Nuggets head coach George Karl coached Carmelo Anthony for six-and-a-half seasons in Denver and no doubt understands the New York Knicks star forward as well if not better than anyone when it comes to basketball.
Melo's Knicks knocked off Karl's Nuggets on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, leading to some interesting comments from Karl regarding Anthony's progression as an NBA player and his potential at age 28.
When asked whether Melo ever lacked focus on winning and defense in Denver, Karl responded with some honest, but refreshing comments (via the New York Post's Marc Berman):
I can say that about everybody I’ve coached in my career except Chauncey Billups and Nate McMillan. I can say that about Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and a lot of great young guys I’ve had the fortune of coaching. Ray Allen is a better player than when I had him in Milwaukee. The defense he’s playing now is not the defense he played in Milwaukee. Michael Jordan didn’t win any championships his first six years. I don’t know if he won (a lot) of playoff series his first six years.
Although Karl did his best to avoid calling out Anthony or stirring the pot, his comments come across as rare, honest observations, and they also shed light on Melo's journey from Nuggets star to Knicks leader.
Melo was in his early 20s when Karl was helping him develop from a No. 3 overall pick into a perennial All-Star.
Anthony averaged 20.8 points per game on 43 percent shooting in Karl's first season with the Nuggets. But three years later he was averaging 28.9 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting. Not that Karl was solely responsible for Melo's growth, but there's something to be said for the coach who had the biggest hand in making Carmelo Anthony a more mature player.
This tweet from Newsday's Barbara Barker also shows Karl's continued respect for Anthony:
Karl on Carmelo: "I've always said that Melo is going to win a championship some day." #Knicks— Barbara Barker (@meanbarb) December 10, 2012
Although it hasn't happened yet, there's no question that Melo has the talent and game to lead the Knicks to their first NBA championship in nearly 40 years this season or in the years to come. He's averaging nearly 27 points per game and hitting 43 percent of his three-pointers through the Knicks' first 20 games.
The only difference between now in New York and then in Denver is that Anthony is a more focused and mature player who has progressed as well as any superstar in today's league.
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