Carmelo Anthony recently stated during an interview for ESPN the Magazine that he is "willing to do whatever it takes" to win. The Knicks' star forward has made similar proclamations in the past, though there is reason to believe that he means it this time around.
Anthony came to training camp fitter and leaner than last season and appears to be taking his leadership role more seriously. Through the lens of MSG Network's inside looks into Knicks' training camp, it was apparent that Carmelo was taking the lead in conditioning drills and more vocal than he had been during his first two seasons in New York.
Anthony also knows that all eyes are all on him now that his good friend LeBron James has a championship ring. The Brooklyn native is also under greater scrutiny due to speculation among fans and basketball insiders that he drove Coach Mike D'Antoni and fan favorite Jeremy Lin out of town.
Doing whatever it takes to win would not require Anthony's role on the team to change very much. The five-time All-Star is one of the elite scorers in the world. His quick first step, three-point accuracy and proficiency in the low post make him virtually unguardable.
The Knicks lack consistent scoring options and are going to struggle to put the ball in the basket at times, especially with Amar'e Stoudemire out of the lineup. Melo is the only player on the team capable of creating his own shot against any defender.
Coach Woodson needs Anthony to score and the Knicks' forward will approach his career average of 19.3 field-goal attempts per game. A commitment to team success to would require a subtle change in Anthony's game from scorer to more of a playmaker.
No. 7 is adept at breaking down a defense by drawing double-teams, off of dribble penetration and with timely passing. He needs to trust his teammates and create scoring opportunities for them as well as himself.
Melo likes to operate in isolation, but it disrupts the flow of the offense and rhythm of his teammates. Expect him to make his moves quicker or keep the ball moving.
Melo needs to utilize his skills as a creator and passer to develop chemistry between himself and Amar'e. He hit a cutting Stoudemire for an easy basket on a couple of occasions against the Toronto Raptors Friday night. Anthony must continue to look for STAT down low as well as initiate the two-man game that Stoudemire runs so effectively.
Doing whatever it takes also means providing a consistent effort in areas of the game other than scoring. Specifically, Melo has to get after it on every possession defensively and help Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler control the defensive boards, especially when he is playing power forward.
One of the most important qualities of a great player is his ability to lead and inspire his teammates. Anthony is not a natural leader like Chris Paul or Kevin Garnett, but he can improve in that area. Dirk Nowitzki warmed up to the role as his career progressed and Melo can do the same. His experience playing with so many great players on the United States gold-medal Olympic team this summer should help.
The Knicks have veterans like Kidd and Chandler who will help keep the team focused on its goals, but professional athletes take their cue from the best player on the team, and Melo is that guy for the Knicks.
He needs to set an example by playing hard at all times and maintaining a positive outlook and demeanor even when the team struggles. That means diving on the floor for loose balls and busting his butt to break up a fast break defensively.
New York has a deep and experienced squad. Its defense was much-improved last season and should be even better this year after the additions of Raymond Felton, Marcus Camby and Ronnie Brewer and a training camp under Mike Woodson.
If Carmelo Anthony is committed to all aspects of his game and doing whatever it takes to win, the Knicks have a legitimate shot to win 50 games and the Atlantic Division title—and Melo could find himself in the MVP discussion at the end of the season.