Carmelo Anthony Blossoming for NY Knicks After Embracing Leadership Role

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Carmelo Anthony Blossoming for NY Knicks After Embracing Leadership Role
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Jeremy Lin's departure was the best thing that ever happened to Carmelo Anthony.

Once deemed a cancer that rendered his team incapable of becoming a legitimate contender, 'Melo is now leading a championship faction.

And that's huge.

In a span of months, Anthony has essentially gone from a villain to an MVP candidate, a transformation that few could pull off and none of us saw coming.

Sure, we had always expected more from Anthony. He is easily one of the best scorers in the league yet never truly warranted comparisons to LeBron James or Kevin Durant.

But that's all changed. Now, Anthony finds himself being mentioned in the same breath at LeBron, Durant and even Kobe Bryant. He also finds himself amongst the most indispensable players in the league.

Why exactly?

Because he finally embraced the role of a leader.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Lin's departure has looked good on 'Melo.

Statistically, 'Melo has never had qualms about leading by example. He's never averaged less than 20 points per game for his career and he's been the No. 1 offensive option for every team he's ever played for, with the exception of Team USA, that is.

Emotionally, however, Anthony has always lacked the willingness to be held accountable. 

We saw it with the Denver Nuggets—a love-hate relationship that seemingly bred more hate than love in the end. And we saw it with the Knicks as well. Anthony remained steadfast in his refusal to adjust to the needs of D'Antoni's system, a sense of borderline entitlement that pushed the coach out the door.

The final chapter of Anthony's lackluster proceedings came when Lin left the team as well over the offseason. With Amar'e Stoudemire's stock falling by the second, D'Antoni gone and Lin off with the Houston Rockets, this was officially Anthony's team. Not only was there no one left to steal the show, but there was no one left to deflect blame.

When D'Antoni left unimpeded, that was the moment the Knicks invested everything in Anthony. And when they allowed a cash cow like Lin to walk into the open arms of the Rockets, that was yet another defining moment that left New York even more invested in its star forward.

To the dismay of many, or rather, those who have watched Anthony dodge train wrecks in both Denver and New York, 'Melo seems to be having the best season of his career.

He's averaging 27.9 points on 47.3 percent shooting while also shooting a career-best 43.5 percent from beyond the arc. The Knicks' offense is also 12.3 points per 100 possessions better with Anthony on the floor, the highest differential of 'Melo's career.

More importantly, Anthony has stepped up his defense considerably. He's held opposing power and small forwards to a combined PER of 13.6, a more than respectable mark.

Statistical transformations such as these don't occur without an evolution of the mindset, without a better understanding and subsequent acceptance of the role your team needs you to assume.

After nearly a decade of battling against what was being asked of him, against the will of numerous coaches, Anthony is finally locked in. He's playing on a team where he is the irrefutable end-all and under a coach in Mike Woodson who demands more, expects more and won't accept anything less.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony and Woodson have proved to be a perfect match.

The result?

An Anthony who came into training camp willing to make whatever sacrifices were necessary to better the team. An Anthony who has excelled playing alongside two legitimate point guards in Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd. An Anthony who is posting the highest PER (26) of his career.

An Anthony who has nearly reversed every negative narrative that has plagued him for the last nine-plus years.

But should we be surprised?

Absolutely not.

There was plenty of collateral damage along the way, but Anthony is finally responsible for a team's rise to prominence, not its supposedly inevitable demise. 

Simply put, Anthony has completely reinvented himself.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony has finally developed into the player we always knew he could be.

He has become a new 'Melo, a better 'Melo. One who chases loose balls into the stands. One who understands the importance of consistent two-way prowess. One who inspires his teammates.

Where does Carmelo Anthony now rank among the NBA's superstars?

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One who has finally blossomed into the superstar we always knew he could be.

Yes, Anthony was deemed unavailable to take the stage for the Knicks' second go at the Lin-led Rockets, but that's okay.

Because even in his absence, Anthony's effect on the Knicks, on his team has never been more obvious; his devotion has never been more blatant.

And Lin's departure was the last of a long line of events that forced such a reality into being, that forced such an Anthony into being.

All stats in this article are accurate as of December 17, 2012.

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