On the eve of the regular-season opener, TNT's popular "Inside the NBA" analysts visited New York Monday and offered several pieces of pointed advice for the city's most prominent basketball citizen.
Read further at your own risk, Carmelo Anthony.
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It began with Shaquille O'Neal suggesting the Knicks star "stop being satisfied with being mentioned after LeBron [James]. Him and LeBron are similar players, in my opinion. They're both strong, they're both physical, but it seems to me at times that he's satisfied with being mentioned behind LeBron."
Speaking at a luncheon to promote the new season -- and the show's visit to Flatiron Plaza in Manhattan Tuesday night -- O'Neal added, "If Carmelo wants to get past Miami, he needs to do more."
Then Kenny Smith chimed in by saying that though he "loves" Anthony and his game, he needs to evolve into the sort of star other players want to play with.
"That is what's missing, I think, from the Knicks and I think what's missing from Carmelo," Smith said. "It's the law of attraction. There aren't a lot of guys saying they want to come to New York and play here with this guy."
So, Charles Barkley, how might Anthony become the sort of player who attracts others? "Play a little defense and get a rebound every now and then," he said. "Pass the ball."
Later, he added that though he considers Anthony "the best offensive player in the NBA," that is not enough. "Guys don't want to play with a guy who doesn't pass the ball," he said.
Barkley also had sharp words regarding Anthony's stated desire to become a free agent after this season.
"When I heard that, I was very disappointed, because he wanted to come here," Barkley said. "Now all of a sudden he wants to leave. He wants to test free agency. That really ---- me off, to be honest with you.
"He owns the city. He should be trying to get guys to come here, not like, I stayed here a couple of years. I forced my way here, No. 1, I got here and now I want to leave. That's just not cool at all."
In fairness, Anthony never said he wants to leave, only that he plans to opt out of his contract, at which point he likely will remain under the terms of a maximum offer from the Knicks.
Barkley, who has a long history of skepticism when it comes to the Knicks, said he considers them a "good" team but a potentially volatile one. "They could be good, really good,'' he said, "or they could implode."
All three analysts agreed that the Nets are the better New York team, if healthy, and that the matchups they present make them the biggest threat to the Heat in the East.
Still, Barkley said, the budding Knicks-Nets rivalry is "great" for the NBA, and he is rooting for a big finish.
"My greatest gift would be Eastern Conference final, Knicks against Brooklyn," he said. "That would be like the coolest thing ever in sports."