nash can win two, one of which should have gone to either Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant, can't Carmelo get one in the The Era of Lebron?
So, when taking into account Carmelo's improved play, his team's success and the time period in which he is playing (i.e. The KANG's Reign) -- not to mention the LBJ haterdom writ large -- you heard it here first (which is to say, I've been saying it all along): Carmelo Anthony, 2012-13 NBA MVP.