With three minutes left in the third quarter Sunday at Madison Square Garden Phoenix’s Shannon Brown leaked out in transition, brought in the long pass and was cruising in for a layup…
When Carmelo Anthony came in with the chase down block.
It wasn’t the athletic and emphatic LeBron James variety, but ‘Melo didn’t give up on a play, didn’t concede the points, and forced a miss. It was the kind of a play a team leader on an elite team makes. It wasn’t the kind of hustle defensive play Carmelo used to make.
There’s a different feel to the Carmelo Anthony we see in New York this year, the guy just named the NBA player of the week for averaging 29.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in the Knicks four games. The Knicks are 12-4 and if ‘Melo keeps playing at this level for a full season he will inject himself into MVP consideration.
Tyson Chandler was singing Anthony’s praises on WFAN in New York and said his playing in London on the USA Olympic team had a lot to do with how ‘Melo has played this season (via Sports Radio Interviews).
“I think it’s the best thing that could have happened to him, to be able to play this summer and be able to stay in shape and play at a high level and play against, obviously, incredible competition, as well as get his [mind] right. Carmelo is a huge competitor and he wants to be one of the best players in this league, and he is one of the best players in this league. Being around those guys this summer I think got his competitive juices going.”
Anthony has come back playing a more rounded, more selfless game. He’s not just a designated gunner, he is moving the ball on offense and moving his feet on defense. He is looking like a real leader.
Chandler echoed that talking about Anthony’s defense.
“Absolutely. He’s definitely playing on both ends and you’re exactly right. Being the star player and a key player is not just playing on one end, it’s playing on both ends. That’s really how you make a championship run and that’s what he’s done already now. He’s been an incredible leader and he’s leading by example. He’s getting out there. He’s hustling, not only with what you guys are seeing at games, but it’s the same thing at practice. He’s paying attention to film. It’s all the little things that make a huge difference.”
It’s early still — 16 games does not an MVP or a contender make. But the feel is different in New York. And we might be able to trace the change all the way back to London.