"I DO THIS!"
It's hard to argue with the Knicks forward. Perhaps the greatest pure scorer on the planet, Anthony is a fearless assassin, who has knocked down countless big shots during his career.
But, after nine seasons in the NBA and not so much as a sniff of an NBA championship, "this" isn't enough anymore. Not for a player with Anthony's talent. It's not enough for basketball fans, the media or his coaches, and most importantly, it's not enough for Anthony himself.
Melo has seen the headlines and heard rumblings that he's a selfish player who quit on his coach last season, doesn't play defense and isn't in top shape, and he's determined to change those perceptions.
After taking two weeks off at the conclusion of last season, the Knicks star forward began working out with renowned NBA trainer Idan Ravin in Las Vegas. With Ravin's assistance, he shed 12 pounds before joining the United States National Team in their quest for a gold medal at the Summer Olympics.
A svelter Melo unloaded in an exhibition game on Tuesday against the U.S.'s biggest threat in London, the Spanish National Team and torched the Spaniards with 23 points in the first half. The rigors of a gold medal run will keep his weight down, providing him with greater quickness and increased stamina heading into the NBA season.
The Olympic experience should also positively affect his attitude and his game. Whether it's from the pride of representing one's country, staying sharp by playing with the best players in the world or picking up tidbits about competition and leadership from their peers, NBA players usually appear invigorated, rather than exhausted, after devoting their summers to international competition.
Melo acknowledged this phenomenon on Tuesday when, according to Yahoo.com's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Knicks forward said:
Look at what happened the year after we won the gold medal. In 2009, I had one of my best seasons with Denver and we went to the Western [Conference] finals. My body … my mind felt great. And that's something I keep in the back of my mind coming out of USA Basketball.
The table is set for Melo to build on that Olympic momentum this coming NBA season. At 28 years old, he's in the prime of his career and the Knicks roster, highlighted by a front line of Melo, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, is as talented as any NBA team that Melo has played on.
For all of the dysfunction surrounding the Knicks last year, they played very well at the end of the season, compiling a 9-4 record in April. Anthony, recovered from his various injuries, averaged 29.8 points per game in April and was named Eastern Conference player of the month.
It's also easy to forget that Melo hasn't had a full training camp with the Knicks yet. Due to the lockout last year and injuries to himself and Stoudemire, he never had an opportunity to develop any chemistry with Amar'e and the rest of his teammates.
Melo's proclivity for isolation plays has been overstated. His style of play was in such contrast to Coach D'Antoni's pick-and-roll based spread offense, and to the fact that he was forced to take over at times last season when Amar'e and Lin were both hurt. Melo has proven to be a willing passer when he has talent around.
The Knicks also added several key players this offseason, including, Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton, who represent a significant upgrade at point guard for a team that started Iman Shumpert, Toney Douglas and a hobbled Baron Davis at the same position for most of last season. (Jeremy Lin started just 25 games and was injured for the playoffs.)
Kidd, in particular, will benefit Anthony and not just through his ability to distribute the basketball. The 18-year veteran, like his one-time teammate in Dallas, Tyson Chandler, is a natural leader, who can fill that role with the Knicks and free Anthony to concentrate on just playing basketball. He also has the cachet to get in Melo's ear when the forward isn't moving the ball enough.
The star forward is also excited to play for coach Mike Woodson, who he publicly supported in an interview with ESPN's Hannah Storm in April, saying:
I'm a big supporter of what coach Woodson has done. His approach to the game, and what he gets out of all his players, even me. He holds everybody accountable and that's what we need.
Woodson, who led the Knicks to an 18-6 record after replacing Mike D'Antoni midway through last season, will have a full training camp to implement his offensive system, which will feature Anthony on the wing and in the post.
It also works in Melo and the Knicks' favor that the Eastern Conference is wide open after the Miami Heat. Chicago will be without Derrick Rose for most of the season, and the 2011 MVP probably won't be at full strength until the 2013-14 season. Boston's Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are one year older, and Indiana doesn't have the star player necessary to put them over the top.
Melo has advanced past the first round once during his nine seasons in the league, and his reputation took a big hit during a tumultuous 2011-12 season. He watched his peers LeBron James and Dwyane Wade win a championship with the Heat in June and understands that his NBA legacy is at stake.
He is playing in the city of his choice, for the coach he wanted, with a talented roster and plenty of motivation to prove his naysayers wrong. Carmelo Anthony is poised to have the greatest season of his career.
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