Throughout his career, 'Melo has shown glimpses of great leadership, like when he completely took over the game versus the Chicago Bulls last season, hitting a three-pointer at the end of regulation to tie the game and then another trey in overtime to win it.
Other times, though, he’s seemed disinterested and lacked the drive and willingness to dominate his opponents when his team needed him to.
The biggest knock on Anthony has been that he shoots too much at times and doesn’t look to get his teammates involved enough. He has even been presumed to be a selfish player, a label that really bothers him.
Last year, Carmelo spoke with Stephen A. Smith on SportsCenter (via ESPNNewYork.com) about this label and how much it offends him:
That's like a slap in the face. None of my teammates I've ever played with would say that I was a selfish player. Nobody. It's a tough situation. I'm human at the end of the day, so it's like damn, where is this coming from? I know I'm not a selfish player. People around me know I'm not a selfish player. I do everything I can to make people around me understand I'm not a selfish player.
Despite what his fans and critics think about him, Anthony’s Knicks teammates trust him as their leader and agree that he’s not a selfish player. Amar’e Soudemire and Tyson Chandler were both asked by ESPNNewYork.com about this issue:
"We have no worries about Carmelo. He's a phenomenal player," star Amare Stoudemire said.
Center Tyson Chandler agreed, saying "I think it's completely nonsense. At the beginning of the season, we were asking players to do too much. Now we have a natural point guard that makes life easier for other guys and puts [players] in their natural position. So we're going to be more of a threat."
The Knicks may not have the natural point guard Chandler was referring to anymore (Jeremy Lin), but Raymond Felton should be a suitable replacement for him.
Participating in the Olympics with Team USA should also improve Anthony’s leadership ability. Just being on the same team with some of the greatest leaders in the game today, like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, should rub off on 'Melo and improve his game and leadership ability.
This is exactly what happened the last time Anthony competed in the Olympics in 2008.
During the next season after those Olympics, 'Melo averaged 22.8 points per game, the second lowest scoring total for him over the past eight seasons. However, that season also produced the best record of Anthony’s career (54-28), and it was the first and only time he advanced past the first round of the playoffs.
It should also boost Anthony’s belief that he can lead this team next season after he got a vote of confidence from head coach Mike Woodson this summer. Woodson spoke to Marc Berman of the New York Post and had this to say about the evolution of Anthony’s game last season: “I like to see [that] and he’s made major strides this year. We started this journey, he made guys around him better and he was better for it. That has to be a continuation.”
With his coach and teammates behind him, Carmelo Anthony must take the next step and go from scorer to leader. If he wants to end all the criticism of him and cement his spot as a superstar in this league, being the leader of the New York Knicks next season is where he must start.