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Carmelo Anthony's Defensive Conversion Is Too Good to Be True

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Carmelo Anthony's Defensive Conversion Is Too Good to Be True
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

It's all the rage in New York City these days. It's old and familiar, but there's something decidedly new and different about it. You can find it near Madison Avenue or on your TV at home, or on the radio if you're not into the whole "watching with your eyes" thing.

No, I'm not talking about a Don Draper redux or the NBC Studio Tour.

Rather, I'm referring to Carmelo Anthony...playing defense. For the New York Knicks!

Yes, you read that right. Carmelo, long lambasted for his lackluster effort in all (or most) things non-scoring related, seems to have flipped a switch. He's playing with, you know, effort, energy and even intensity on occasion. He's getting down in his defensive stance, rotating to help his teammates, hustling after loose balls and challenging shots with those things on the ends of his arms.

Hands? That's what they call them, right?

No more standing around on D. No more saving legs for jumpers. No more imitating a matador, if not a frightened tourist in Pamplona.

Less of this:

More of this:

And—maybe, just maybe—more of these. Wins, that is. The Knicks have three of those in three tries so far, including a resounding 104-84 flattening of the defending champion Miami Heat.

In that game, 'Melo, aside from leading all scorers with 30 points (on 28 shots), hounded and harassed his three 2003 NBA draft classmates—LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

It was a sight for sore eyes, and one that wasn't a one-time deal, either. He was similarly active in two trouncings of the Philadelphia 76ers, as the above block on Nick Young would suggest.

Nick Laham/Getty Images

Is this really the new 'Melo, though? Can fans at Madison Square Garden expect to see Anthony pursuing his opponents with the same vim and vigor with which he's always chased shots?

Tough to say, though to hear 'Melo tell it, as he did to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, there's hope for a more well-rounded superstar yet:

Just trying to lead the pack in other areas other than scoring. I'm just trying to do the little things and make the team better, that's it. Everybody in the world knows I can score the basketball with the best of them. For me to come out and do things other than score, it makes us a better team.

Other things? You mean, like, play defense? What say you, Knicks coach Mike Woodson?

What I'm seeing more than anything, he's defending at a high rate. We had an opportunity this year where we didn't last year (with the extended lockout) to be able to practice and teach and coach...Melo is a smart player. He's right in tune with what we want done — and we're playing better for it.

Watch out, folks. The Mayans might be right after all if 'Melo is, indeed, turning into a real-life two-way player.

Do you think Carmelo will sustain his defensive effort?

Submit Vote vote to see results

The numbers appear to back up this assertion...kind of. According to NBA.com's stats tool, the Knicks aren't necessarily stronger defensively when Anthony's on the court.

But, unlike years past, Carmelo's mere presence hasn't caused his team's overall effort on that end to crater.

Which is a sizable step forward in itself.

If Anthony can continue to be (to borrow from baseball lexicon) replacement-level on that end and throw in a spectacular play from time to time—be it a chase-down block, a slippery steal, a hustle after a loose ball or (dare I say it?) a step-in for a drawn charge—then, perhaps, he'll shed the label of "defensive liability" once and for all.

And, perhaps, perhaps, (PERHAPS) the Knicks will be in the mix for a stop at or near the top of the Eastern Conference by season's end.

But remember, kids, it's early. The Knicks still have 79 games left on their schedule, with plenty of defense left for Carmelo to play...

Or not.

 

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