Turn On The Knicks was lucky enough to sit down with Sports Illustrated’s Jack McCallum to talk New York Knicks and the NBA. McCallum is nothing short of a legend when it comes to sports journalism. He is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and has been working for SI since 1981. McCallum has authored eight books including Seven Seconds or Less: My Season on the Bench with the Runnin’ and Gunnin’ Phoenix Suns and most recently Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles and the Greatest Team Of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever, both of which have made a living on the New York Times Best Seller List. McCallum can be followed on his website and on Twitter.
Joe Caporoso - What is your assessment of Carmelo Anthony? Is there a player that he historically reminds you of and do you think he can be the lead player on a championship team?
Jack McCallum - Well, you cut right to the chase, don’t you Joe? Obviously, that’s the question. Or the questions. I’ve been tough on Carmelo in the past, not because he takes too many hard shots. Bird took too many. Kobe still takes too many. That’s what scorers do. But if you’re a shot-clock-kiler, as he is, you simply have to find a way to be more of a passing threat. He can face up, as can LeBron, but he’s just not as adept as he should be at finding people.
Having said that, he was a great fit on the Olympic team. Was that because he understands great players and was willing to cede the offense control to LeBron and many of the shots to Durant? Or because he is one of those players–and there have been many of them–who cannot lead from the front, one of those guys who’s an extraordinary second or third guy but not a good first guy? I’m not going to answer that. He’s got time to do it.
JC - Is this New York Knicks team built in too flawed of a way to ever seriously compete with Miami in the Eastern Conference? Would you even consider them the Heat’s biggest threat in the East right now?
JM - I don’t look at it as “flawed.” The league has almost–emphasis on ALMOST–been a league where the best player wins the title. Michael, Magic, Bird, Kobe and Shaq. The Big Three in Boston that one year. And now it’s clearly LeBron and, right there with him, Wade and Bosh. (I am just now beginning to realize that Bosh is damn good; I always undervalued him.) I don’t care how the Knicks structured their team, they were not going to get by Miami as long as Bronnie and Company are steamrolling. Either is anyone else in the East.
JC - Outside of your colleagues at SI, who do you recommend NBA fans follow on a daily basis for their coverage?
JM - I’m old-fashioned. I came up in newspapers. So there are certain teams I like to read more about–the Lakers (I just did a story on them and know the coaches), the Clippers (are they for real?) the Spurs (for their consistency), the Celtics (just habit from the old days) and, of course, the Knicks and Sixers, who are close to me. So I look at those newspaper sites from those cities. (Yes, there are still newspapers.) They are the people covering the team on a consistent basis. The ESPN.coms in the big cities do a good job and of course I look at Henry Abbott’s True Hoop and Hoopshype when I want to check a salary.
JC - Have you ever seen somebody play better overall basketball than LeBron James is currently playing?
JM - Bird had periods when he dominated three ways. But he wasn’t the “point guard” LeBron was. Magic totally dominated in two ways but wasn’t the rebounder that LeBron was. Jordan simply owned games, game after game, season after season. But he did it as a scorer and a defender. As a triple threat guy … I guess my conclusion is … No, that level of overall play is extraordinary.
JC - How do you see Lakers situation shaking out? Was D’Antoni flat out the wrong hire for that team at that particular time? Who of the major characters are still on their roster in 2014?
JM - I hate ragging on coaches, particularly those with whom I spent an entire season, as I did with D’Antoni and the Suns. So, no, I don’t think he was the wrong hire. They idea that they were going to come in and play fast-break basketball was absurd. The D’Antoni philosophy these days is based more on what they do in halfcourt, i.e., move the ball, quick pick-and-rolls, not many isolations (well, they have Kobe), not much of that dribble-dribble-back-in-back-in shoot style of Carmelo. But it hasn’t worked. What surprised me the most was that he did not get on the same page with Gasol. They are 50-50 to make the playoffs, no better, no worse. And if they do, they had better find a way to integrate Gasol and Dwight Howard.
JC - Finally, outside of Miami – Who is your favorite to win the title this year?
JM - The Chicago Bulls of the 1990s.