There are few events where NBA players-to-be can show their worth to NBA scouts and improve their draft stock drastically. It’s about putting up an excellent individual performance, but also about showing you can function as a part of a collective, while also being humble enough not to force the lights solely at yourself to the detriment of the team.
The tip-off marks the start of a limited window each of the young players gets to showcase their talent. It’s to be expected that a lot of egos are going to be involved—a lot of backstabbing and chousing, all to stand out. JJ Redick shared such a story. He talked about how Carmelo Anthony froze him out in Jordan Brand Classic in 2002, making sure that he didn’t win the MVP award.
“I was once frozen out of an All-Star game. Not and NBA All-Star, though. By Carmelo Anthony, at least that’s what was told to me. You could play in two All-Star games as a senior in high-school. So we go to the McDonald’s game in New York City. It was like Melo, Amar’e, and Rashad McCants was on my team, and they all had like pretty good games, but I got the MVP. I don’t even know if I deserved the MVP because a lot of my threes that I hit, we were already up like 15-20 points. I had like 26 points; I get the MVP. So then the next week we go to the Jordan game in Washington DC. What was told to me by two different guys was that Melo was going around telling people’ JJ’s not going to get the MVP again, I’m taking every shot.’ And if you look at the box score, he took like twenty-six shots that game; I think I took like seven. And he didn’t get the MVP because we lost.”JJ Redick, The JJ Redick Podcast
We checked the stats. Melo attempted 16 field goals and scored 27 while hitting 12 free throws. JJ shot the ball eight times and finished the game with 7 points. So it wasn’t to the extent Redick described it. Still, the discrepancy between the field goals he attempted at a Jordan Brand Classic compared to McDonald’s All American game is there, so something was different. Was it a Melo effect – it’s hard to tell. But the fact of the matter is that things happened the exact way JJ was told it would happen. With one exception. Melo didn’t win the MVP. The award was shared by Amar’e Stoudamire and Sean May.
This was, in a way, a representation of them both as NBA players. JJ is and always has been a low-maintenance guy who doesn’t require the whole system to gravitate towards him, but can still give you a very productive night. Melo, on the other hand, is more of your typical NBA superstar – slightly egoistic and more demanding, who doesn’t tolerate not being the centerpiece of the team. And this was shown in these two games. Melo made sure to make a game about him. Whether he did it successfully is up to scouts who watched the game. He didn’t do enough to get drafted ahead of Darko Miličić. Something Pistons‘ fans would’ve liked.