Tom Thibodeau had been doing his homework on Carmelo Anthony, calling coaches who had worked with the Knicks star and asking how he could get the most out of him.
This was good, though surprising news. It sounded like something other coaches would do. It didn’t sound like the Bulls coach, who isn’t the touchy-feely type, unless it’s touching and feeling a scouting report.
Well, never mind. Maybe. Apparently.
According to the New York Daily News, Anthony will announce Thursday he’s staying with the Knicks, meaning the Great Experiment involving the defensive-minded Thibodeau and the defense-allergic Anthony will not happen. If true, we’ll never know if the two men could have coexisted. We’ll all lose.
If it does come to pass that Anthony stays in New York, it will mean that Knicks president Phil Jackson will have stuck it to his old team one more time. Thank you, sir, may we have another?
I wanted Anthony to choose the Bulls, for all the right reasons. It would have given them the scorer they needed to complement Derrick Rose. It would have made them an instant contender, provided Rose stayed healthy. It would have given Anthony the best chance to win immediately.
Now for the deliciously wrong reason: I wanted him to choose the Bulls because the relationship between him and Thibodeau would have been fascinating — and, in the end, a failure. The idea that Anthony would come to Chicago and suddenly find he loved everything about playing defense was beyond ridiculous. There is looking like you care about defense, and then there is playing defense for Thibodeau, who demands constant effort from his players. Ask them. They wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat hearing Thibodeau’s croak of a voice imploring them to get their heads out of their orifices.
Melo doesn’t do defense. Could Thibodeau have accepted that self-evident truth? Hard to picture. The prize, of course, was having someone other than Rose who could put the ball in the basket consistently. It was difficult to see Thibs keeping his eye on that prize.
It’s a trade-off most coaches would be willing to make. Anthony is so good at offense that his defensive shortcomings are easy to overlook. Thibodeau isn’t most coaches.
What a show it would have been. I’m not suggesting an Armageddon-like cage match between coach and star; I’m suggesting a series of fires that would have flared up occasionally, if not regularly. Anthony isn’t Carlos Boozer, who was simply incapable of playing the lockdown defense that Thibodeau expects. Melo is capable of playing better defense than he does. He simply declines to.
Can you imagine what that would have done to Thibs? Volcanic eruptions on the bench? Yes, please!
The question was whether Thibs could change his spots or stripes. You’ve seen his tame wardrobe. Impossible.
But now we’ll never know. Sigh.
That Thibodeau had done research on Anthony was a good sign. It pointed to a man who very much wanted a relationship with Melo to work, who at least on the face of it was willing to give this whole offense thing a shot.
But what would have happened if Anthony had tuned out Thibodeau on the subject of defense? If he didn’t have to play defense, why would anyone else on the team? These are questions that Bulls fans would have loved to have gotten answered. Carmelo Anthony a Bull? I don’t think it would have worked, but it would have been terrific theater.
If it did work, at least one of three things would have had to happen: Anthony would have changed, Thibodeau would have changed or both would have changed. What was it Al Michaels once said? Something about believing in miracles? Yes.
“He told me he believes in Phil,” a friend of Anthony’s told the Daily News.
Oh, swell. What’s next, Jackson steals Thibodeau? Or just the Willis Tower?
Maybe the Daily News report turns out to be wrong, the Bulls still have a chance at getting Anthony and we won’t have to have deep discussions about whether Pau Gasol would be a good fit in a Bulls uniform.
I don’t think Anthony is coming to Chicago. I wish he were, for a lot of reasons, both right and wrong. The wrong one, how Thibodeau and Anthony would have worked together, easily was the most interesting.