Adam Kaufman

Would Coach Brad Stevens Want Carmelo Anthony on the Celtics?

Carmelo Anthony.jpg

You know the best way to get people to read your story? Write something about a popular player or team that will get fans either excited or angry. Just ask Bert Ramirez or Sam Monson.

The two top stories of the week in Boston have been whether or not Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is still a top-five player at his position as he approaches age 37 and, of course, dissecting the Celtics’ next Big Three of Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, and Carmelo Anthony.

Hours and hours of endless debate over the pluses and minuses while, for at least a little while, ignoring whether there was even any likelihood to the latter. columnist Jackie MacMullan outlined the reasons why Boston’s union of three high-level NBA players projects to be more of a dream than a reality. Still, we’ll play along.

With Rondo already under contract and, in this scenario, Love presumed to be a done deal after his weekend jaunt through the city, that leaves only Anthony as the final domino. So, we asked our panel of Celtics insiders:

Would second-year coach Brad Stevens embrace having a supremely talented but often scrutinized ‘Melo on the Celtics?

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Gary Dzen: Of course! Brad Stevens just endured a 25-win season in which his go-to option, Jeff Green, averaged 16.9 points per game. Avery Bradley, the team's defensive specialist, had the next-highest scoring average on the team. The Celtics ranked 27th in the NBA in offensive rating with 102.9 points per 100 possessions. They could use someone to put the ball in the basket.

What you're probably asking also, though, is if Stevens wants to coach all that comes with Carmelo Anthony. Can he handle a me-first player who needs the ball? Can he handle a guy who might try to get what he wants through the media, who comes with handlers of his own? Can he coach his team and deal with distractions?

My best answer to all of this is a resounding yes. Stevens is as measured a personality as there is in the game. If Anthony is on the team and other, better players also are, and the team wins more games, none of this will be an issue.

Jeremy Gottlieb: This represents the hypothetical to end all hypotheticals but here goes: If indeed Carmelo Anthony does opt for free agency rather than re-signing with the Knicks, and if Danny Ainge then moves a bunch of pieces on his chess board around to secure the kind of money it will take to land a player like Carmelo, and if the Celtics also are able to acquire Kevin Love and keep Rajon Rondo, and if there is enough room to also not only keep a true pro like say, Brandon Bass, but bring in a couple of similar minded veterans like Eddie House and James Posey circa the summer of 2007, then yes, Brad Stevens would want Carmelo Anthony on the Celtics.

For all of his warts, Carmelo is still easily one of the best, most skilled offensive players in the NBA. He can score at will from anywhere and when your previous No. 1 option on offense was Jeff Green, well, I'd bet Carmelo would look like George Gervin to Stevens. The key is getting him to buy in, hence all of the conditions found in the previous paragraph.

It's not out of the realm of possibility that at this point in his career, Carmelo is tired of losing and getting blamed for it above anyone else and would therefore be willing to perhaps give up a handful of shots per game and even maybe try on defense occasionally in exchange for a chance to not only make the playoffs but then do some damage once he's there. Having a collection of players like Love, Rondo, Bass and couple other Posey/House-like vets around as his supporting cast as opposed to players like (ahem) J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, and the immortal Andrea Bargnani would have to entice Carmelo to subjugate his own ego and personal affinities in favor of the greater good, wouldn't it?

And when you add to that the fact that Stevens proved in one year more capable of being at least a good NBA coach than Carmelo's previous boss in New York, Mike Woodson, ever did in a nine-year coaching career, Carmelo making some sacrifices starts to make even more sense. If his head is on straight and he keeps his eyes on the prize, there's little doubt that Stevens would love to coach him.

That's a really big if though, the biggest of all the ifs that come along with a guy like Carmelo.

Adam Kaufman: Ignoring the fact I believe this to be the longest of all long-shots, sure. Why? Sean Grande says so.

The Celtics’ radio play-by-play man on 98.5 The Sports Hub was a guest on Comcast SportsNet New England’s “Sports Tonight” on Wednesday and was asked the same question (which, by the way, inspired this particular debate). Grande said of Brad Stevens’ hypothetical interest in having Carmelo Anthony on his roster, “I will say without equivocation that Brad Stevens would love to coach Carmelo Anthony. I will say it 100 percent.”

Now, putting Grande’s belief – one I respect immensely, especially since he knows Stevens far better than I do – aside, I’m not so sure.

When it comes to wins and losses, there’s no doubt. With Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, and Anthony, that trio would help guide the C’s to a lot of wins, potentially for years to come. But, it could also be a challenging roster to coach.

‘Melo – and I say this as a Syracuse fan forever grateful for his freshman season – is an all-world scorer who, historically, hates to share the ball and is jaw-dropping lazy on defense. He’s also butted heads with multiple coaches in his 11 years in the league. Ask Mike D’Antoni or Mike Woodson, his last two. Would all of that suddenly change when paired with two All-Stars and playing for a coach two years removed from leading a mid-major? As reputations go, Stevens is great and projects to be a terrific coach at this level, but he didn’t have the aura of Jim Boeheim at the college ranks.

Anthony’s arrival would come along with the real possibility of implosion if the regular season wins, playoff success or, simply, his numbers aren’t there. This is a player who cares about his touches (he’s led the NBA in field goal attempts per game each of the last two seasons at 21.3 and 22.2 shots, respectively), unless turning 30 – which he did on May 29 – has changed that a la Boston’s last Big Three or a certain trio competing for yet another title in Miami. Anthony has never been down that road. In fact, he’s only been beyond the first round twice in 10 postseason trips.

I’m skeptical this would be a good fit, but I’m less convinced it’s even a real possibility, so maybe it’s a wash.

Brian Robb: Any coach in the NBA would be lying if they said they didn't want Carmelo Anthony on their team. One miserable season with the Knicks makes people forget about how much of an offensive weapon this guy can be. Anthony may look selfish to the casual fan after leading the NBA in field goal attempts per game this year, but that type of play was more a byproduct of Mike Woodson's lackluster offensive system and a subpar supporting cast more than anything else. Woodson's scheme was basic and relied on plenty of isolations. That lackluster system is one of the reasons he's looking for a new job this offseason.

If you want to see the better version of Anthony, you only need to go look back to the George Karl/Denver Nuggets days. Anthony led an explosive and balanced Nuggets offense during those years under the guidance a Karl, a good NBA coach with a strong track record. I have no doubt Anthony could excel in a similar way under Stevens, with an offensive system that highlights Anthony's strengths.

Combine all of this with the fact the Celtics had one of the worst offenses in the league last year, and you can bet Anthony is someone Stevens would welcome to Boston with open arms.

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